People, especially influencers, present their best selves on social media. Their pictures are photoshopped, their captions are thoughtfully crafted, and their aesthetics are carefully developed. But, things aren’t always as they seem! The recent college admission scandal, known as “Operation Varsity Blues,” is proof that what collegiate influencers put out on social media does not always translate to real life.

Each year, more brands are turning to Gen-Z collegiate influencers—like Olivia Jade, who we followed in the “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal—to promote their products through social media marketing and partnerships. And, given the current industry climate, it’s extremely important to thoroughly vet your collegiate influencers.

The following are five ways to evaluate future collegiate influencers to ensure that they’re a great fit for your brand and can effectively engage with your targeted audiences on campus.

1. Seek out on-campus involvement

In order to promote a brand on campus, a collegiate influencer needs to be plugged into their campus community. So, it’s a good idea to look for students who have a variety of involvement across different campus groups.

Ask each student about the leadership roles they hold and what their responsibilities are as a member or leader in each group. Meaningful involvement in on-campus groups can be leveraged for the brand, so make sure you delve deeper into their connections.

2. Look into secondary social media channels

While your brand might only be searching for collegiate influencers to assist with campaigns on a single platform, it’s important not to forget about other social media sites. Your brand should evaluate potential student influencers’ online personas as a whole.

Many students use different channels to express different sides of themselves (ex: Twitter = politics, Instagram = lifestyle, YouTube = beauty). Evaluating each of these channels in close detail is a simple way to ensure that each of your future influencers embodies the values of your brand—on each and every platform. Not to mention, it will help your company to avoid any not-so-happy surprises down the line!

3. Ask them about their studies and career aspirations

Evaluating influencers is much more than exploring their online personas. It’s important to have thoughtful conversations with potential collegiate partners to get to know their personalities.

The best influencers are those who are passionate about what they do. We encourage brands to ask students about their studies and career aspirations. Often times, students interested in social media, marketing, and public relations turn out to be fantastic collegiate influencers.

It’s always a great idea to seek out highly-ambitious students, but be sure to ask them about their course load and schedule. Students with too much on their plates may not be able to devote the necessary amounts of time and energy to your brand’s campaign.

4. Make sure their brand is aligned with yours

Collegiate influencers use their personal brands to promote products and services. Gen-Z has grown up surrounded by influencer marketing, and they can tell when posts feel forced or inauthentic.

To ensure a successful campaign, evaluate potential college influencers’ social media content thoroughly—this includes reading through captions and looking at Instagram stories. Also, look for diversity in your influencers’ content. Great student influencers are well-rounded (i.e. they post a variety of photos that show different aspects of their lives).

Lastly, if you have very specific content requirements for your campaign, make sure your potential student influencers already meet those requirements. It’s unlikely that influencers will change content or posting style drastically for your brand.

5. Take cues from your interactions

If potential influencers don’t sound interested in an interview, then it is highly unlikely that they’ll be able to convey authentic enthusiasm for your brand when it’s time for them to begin posting. So, don’t let content quality blind you. Trust your gut in initial conversations and interactions. You can help someone craft better posts, but you can’t craft excitement.

The takeaways

As brand managers, there are two very important lessons to take away from the “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal. First, social media reality doesn’t always equate to a potential influencer’s real life. And second, it’s important to thoroughly vet each and every individual that represents your brand— including any collegiate influencers.

At YMC, we work with a network of thousands of thoroughly-vetted collegiate influencers across the country, so you can feel confident knowing that we have the right college connections for your brand. Our team carefully reviews each potential hire to ensure they are right for the brand, motivated about the job, and are involved in campus life.

If you’re tackling collegiate influencer recruitment internally, we hope these tips serve as a great starting point for properly evaluating your future collegiate representatives. If you’re still feeling nervous about where to start, YMC can help!

Want to learn more?

Check out a few other articles we’ve written on this topic:

As a Millennial currently on the job hunt, I feel like I’ve become an expert on all things related to getting hired post-graduation. I know things may be looking bleak, but fear not fellow seniors, you aren’t alone in this (which actually may be the problem, there are too many of us looking for jobs!).

For your benefit, I’ve compiled all the tips and tricks I’ve gathered from my internships and from attending almost every networking or alumni event at school. Hopefully it will help you land your dream job! Or really any job at all, we can’t be picky at this point.

1. Sign up for job alerts

Sign up for job alerts on sites such as Indeed and Career Builder. You will receive daily emails from these sites with alerts for open jobs in the field and location you choose. Also, check out AngelList, which is basically the Indeed for start-ups.

2. Make an online portfolio of your work

One of my professors who runs his own PR firm suggests this because a portfolio gives him a better feel for who you are and your personality. It also makes it easier for him to come up with questions to ask you in the interview based on your previous work.

3. Use your network

Hit up your professors for advice and guidance on getting jobs. They’ve been around the block and are sure to have some tips for you. Additionally, most of them worked in their field before becoming a professor, so they will likely have some connections for you in the industry. Have them connect you (via LinkedIn or email) with any past students who have jobs that you are interested in learning more about.

4. Complete your LinkedIn profile

Connect with everyone! I spent three hours one day connecting with everyone I knew to get my number to 500+. After I had connected with so many people, more people kept connecting with me! To get you started on your LinkedIn journey, connect with me here. Special shout out to any companies who are reading this and looking to hire an enthusiastic, passionate, team player… your search is over, I am available!

