The influencer marketing economy has grown at a rapid rate and many children now aspire to be vloggers or influencers when they grow up. With the popularity and growth of personality-driven social media and emergence of new channels and mediums (e.g. TikTok, Triller, Instagram Reels), many people are wondering,
“How many influencers are there?”
At Mediakix, we wondered the same thing and set out to definitively answer exactly how many influencers are there in the world and across all social media platforms.
(Hint: it’s somewhere between 3 and 38 million 😉 )
In order to determine how many influencers exist in the world, we needed to 1) determine a viable methodology to account for influencers across Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok and 2) establish parameters and account for duplication of influencers across platforms.
To sort how many influencers exist across each social media platform, we turned to established influencer tiers — determining how many influencers exist on a given platform for each tier (category of influencer based on established follower ranges):
To determine the above, we leveraged influencer, platform, and influencer tier data from over four different influencer marketing platforms (Julius, Tagger, CreatorIQ, HypeAuditor, Influencity) in addition to our own internal database.
To determine “influencer overlap” across Instagram, YouTube and TikTok (i.e. accounting for the same influencer across both Instagram and YouTube for example), we assessed the top 1,000 influencer channels across Instagram, YouTube and TikTok (excluding brand, celebrity, non-influencer accounts) from HypeAuditor and Socialbakers.
Considerations: Fake Influencers & Defining What Is An Influencer
It is imperative to note — while influencer marketing platforms attempt to vet and measure influencers in their database for inauthentic or fraudulent activity, “fake influencers” still exist on influencer marketing platforms. Influencer authenticity can be easily sacrificed or overlooked, especially on larger influencer marketing platforms.
During our evaluation of multiple datasets, we noticed a broad range of information between third party estimates and influencer marketing databases. This is partially why the total number of influencers is best given as estimated ranges. An “influencer” can mean many things so for the purpose of our study, we have determined an influencer to have the following criteria:
We evaluated data from over four different influencer marketing platforms, each varying in size, platform offerings, and methods for finding and vetting influencers in their system. As influencer marketing platforms can vary largely in size, this variance is evident by some of our wider range estimates for the number of influencers that exist for each tier or platform.
For example, one influencer marketing platform may offer 2,000 heavily-vetted, experienced Instagram influencers while another platform may offer 2 million Instagram influencers with limited information on profile credibility.
By providing estimated ranges per platform and influencer tier, we were able to include conservative observations without limiting potentials for much larger estimates.*
*see the Estimation Method section at the end of this post for how we estimated low, high and influencer tier distribution across each social media platform.
We analyzed Instagram influencer-specific data from over four separate influencer marketing platforms in order to pinpoint common trends and learn the average number of Instagram influencers in each database.
Data from HubSpot and Mention share that 52% of Instagram users have less than 1,000 followers (meaning 48% of Instagram users have 1,001+ followers).
Instagram has historically been vague on its user data including DAU, MAU, and total users; however, most data firms and social reporting companies agree that Instagram likely has upwards of 500 million daily active users.
If we take Instagram’s 500 million users, account for users with 1,001 followers + (48%), then project our influencer ratio from our top 1,000 Instagram account analysis (35%), we can determine a broad ceiling range of 83 million potential Instagram users.
Comparing our ceiling estimation to data collected by multiple influencer marketing platforms, we found that the largest influencer marketing platforms reported to have databases of 20-80 million Instagram influencers.
Experimenting with two of the largest influencer discovery platforms (HypeAuditor and Influencity) we found their total number of Instagram influencers (with over 1,000 followers) was 8.7 million and 69 million respectively. After credibility checker filters were applied, the influencer search results became limited to 176,000 and 37 million, respectively.
Using these “authenticity” filters can lower the total number of influencer search results anywhere from 30-97%.
While it is important to acknowledge the possibility of an influencer existing on Instagram and not existing in an influencer marketing database, it is therefore increasingly likely that the top range estimate of Instagram influencers is less than our original broad estimate of 83 million and closer to, if not well under, 37 million.
Tier data was determined based on multiple influencer marketing platform’s provided tier data. The percentage across each tier was first averaged.
Once the average percentage per tier was determined, our team applied these benchmarks to our low and high range estimates for Instagram influencers to determine tier average viability. Once found, our team found previous estimates and cross-checked the results for practicality.
A study from Tubics estimates over 37 million active YouTube accounts — 32 million of which have under 1,000 subscribers. This data deduces that there are 5 million remaining active YouTube accounts with over 1,000 subscribers, but it does not distinguish “active accounts” from influencer accounts.
In order to better determine how many of the 5 million accounts are potential influencer accounts, we analyzed the top 1,000 YouTube accounts (provided by both HypeAuditor and Socialbakers). We found YouTube influencers represent around 30% of the top 1,000 channels, publishers/brands/networks around 47%, and musicians and celebrities 22%.
Based on our findings we can determine that the total number of YouTube influencers is less than 5 million, and closer to 1.5 million.
