There is no doubt that 2020 has been an unusual year, especially with influencer popularity. Perhaps because of the pandemic, Australian influencers saw huge growth in 2020 — those focused on Yoga for example saw up to 125% growth per day, with cooking focused Instagram influencers seeing 75% growth in engagement per day. Working from home and cooking and fitness instruction suddenly became more important.
At the same time, hotel and travel influencers saw the opposite. When people stop travelling, influencers covering travel topics were largely ignored.
The level of growth as the pandemic struck shows that influencers on Instagram and other platforms are one of the first options when people are trying to find information about a particular subject. But the fall off in interest on some industry verticals such as hotels, also tells us that while influencers are crucial for a market, they don’t create the market.
Influencers to follow in 2021
On Instagram, figures from June 2020 show that there are five influencers who are seeing four-weekly growth of more than 200%, with the top two definitely being influencers for the future.
At the top of that list is Brittany Packnett Cunningham, who enjoyed a remarkable 496% follower growth in the past four weeks. Already recognized by former US President Barack Obama as a voice for the future, she is an activist, writer and educator, and fellow of Harvard’s Institute of Politics.
Her huge increase in followers came at a time of societal upheaval in the US and around the world driven by the Black Lives Matter movement. As a leader and innovator in identifying the issues and challenges driving such social movements, she provides inspiration and guidance to her rapidly growing audience in tackling the problems of our times.
It is clear that as a powerful voice today, her influence is only going to continue to grow, and her inspirational and engaging ideas focused on bringing people together to overcome the long-standing issues societies round the world face, can help any of us. While many influencers are focused on the material aspect of life, Brittany is looking to create a better world for us all to share. Within the turmoil of 2020, maybe that uplifting message is something we all need.
With a four-week follower growth of 288%, Mary Fitzgerald was the second fastest growing influencer in June 2020. A successful businesswoman, Mary is a realtor and property specialist who features on the Netflix program Selling Sunset. In fact, the third fastest growing influencer behind Mary is her Selling Sunset co-star, Maya Vander. She also offers beauty tips and lifestyle content that is both aspirational and informative. For her 1.2 million Instagram followers, this blend of fun, informative and inspirational approach has proved an engaging mix, and as more and more people are looking towards alternative approaches for the financial futures, these kinds of influencers, who include solid advice without being too overtly commercial, are a good blend to pick up new ideas while being entertained.
Sticking to Instagram as the one of the most engaging platforms for influencers, one of the big areas of growth we mentioned earlier was cooking. In that field, the most followed food influencers as of June 2020 were Gordan Ramsey with 9.2 million followers, with Jamie Oliver on 8.2 million followers in second. The third place is Ree Drummond, but at 3.4 million followers, a long way back from those two leaders.
Oliver and Ramsey are both global brands in their own right, with TV shows, millions of book sales and restaurant chains. In that sense they offer a similar experience, building on and collating all that content into their Instagram profiles with products, recipes and more alongside some aspirational content regarding lifestyle and so on.
If we look at the largest followings on Instagram, we see Ariana Grande at the top with 203 million followers. She’s been at the top for a couple of years, bringing music and lifestyle content that her follower account suggests is highly engaging.
At 200 million followers and growing, Dwayne Johnson is not just one of the biggest movie stars around, but the most influential of influencers. With insight into the life a movie star, a constant stream of inspirational posts and a lot of business guidance too, covering everything from TV and movie production to a tequila company, his endless enthusiasm and positivity are great for motivation and aspiration. The movie business may have been quiet by necessity in 2020, expect big things from The Rock in 2021!
Influencers on Tik Tok
Instagram is undoubtedly one of the key platforms for influencers today, but Tik Tok has been grabbing a growing audience of Gen Z’s. Tik Tok’s approach of short, engaging and entertaining videos blends an enjoyable way to spend time and an opportunity for influencers to put products, ideas and more in front of the lucrative but oftentimes fickle younger crowd.
The biggest name on the platform in the US in July 2020 was @charlidamelio, with over 90 million fans and 7 billion likes. Her natural personality and sense of fun have captured the essence of the platform, and as a result, she is perhaps the most influential teenager in the world today. With parts in upcoming movies and other opportunities coming from her huge social media influence, 2021 promises to be an exciting year for her, and well worth following for those of the right age.
Are influencers still relevant?
The thing with influencers is that while from a business perspective, those with the largest or fastest growing audiences have the most to offer, for entertainment and value for your personal interests, it is the influencers that actually like, discuss and inform on subjects you enjoy that matter.
Whether its an influencer for model trains or gardening, while they may never make the list of fastest growing, for you personally, they may be the best follow. The large influencers give a variety of content and often a glimpse into another lifestyle that always make them interesting, and we have picked out a few of those here, but wherever your interest is, find those who are passionate about the same thing, and at the heart of that community will be an influencer who can bring it to life and renew your enthusiasm.
So, we know that for many people on social media, if they want information or advice about a specific subject, they will seek out the top influencers within that field. This is why an influencer for Instagram, or indeed an influencer on social media in general, is so important, both for brands seeking exposure and those looking to gain a better understanding of products and services in a specific area.
I am a writer and have published the book ‘Wild Waters in the Roar’ as well as hundreds of articles for the Institute of Leadership Management, The Economist, The BBC, and private articles for clients around the world. I am also a motivational speaker, rugby coach, and former military leader.