To many, college life at Penn is synonymous with a particular kind of partying. Fraternities and sororities often rent out nightclubs for events, and many Thursday nights bear witness to a parade of mini dresses exiting Uber XLs onto the sticky sidewalk in front of whatever venue is hosting the hottest ticket of the night. Filled with top–rated DJs and bottom–shelf liquor, these parties bring in hordes of Penn students every weekend. To get cheaper tickets and ensure a (hopefully) quick and easy interaction with the bouncer, many partygoers turn to club promoters.

Promoters are employed by organizations that host parties—whether that’s an event–planning company or a nightclub itself. They're tasked with marketing events and boosting attendance. For Gen Z–ers in college, the marketing often takes the form of Instagram Stories designed to induce a glaring sense of FOMO. Who doesn’t want to have fun and look good while doing it?

The job description isn’t set in stone; there are many types of promoters. According to self–described “top club promoter” C. “Nez” Byrd, there are three types. Up first, street promoters. Often integral parts of the New York club scene, street promoters interrupt passersby to bring them into the party. Then there are head promoters: Well–established, well–connected, and well–paid, they manage other promoters and are in charge of VIP guests. This brings us to the third type: image promoters. They hit social media hard and bring in the target audience—often pretty girls with money to spend.

Last fall, Emma Shockley (C ‘25) started working as an image promoter for Philly Welcome Week, a branch of the event–organizing company Welcome Week USA, which throws parties across the country during the first week of the fall semester. After seeing advertisements for Philadelphia’s Welcome Week before she started her first year at Penn, Emma sent an Instagram message to the company. She inquired about promoting, and after allowing them to review her social media, she was in. 

Emma praises the flexibility of the job, saying, “All work is done on my own timeline. There [are] no specific shifts or days that I am working. It’s definitely a ‘you get out what you put in’ situation.” In the same way that WilCaf baristas enjoy the social nature of their employment, Emma loves that she gets to party with new and old friends every time she clocks in a few hours of work. “It is an extrovert’s playground, no doubt!” she says. 

Like any good Penn student, Emma adapts the wording of her promoting expertise to something she can put on her LinkedIn. Discussing the skills she’s developed in the field, Emma says, “Being exposed to so many people from all over teaches you how to be adaptable and interact with people in different ways that are tailored to where you are, what you’re doing, and what you know about them.”

When Philly Welcome Week is hosting an event, they turn to their list of promoters. Emma gets sent the who/what/when/where of the event as well as personal promo codes that she gives to friends. Once she’s canvassed her inner circle, she turns to the over 4,400 users that follow her on Instagram. She links a website where interested followers can swipe up on a Story and purchase tickets. Each promoter gets a slightly different URL to post—and the promo codes can offer up to 40% off the sticker price of some events. That’s before you bribe the bouncer, of course. Promoters are paid on commission: the more people they attract to an event, the more they get paid. 

Though promoters like Emma work hard to get people out to their parties, sometimes competing events prove to be a letdown for everyone involved. After weeks of sprinkling mentions into conversation and mixing her regularly scheduled Story posts with brightly colored advertisements promising a fun night, the calendar finally flips and the promised date arrives. Emma gets ready, calls her Uber, and arrives at the party, gaggle of friends in tow, only to be met with a booming bass and a pitiful crowd. When multiple parties are scheduled for the same night, overlapping invite lists compete for the “Oh, you should have been there!” crown bestowed upon the most (or least, depending on your tolerance) memorable night. 

Already breeding grounds for morally ambiguous decisions, nightclubs don’t seem to care that many of the micro–influencers promoting their events are below the drinking age. Instagram pages meant to connect incoming class members with each other before school starts are populated with almost daily Story posts advertising “the party of the year.” Given the stereotypical eagerness of Penn's first years, it’s no wonder the Class of 2026 seems ready to celebrate at this year’s New Student Orientation. And if they're savvy enough, a few of them might even get in good with Emma herself.