In a different approach, cumulative data from influencer marketing platforms suggests the number of influencers with over 1,000 subscribers on YouTube to be around 1.7 million. Using these estimates as benchmarks, we can estimate the number of influencers on YouTube with those over 1,000 subscribers, to be somewhere between 1.5 million and 5 million. This estimate range speculates that out of YouTube’s 2 billion estimated users, less than 1% are actually influencers (0.085% to 0.25%).
Now that we have a range estimate for YouTube influencers with >1,000 subscribers, we assessed the number of influencers with over 100,000 subscribers and the number of influencers with over 1 million subscribers by referencing influencer marketing platform data that provided the overall percentage makeup of these influencer tiers within their influencer database. By averaging and comparing influencer tier data from over four different platforms we were also able to derive a healthy estimate for YouTube influencer tier distribution overall.
Third party research that supports these ranges: In 2016 Social Blade published a report that claimed over 2,400 channels have reached over 1 million subscribers and more than 24,000 channels have reached over 100,000 subscribers. They also discovered more than 40 channels hit the 100,000 subscriber mark every day and four channels cross the 1 million subscriber mark every day.
These sample numbers would indicate that now in 2021, there exists over 10,000 channels with over 1 million followers and over 100,000 channels with over 100K followers.
Since this information only references channels and not influencer channels specifically, we analyzed the top 1,000 YouTube accounts from both Socialblade and HypeAuditor in order to gain a ratio of influencer channels to active channels.
We found YouTube influencers represent around 30% of the top 1,000 channels, publishers/brands/networks around 47% and musicians and celebrities 22%. Using this ratio on Social Blades 2016 estimates yields 3,000 influencers with over 1 million subscribers and around 31,000 influencers with over 100K subscribers.
Third party data that supports these ranges: In November 2020, Tubics estimated there to be 22,000 YouTube channels with over 1 million subscribers. Applying the previous one-third influencer ratio reveals 6,600 possible influencer accounts with over 1 million subscribers — well within our estimated range.
Using multiple influencer marketing platforms provided tier data, we were able to average each platform’s tier percentage and determine YouTube influencer tier distribution.
Once we estimated tier percentage distribution, our team applied our low and high range estimates for the total number of YouTube influencers to determine viability. We then cross-checked our findings using previous third-party research for YouTube influencer tier distribution and the total number of YouTube influencers to corroborate our findings.
Some platforms claim to have upwards of 22 million TikTok influencers (each with over 1,000 followers). Through further examination of two of the largest influencer databases we have found a large amount of influencers listed to lack credibility.
Influencer marketing platform Julius revealed there to be over 43,000 TikTok influencers in their database. Using credibility checking tools on two other TikTok influencer marketing platforms (Influencity and HypeAuditor) we were able to pinpoint 50,000 as the average range of TikTok influencers with 1,000+ followers.
Given that these platforms are likely using third party tools to scrape influencer data and not TikTok’s official API, we felt prioritizing credibility was the best approach in this instance, and so we have conservatively estimated the high range of TikTok influencers to be 50,000.
The above tier data was determined based on a single influencer marketing platform’s provided tier data. Currently, TikTok has not granted official access to their API, meaning companies must go through non-official channels to collect user data. In turn this has caused many influencer marketing platforms to have partial or missing TikTok influencer tier data.
Our team applied these estimated benchmarks to our low and high range estimates for TikTok influencers to determine tier average viability.
TikTok influencer size data is limited, and although our team could not find third party estimates to cross-check our collected data, we believe our estimate to be practical based on our analysis of top 1,000 TikTok accounts, the influencer marketing platform data provided, and external research.
For the influencers listed on the 1,000 highest followed accounts for Instagram, TikTok or YouTube:
Takeaways Of Influencer Overlap Analysis:
Combining the estimated range data for TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube leads to a total range estimation of 3.5 million to 42 million. Accounting for influencer overlap between platforms, we can remove 10% of influencers from our total estimation — although the overlap percentage between the three platforms is likely much higher.
Our data reveals a 3.2 million – 37.8 million estimation for the total number of influencers on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.
We used the following process to estimate influencer size on each social platform:
Determining High Range
The high range estimate per channel was found by using the highest number of influencers in the largest available influencer database per platform.
We then calculated the largest possible influencer potential using platform user data and segmentation analysis from third party sources and our own research on the top 1,000 accounts per platform.
Estimating Low Range
In order to find the minimum number of influencers on each social platform, we examined the number of influencers that exist per social channel in over four different influencer marketing databases. We evaluated both the median and average of our data and calculated a conservative estimate.
Estimating Influencer Tier Distribution
We began estimating tier distributions by averaging the tier distribution data from over four influencer marketing platforms.
We adjusted average estimates using linear regression models and were able to establish influencer tier distributions for the three social channels.
We further tested our estimates by applying our estimated tiers across our range estimates and testing for practicality.
Additionally, we used platform user data, analysis from our top 1,000 account list, and previous third party estimates on user segmentation, and influencer size to cross check, and (if needed) adjust our estimates.