Top Influencers in 2023: Who to Watch and Why They’re Great

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What makes someone a top influencer? We’ve done the research to highlight the top 10 social-first influencers on Instagram in 2023.

When it comes to social media, top influencers have cracked the code. They earn thousands or even millions per year for sharing branded content with their audience. This ability to turn content into cash? Frankly, we think it’s social success at its best.

Many of today’s most popular influencers get their start on another platform (Vine, YouTube, or TikTok) and migrate their followers over to Instagram as their popularity grows.

Today, we’re looking at the top 10 most popular influencers on Instagram. These influencers have cultivated their audience for years to build their brand on social media from the ground up.

In this article, we’ll cover who the top influencers are, how to work with them, and what makes someone a social mega-influencer.

Bonus: Get the influencer marketing strategy template to easily plan your next campaign and choose the best social media influencer to work with.

What makes someone a top influencer?

To pinpoint what makes someone a top influencer, we’ve broken it down into measurable data and intangible factors.

Measurable data

These quantifiable elements of a top influencer are pretty much indisputable.

  • Total number of followers. All of the influencers we’ve included are technically mega influencers since they have more than 1,000,000 followers.
  • Engagement metrics. We looked at likes, comments, and shares.
  • Brand status. How many brands do they work with? Are these brands well-known/respected?
  • Post frequency. How often do they work with a brand? Are they official brand ambassadors, or do they favor one-off posts?
  • Type of partnership. What kind of work do they do with a brand? Do they wear their pieces to events? Are they the face of an ad campaign? Have they collaborated on a line of products together?

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This post announcing the Our Place x Selena Gomez collection has over 51,000 likes.

Intangible factors

The numbers are important, but reputation and authenticity are a little harder to measure. Here’s what we looked at:

  • Connection. Has the influencer fostered a strong relationship with their audience? Does their lifestyle feel aspirational or attainable?
  • Communication. Can this influencer communicate a product’s or brand’s value with their audience without it feeling like a sales pitch?
  • Values. Does the influencer work with brands that align with their lifestyle or values? Do they endorse things followers might view as scammy (weight-loss teas, “get-rich-quick” schemes, etc.)?
  • Authenticity. Do they endorse anything that would make a user stop and ask, “Does this person REALLY use this brand?”

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Ski-Doo doesn’t seem like an obvious partner for celebrity chef Matty Matheson, but the resulting content is just weird enough to work.

Our list focuses on social-first influencers, so you’ll notice that our list of top Instagram influencers doesn’t include traditional celebrities — singers and actors who have giant followings on Instagram because of their Hollywood fame. We also left out well-known brands like Nike (264M followers) and National Geographic (257M followers).

Finally, our list only includes top influencers who currently partner with brands on Instagram. That’s why you won’t see well-known social media personalities like King Bach (23.6M followers) or James Charles (22.1M followers) because neither of them has any recent partnerships.

The top 10 influencers on Instagram

So, who are the top 10 influencers on Instagram in 2023? Let’s get into it.

1. Khaby Lame

Number of followers: 80M (@khaby00)

Genre: Comedy, Lifestyle

Where they got their start: TikTok

You might be surprised by our number one pick, but that just means that you don’t spend enough time on TikTok! Khaby Lame is a Senegalese-Italian content creator who also happens to be the most-followed person on the platform.

On Instagram, he makes videos with NBA players, hangs out with Snoop Dogg, and promotes Binance, Google Pixel, and Hugo Boss.

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2. Huda Beauty

Number of followers: 51.9M (@hudabeauty brand account) + 2.6M (@huda personal account)

Genre: Beauty

Where they got their start: YouTube

Huda Kattan launched her beauty blog and YouTube channel in 2010, followed by her eponymous cosmetic line in 2013. In the past decade, she has grown the Huda Beauty brand into a billion-dollar global beauty empire.

Today, Kattan is the face (literally) of Huda Beauty, frequently posting “get ready with me”-style videos using only her brand’s products.

Turning her influencer work into a closed loop ensures maximum profit, which is why Huda Kattan ranks so high on our list of Instagram influencers this year.

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3. Lele Pons

Number of followers: 50.5M (@lelepons)

Genre: Entertainment

Where they got their start: Vine

Lele Pons got her start as a Vine comedian and has since extended her success on the platform to other pursuits, including music, modeling and acting.

Her current Instagram content is a mix of modeling shots, “day in the life” content, and ads for brands such as the Sweat app.

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4. Charli D’Amelio

Number of followers: 28.4M (@chiaraferragni)

Genre: Entertainment

Where they got their start: TikTok

18-year-old Charli D’Amelio got her start as a TikTok dancer in 2019. She was the highest-earning personality on the app in 2022. She has recorded music, sells her own perfume, and won Dancing With the Stars season 31.

On Instagram, she reps big-name brands, including Prada, Amazon, and Spotify.

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5. Chiara Ferragni

Number of followers: 28.4M (@chiaraferragni)

Genre: Fashion

Where they got their start: Blogging

Italian fashion influencer Chiara Ferragni launched her blog, The Blonde Salad, in 2009, and she’s been a big deal ever since. Her Instagram features outfit inspo, mommy/parent blogger content, and brand partnerships.

The model, designer, and television presenter lends a touch of European glamor to brands like Nespresso, Fendi, and Prada Beauty.

