Mar 20, 2024

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 and a key part of any digital marketing strategy

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 now that TikTok is now one of the world’s most popular social media platforms 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.

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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.

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-form video, it encourages more peer-to-peer sharing, which helps brands leverage storytelling through Stories to improve their target audience reach. By fostering the right influencer relationships in your niche, you can get noticed on Instagram.

The audience reached by influencers isn't limited to their actual followers. They can connect with the followers of their followers who share their content. As a result, the world’s top social media influencers engage in many sponsored posts as well as creative Reels, 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.

Even with TikTok nipping its heels, Instagram is still regarded as the most effective social influencer marketing outlet by 87% of leading brands, according to eMarketer.

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 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. Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk

Also known as ‘Gary Vee’, this 48-year-old entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker is respected among Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Zers alike.

With a highly-engaged Instagram following of 10.1 million (and counting), Gary Vee is known for his unique brand of no-nonsense advice on business growth, personal success, financial fluency, and living life to the fullest.

Publishing a consistent mix of quick-fire videos and hard-hitting memes complete with actionable advice, Gary Vee is about as authentic as they come. 

Top tip: Gaining real traction as an Instagram influencer is largely down to authenticity. So, you should carve out a unique personal brand voice from the start, and stay true to it at all times. Be consistent with what you post, how you post—and always aim to offer genuine value rather than being overly sales-y. That’s how to win on the social media battlefield.

2. Zach King

9 of the Biggest Social Media Influencers on Instagram

Another internet personality, illusionist and filmmaker, Zach King, found fame through his vlogs and videos. He has over 29.3 million followers thanks to his positive stories and ‘magic vines’ that make people smile. 

He posts random videos, comedic videos, and other fun visuals. The Insta star’s increasingly dazzling magic videos (including a recent illusion with none other than Ed Sheeran) continue to dumbfound fans and engage droves of new fans.

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.

3. Addison Rae

Addison Rae
Addison Rae

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 first dropped on TikTok and that success - along with 35.9 million followers on Instagram for her beauty-focused posts - led her to securing a Netflix show and releasing a debut single.

Since gaining popularity in 2021 and establishing herself as a prominent influencer Addison Rae has been involved in a series of short projects including being a UFC presenter and appearing in the 2023 slasher flick, ‘Thanksgiving.’

Addison’s friendship with Kourtney Kardashian (another big Instagram influencer) helped her gain popularity with an engaged audience, and she still maintains an influential followership on Instagram.

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.

4. 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 54.1 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 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. 

After establishing her own makeup line and catalyzing its growth, Huda struggled with her brand’s direction. But, as an empowered influencer, she’s taking control of Huda Beauty as CEO with a revamp that aligns with her personal values.

Her Instagram 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.

5. Khaby Lame

Khaby Lame Credit: Getty Images
Khaby Lame Credit: Getty Images

Surging up the Instagram influencer charts is an Italian one-time 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 79.7 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. 

Since his rise to fame, unfounded rumors of the influencer’s death were bandied around the internet in 2023 in the form of fake videos and fraudulent articles. But, the good news is, Khaby is alive and well. And weirdly, these bizarre rumors have only served to boost his Instagram following.

Top tip: The key to Lame’s success is his authenticity. He may lack the production value of some top influencers on Instagram, but his personality and wit more than makes up for it.

6. Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift

As one of the world’s most iconic pop stars, Taylor Swift needs little introduction. But in addition to her record-breaking LPs, her treasure trove of Grammy awards, and general musical genius - not everybody knows that Taylor is a bit of a marketing genius.

Her 283 million strong Instagram following is a testament to Taylor’s marketing prowess and colossal social media influence. The star’s recent appearance at the Super Bowl to support boyfriend Travis Kelce caused somewhat of a social media storm, and the star’s striking visual style keeps her Instagram fans well and truly engaged.

Top tip: Creating a visual style that’s synonymous with your brand will draw people to your page and grab instant attention. And like Taylor, publishing a mix of slick promotional as well as fun personal content will strike a balance that will cut through the social media noise.

7. Kylie Jenner

Kylie Jenner
Kylie Jenner

Kylie Jenner has become a powerful influencer thanks to her 400 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 once upon a time, 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 around 1.8 million dollars per sponsored Instagram post, making her one of the highest-paid Instagram influencers around.

Oh, and to boost her already colossal profile further, it’s recently emerged that Jenner is now officially dating actor, Timothee Chalamet.

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. 

8. Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez

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 449 million followers, the award-winning singer and actress 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.

In 2017, the superstar had a kidney transplant as a result of a lupus diagnosis in 2015, something that Selena rather bravely documented in part through her Instagram page. Since her health issues, Selena has bounced back with the rise of her cosmetics empire, Rare Beauty - a brand she’s considering selling for a whopping $2 billion.

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.

9. 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 influencers list, making $3.23 million per sponsored post

His 625 million followers are privy to these sponsored posts, including his paid partnerships ranging from Nike to his own underwear line. He also shares various game and training posts and on-pitch action shots 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 keeping on top of the latest influencer marketing trends

Bonus: Two influential Instagram brands you should follow

9. Nike

Nike on Instagram
Nike on Instagram

Nike is a brand that likes to always stay ahead of the curve and it dominates on Instagram. With a whopping 306 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!  

10. National Geographic

National Geographic on Instagram
National Geographic on Instagram

Last but certainly not least, we have National Geographic. With a colossal brand following of 284 million followers, the original eco-conscious publication harnesses Instagram’s visual capabilities to dazzle, dumfound, and make a difference.

Showcasing a stunning mix of images snapped by the brand’s global network of nature photographers and videographers, National Geographic grabs peoples’ attention and dares to educate them on a wide range of social-economic, environmental, and cultural topics.

Top tip: As an influencer or influencer marketer, showcasing your brand values is the best way to build trust and cement loyalty. By using a cohesive mix of attention-grabbing visuals and razor-sharp social media copy, you’ll get your message across loud and clear. Using the right social media tools for the job will help you with your efforts.

Learn from Influencers in your Industry

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. Our cerrtified Social Media Marketing course can help you use the tools and technologies needed to attract, engage on influence on social media channels along with learning how to create social content, create a social strategy and much more. 

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