Sep 19, 2021

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

by Digital Marketing Institute

Since its introduction over a decade ago, Instagram has grown into a social media staple across the world, boosted by its affiliation with Facebook. But, it’s not enough to just know the best days and times to post on Instagram, what’s key is knowing how to capitalize on your talents to become a must-click! 

It’s a social media platform where people have either become overnight celebrities or outright brands thanks to their ever-growing following. Over time, these people and businesses reach a league of their own and are termed ’social media influencers’ or  ‘influencers.’ And that term has taken on new meaning with the launch of TikTok, a platform that has been hailed as a game changer in the world of social media due to its reach, features and shareability.

Each of the influencers below serves as an inspiration for business on how they can build their brand on Instagram, becoming an example of self-sustenance.

Who Is a Social Media Influencer?

A social media influencer is someone who has established credibility in a specific industry, has access to a huge audience and can persuade others to act based on their recommendations. In fact, influencer marketing is fast evolving to become a key tool in a company’s arsenal when done right.

After all, influencers have the tools and authenticity to attract visitors consistently and can motivate others to expand their social reach. They may be anyone from a blogger to a celebrity to an online entrepreneur and capitalize on a niche to attain widespread credibility.

Since Instagram's content is easily digested as images or short videos, it encourages more peer-to-peer sharing, which helps brands leverage storytelling through Stories to improve their target audience reach. Their audience isn't limited to their actual followers; they can connect with the followers of their followers who share their content. As a result, they engage in many sponsored posts, allowing them to be paid for what they share on Instagram.

Since its inception, the number of brand sponsored influencer posts on Instagram has grown considerably from 1.26 million in 2016 to a whopping 6.12 million in 2020  Instagram influencers can have a significant impact on brand outreach considering influencers garner more social engagement than the advertising brand's account.

An influencer can work across various verticals, using posts, stories and reels to make a name for themselves over time. If their content and audience match what you're looking to promote or what your brand promotes, then they might represent a solid marketing tool. Partnering with an influencer opens your business to never-before explored avenues and many brands now set KPIs for their influencer marketing campaigns to measure impact.

As someone who wants to be a successful marketer and social media expert, these are nine names you should consider following on Instagram to inspire your own success.

1. Addison Rae

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

For those who have ever thought about being an internet personality destined for a TV deal, Addison Rae is the woman to follow. Her lip sync videos caused a storm when they dropped on TikTok and that success - along with 38.7 million followers on Instagram for her beauty focused posts - has led her to securing a Netflix show and releasing a debut single. Her friendship with Kourtney Kardashian (another big Instagram influencer) helped her gain popularity with an engaged audience.

Top tip: The secret to Addison Rae’s success is posting content that she is comfortable with and has a talent for. Look at your strengths to figure out what content suits the personality of your brand and create posts that reflect that.

2. Huda Kattan/Huda Beauty

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

The Oklahoma-born makeup expert is one of the world’s most influential beauty experts, with a wide-ranging social media outreach. She started as a blogger and has transformed her Instagram page, @hudabeauty, to gain 49 million followers for the makeup tutorials she puts out.

If you're in the makeup and beauty sector, Instagram is the ideal outlet to promote your brand. After all, beauty is largely about appearance and Instagram is about visuals. Look at Glossier, a modern beauty brand that uses Instagram as its main social media channel and features user generated content to great effect. And Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line which focuses on providing makeup for “all skin tones” has 10.8 million Instagram followers and has made its founder a billionaire.

The keys to Huda’s success have been showing off successful makeup applications, establishing trends, sharing reviews, and creating how-to’s. She now has her own makeup line, and her profile is filled with videos showcasing people applying makeup, product plugs, occasional fashion advice, and more.

Top tip: How-to videos and reviews are very popular on Instagram and are very likely to be re-posted and shared by followers. So see if this format could work for you or your brand to engage and grow your Instagram base.

3. Khaby Lame

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

Surging up the Instagram influencer charts is a once Italian factory worker. After losing his job due to the coronavirus pandemic, Khaby Lame originally took to TikTok to post original content. He found his voice on Instagram collecting 35.7 million followers and counting.

His secret to Instagram success? He takes life hacks and makes videos that show his reactions helped by his hilarious facial expressions and sarcasm! His most famous video shows a complicated way to peel a banana with a knife which he follows up by simply just peeling the banana. Other posts are images of his girlfriend and friends.