5. Perfect your elevator pitch

You want to let someone know that you’re an asset they should invest in. Showcase why a company would benefit from hiring you.

6. Clean up your Facebook

Use the “View As” tool to see what is public. It’s not worth missing out on your dream job because the company recruiter saw that photo of you on spring break and thinks your behavior speaks more to your character than the “dedicated, hard-working, motivated, go-getter” you describe in your cover letter.

7. Keep cover letters short

Keep cover letters short and to the point. Do not restate things that are on your resume. Instead, describe specific projects or tasks from past experience and how they transfer to this job. Focus on quantitative facts! Your goals are to highlight your interest in the company and position and to describe your background and how it pertains to the job itself.

8. Don’t be afraid of start-ups!

Yes, you will probably work longer hours and be paid less for it, but startups have a bunch of sweet perks too. Additionally, at a startup, you’re typically wearing a bunch of different hats and helping out wherever needed. This gives you far more experience than you would in a larger company where your job is more defined.

9. STALK. STALK. STALK.

We are Millennials, we know how to get the dirt on people. Don’t waste these stalking skills on that girl from your 8 AM lecture who you swore you saw at that party the other night talking to your boyfriend… use your stalking skills to get a sweet job! For any job or company you want to work for, check out their LinkedIn and see if you have any connections with other employees (especially your school’s alumni). Before an interview, research the person you’ll be interviewing with and see what you can learn about them. Check out their past experience and what their interests are. Anything you can bring up that you have in common is a bonus.

10. Set up informational interviews

At one of my past internships, my mentor talked about the importance and usefulness of informational interviews. To score an informational interview, find a junior level employee. Bonus points if they have something in common with you or a mutual friend/connection. Send them a message with something along the lines of, “Hey, I know you are busy, but can I take 15 minutes of your time to speak with you and learn more about your company and the work you do there?” As someone in a lower level position, they will usually be more willing to speak with you and flattered that you want to pick their brain and hear about their experience. After speaking, thank them and keep in touch. If a position opens up at their company, they may think of you first!

11. Don’t give up!

Look for ways to get in the back door of a company. Network. Be a little sneaky and stalk people. Suck up, but be genuine about it. Don’t be shy about promoting yourself.

And above all, don’t stress. Trust in yourself and your abilities. If you work hard, you will succeed. And if you don’t succeed, go live at home for a while with free food and free laundry and your dog and a working dishwasher and now that I think of it, that isn’t sounding so bad at all…

I’m Taylor Pinson and I’m a student at the University of South Carolina. I already drink Bud Light like it’s my job, so when I received an invitation from YMC to ACTUALLY work for them and their #UpForWhatever campaign as a Bud Light brand ambassador, I jumped out of my seat at the opportunity.

Bud Light brand ambassador with her branded cake

As I eased into the role and my responsibilities, it became clear that this was going to be a semester full of professional experiences, good times, and plenty of #UpForWhatever moments. Over the course of the semester, I planned, promoted, and executed events including an Anti-Valentine’s Day party, a Sunday morning Kegs n’ Eggs, a #ThrowbackThursday party, and an #UpForWhatever Cruise on Lake Murray near Columbia, South Carolina. After the cruise, I was sure that my job couldn’t get any better. I had just experienced the best Sunday of my college career and was able to put smiles on the faces, and Bud Lights in the hands, of some of my best friends at South Carolina.

Then I got the call. The call came from my Program Strategist at YMC, Mike, informing me that I had been chosen as one of the top #UpForWhatever ambassadors and was therefore invited to Bud Light’s Whatever, USA! The semester that I thought couldn’t get any better was about to end with a bang.

The Weekend

Bud Light had the entire weekend planned out perfectly. All I had to do was show up and have fun? Done and done.

After a flight to Los Angeles and a ferry ride to Catalina Island, I had finally arrived. I stepped off the ferry and saw the giant Whatever, USA arches. I had found my happy place.

Bud Light brand ambassador in front of a giant can

The weekend started off with a giant parade, a performance from T-Pain, and an epic rave on the beach featuring Diplo to end the night. I didn’t think Saturday could possibly top the night before, but it did. We hiked for Bigfoot, got schooled on the beer industry by Bud Light’s master brewers, and played Beach Bingo. I began pinching myself making sure it wasn’t all a dream when Kip Moore showed up on stage and sang about “a beer sittin’ on ice” while Snoop Dogg passed out hot dogs. For our last night, we dined in style on the pier and hit the island casino for a party all while dressed in 1920’s attire that would have made Gatsby jealous. Sunday morning came too quickly, and I began my last day at Whatever, USA.

I began to grow sad and disappointed about leaving until Lil’ Jon showed up and ended the weekend with some words to live by. “Go forth, do great things, & keep drinking your Bud Light,” the great modern philosopher said, and with that we went on our way.

I remember my Bud Light #UpForWhatever ambassador interview with YMC shortly after Christmas and answering what I thought was my “most #UpForWhatever moment” so far in college. After a weekend at Whatever, USA, this question will no longer require much thought.

I can’t thank YMC enough for an amazing experience and the opportunity to go on the journey of a lifetime as an #UpForWhatever ambassador.