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6. Sommer Ray

Number of followers: 26.3M (@sommerray)

Genre: Fitness

Where they got their start: Vine

Sommer Ray got her start on Vine in the early 2010s. Today, she’s a fitness influencer who promotes her own fitness plans, clothing, and health & wellness brand on her Instagram.

Her brand partnerships include DraftKings, Quest Nutrition, and the James Hotel.

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7. Cameron Dallas

Number of followers: 25.1M (@camerondallas)

Genre: Entertainment (Comedy)

Where they got their start: Vine

In 2012, Cameron Dallas started his internet career on – where else? – Vine, later turning his online fame into a stage and screen career.

In 2021, Dallas launched Fanfix, a subscription platform that allows creators to monetize their skills. The platform was sold to SuperOrdinary in 2022 in an 8-figure deal.

His recent brand deals include Swarovski and Fendi.

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8. Zach King

Number of followers: 24.6M (@zachking)

Genre: Entertainment (Magic)

Where they got their start: YouTube/Vine

Zach King is a skilled video editor who focuses on what he calls “digital sleight of hand.” He currently holds the Guinness World Records title for the most-watched TikTok video (2.2 billion views).

On Instagram, this influencer creates magical content for brands like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kinetic Sand, and Turkish Airlines. The resulting ads blend in seamlessly with his own personal brand.

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9. Amanda Cerny

Number of followers: 23.3M (@amandacerny)

Genre: Entertainment (Comedy)

Where they got their start: Vine

Amanda Cerny started her career as a model, appearing in Playboy in 2011. She created comedy content on Vine alongside frequent collaborator Lele Pons (#3 on our list!).

Her Instagram grid is a mix of sexy aspirational content, comedy videos, and brand partnerships with Playboy and Glamira.

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10. MrBeast

Number of followers: 22.7M (@mrbeast)

Genres: Entertainment, Philanthropy

Where they got their start: YouTube

24-year-old MrBeast (aka Jimmy Donaldson) is the most-followed individual creator on YouTube with 128M subscribers.

His flashy high-concept videos garner millions of views, and he has leveraged his huge viewership to raise money for environmental causes including the Arbor Day Foundation and the Ocean Conservancy.

His Instagram partnerships with Magic: The Gathering, Nerf, and DraftKings align with his high-energy “cool/nerdy” persona.

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How to work with top social media influencers

Top influencers can get millions of eyes on your brand with a single post, but this comes with its own challenge – how do you get their attention when dozens of other brands compete to work with them?

Step 1: Do your research

The influencers on our list have their pick of endorsements and don’t necessarily need your ad dollars. You’ll need to do some research to find the right influencer partnership.

Top influencers select brands based on shared goals and values, so focus on targeting creators who are a natural fit for your brand. Review their current endorsements and figure out how your brand fits in.

Don’t forget to compare the creator’s audience demographics with your own ideal customer profile to determine whether their followers would be likely to buy your product.

Step 2: Finalize your pitch

Once you’ve identified the right influencer, craft your pitch. Find all the connection points and make sure to articulate them clearly throughout your pitch. Make sure to lay out the timelines, metrics, and expectations for your campaign.

Make sure to prepare a budget for the campaign and do a cost-benefit analysis before you proceed. Top influencers come at a price, so the end result needs to be worth your time and money!

Step 3: Reach out via the correct channel

As tempting as it is to slide into an influencer’s DMs, don’t bother – they receive a huge amount of direct messages on Instagram and yours will be buried immediately. You can try, but don’t be surprised if they never respond to your message!

Some influencers have a management company listed on their website or Instagram bio. If you’re emailing their manager, make sure to personalize your email and keep it short and sweet. Include a clear description of your proposed campaign and refer to some of their other brand partnerships to show that you’ve done your research.

If you don’t have a clear way to reach your influencer of choice, consider using a platform that connects influencers and brands.

Step 4: Collaborate to create effective content

When working with top influencers, remember: collaboration is key!

Influencers have often spent years cultivating their audience in order to build their brand on social media from the ground up. You’re not just buying access to a large audience — you’re collaborating with a social expert. They will expect to be able to show off their unique skills as part of the campaign with your brand.

For more tips, check out our blog on how to work with influencers.

Frequently asked questions about top influencers

Who is the top Instagram influencer?

Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has 531M followers, making him the top Instagram influencer. He represents brands including Nike, Herbalife, TAG Heuer, Jacob & Co. Jewelry, and Louis Vuitton. His LV partnership with Lionel Messi in November 2022 garnered 8.4M likes on Instagram.

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Who has the most followers on Instagram?

The top 5 most followed Instagram celebrity influencers are:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo @cristiano (537M followers)

2. Lionel Messi @leomessi (422M followers)

3. Kylie Jenner @kyliejenner (378M followers)

4. Selena Gomez @selenagomez (372M followers)

5. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson @therock (359M followers)

Other celebrities who just missed the top 5 include Ariana Grande (351M), Kim Kardashian (341M), and Beyoncé (291M).

How much do top influencers make?

According to some sources, top celebrity influencers can make up to $1,000,000 for a single Instagram post. Exact rates aren’t necessarily public, though, and it can be hard to find concrete information about influencer fees.

The social media influencer market was valued at $16.4 billion in 2022, so it’s safe to assume that top-ranking celebs are getting a huge windfall per post.

How much does influencer marketing cost?

The unspoken industry standard is $100 per 10,000 followers + extras for type of post (x # of posts) + additional factors = total rate. For more detail, check out our blog on influencer marketing costs.

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