Top tip: The key to Lame’s success is his authenticity (like what two chocolate brands did for Easter!). He may lack the production value of some top influencers on Instagram, but his personality and wit more than makes up for it.

4. Kayla Itsines

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

An Australian personal trainer, author and entrepreneur with over 13 million followers, Itsines regularly posts workout videos, inspirational messages, and diet tips on her page. She is the co-founder of Sweat and co-creator of High Impact with Kayla (formerly Bikini Body Guides) that feature 28-minute workouts to help women build strength and fitness.

Top tip: Fitness is an incredibly viable industry to promote on social media as workout videos and diet options are easy to follow on social media, even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic. Seeing results on social media can only serve as motivation for your own fitness goals. Use Instagram to grow your customer base to show how clients  have benefited from your products or services.

5. Selena Gomez

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

The most followed person on Instagram for years until stars such as ‘The Rock’ and Cristiano Ronaldo  usurped her, Gomez is a phenomenal celebrity influencer. With over 249 million followers, the award-winning singer has often used her social profiles to promote charitable causes such as her initiative against human trafficking, women’s rights, and protecting children from violence. Aside from obvious professional plugs, she also posts many personal photos and videos to interact with her huge fan base.

Top tip: It helps to already be famous to become a social media influencer, but Gomez demonstrates that you need to have a raw or personal touch and engage with your followers if you want to do well on Instagram.

6. Kylie Jenner

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

Kylie Jenner has become a powerful influencer thanks to her 252 million followers. Being a versatile woman, she flaunts her modelling, socialite status, and makeup empire through her Instagram posts. She also makes a lot of money off sponsored posts and held the record for the most liked Instagram post until being usurped by an egg! No mean feat amongst this esteemed list of social media influencers!

According to Hopper HQ’s Instagram Rich List, Jenner makes over one million dollars per sponsored Instagram post, making her one of the highest paid Instagram influencers around.

Top tip: Jenner promotes her own line of beauty products and is always seen showing off her latest makeup kits. It can be helpful for your business to show the people behind your brand, using or demonstrating your products. You can learn how to do this effectively by learning new skills and techniques with a social media marketing course

7. Cristiano Ronaldo

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

No one has a bigger social media presence in the world than the Juventus soccer megastar and five-time Ballon d’Or winner. Ronaldo comes out top on the highest paid Instagram influencer list, making $1.6 million per sponsored post. His 318 million followers are privy to several of those sponsored posts, including his paid partnerships ranging from Nike to his own underwear line. He also shares various game and training posts as well as family photos. Wherever Ronaldo goes, the world is sure to follow.

Top tip: One thing that Ronaldo does well on Instagram is that he posts often. He keeps his fans committed to his content with regular updates on his life. Keep your followers interested in your content by consistently posting and sharing using influencer marketing to pump up your content strategy.

8. Zach King

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

Another internet personality, illusionist and filmmaker who found fame through his vlogs and other videos, Zach King has over 24 million followers thanks to his positive stories and ‘magic vines’ that make people smile. He posts random videos, comedic videos, and other fun visuals. Everything he posts is designed to get you to laugh or smile, making life's stresses easier to contend with.

Top tip: Zach King dominates the casual content game. People want to see light-hearted and fun content in their feed. Try sharing the occasional meme or quote that relates to your business and that shows the fun side of you and your business.

9. Nike

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

Last but not least is Nike, a brand that dominates on Instagram and manages to always stay ahead of the curve. With a whopping 168 million followers, Nike capitalizes on its partnership with sports teams and stars. The brand’s posts focus on the inspirational and feature sport personalities such as Rafael Nadal and Cristiano Ronaldo in Nike gear. Nike also uses the platform to whet the appetites of fans for new product launches.

Top tip: You don’t have to be a celebrity or even a person to wield influence on Instagram. Give your brand a personality that stands for something i.e. ‘JUST DO IT’ and watch your follower numbers creep up!  

Learn from Influencers in your Industry

Every Instagram influencer combines their brand awareness with a personal touch and consistent posting to draw users in. To become a successful social media marketer, you need to be well-rounded on Instagram and learn from the influencers above along with those leading in your industry.

The Digital Marketing Institute can arm you with the tools to become an industry influencer. Enroll now in our Social media course.

Learn the tools and technologies needed to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow on Instagram by becoming a certified Social Media Marketing Specialist. Download a brochure today to get started!


(Page updated September 2021)

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