3 Points About Influencers on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube

June 27, 2022

Influencer marketing is becoming big business in the US, with brands expected to spend more than $4 billion on influencers this year. That seems justified, with 2 in 3 teens following influencers and various posts – from TikTok videos to YouTube endorsements credited with purchase influence. A new study [download page] from Nielsen takes a look at influencers themselves, examining their demographic distribution across 3 major platforms.

Before proceeding, here’s Nielsen’s definition of an influencer: “a social media users with over 1,000 followers/subscribers exercising influence, on digital platforms, over digital users and audiences.”

With that out of the way, here are 3 takeaways from the report.

1. Different Tiers, Different Platform Preferences

There are various influencer tiers, ranging from Nano (1-10K followers) to Mega (>1M followers), and the three platforms in question (TikTok, Instagram and YouTube) tend to see an uneven distribution of influencers across these tiers.

When looking specifically at Nano influencers, the report indicates that Instagram is dominant with 55.2% of total influencers in this tier, compared to 42.2% share for TikTok and the remaining 2.5% share for YouTube.

Turning to Micro influencers (10-50K followers), TikTok has the largest share (48%), edging Instagram (45%) and far ahead of YouTube (7%). Micro influencers have been found to be the type that marketers are most interested in working with, likely due at least in part to their having higher engagement rates than others.

As for “Mid” tier influencers (50-100K followers), this is where TikTok’s role is greatest, with 50.9% share of total influencers in this tier, compared to 37.7% for Instagram and 11.3% for YouTube.

As the influencer size grows, so does YouTube’s presence. YouTube’s share of Mega influencers is 28.7%, compared to its 2.5% share of Nano influencers.

2. Influencers’ Age Also Differs by Platform

The age of influencers themselves varies by platform, an important point for marketers to consider, per the analysts, who write that “engaging influencers of the right age on the right platform can pay off when you’re trying to reach your target audience.”

On TikTok, fully 79.3% of influencers are ages 18-24, which makes some sense given that it’s a newer influencer marketing platform and that the TikTok audience (user base) tends to be quite young.

YouTube influencers are also more likely to be in the 18-24 (44.5% share) than 25-34 (38.3%) bracket, but not nearly to the same extent as TikTok. In fact, slightly more than 1 in 6 influencers (17.2% share) on YouTube are ages 35-64, compared to just 3.6% share of TikTok influencers.

Of the 3 platforms, Instagram is the only with a greater distribution of influencers ages 25-34 (56.8% share) than 18-24 (31.9% share). About 1 in 9 (11.2%) of its influencers are ages 35-64.

Separately, while the majority of influencers on Instagram (57.3% share) and TikTok (55.1% share) are female, the reverse is true on YouTube, where almost two-thirds (64.7% share) are male. (These figures omit the “gender neutral” category that includes people, brands and pages that chose not to identify as “male” or “female.”)

3. 1 in 10 Influencers on TikTok Get Engagement Rates Higher Than 20%

The report also reveals the distribution of engagement rate ranges across the platforms. Perhaps as a result of having a greater skew towards Mega influencers than the other platforms, YouTube has the highest share of influencers with a relatively low engagement rate of 1-2%. Some 62.4% of its influencers have engagement rates falling into this range, compared to 31.9% of TikTok influencers and 19.4% of Instagram influencers. (More YouTube influencer engagement rate benchmarks can be found here.)

Although TikTok has a higher share of its influencers than Instagram in the 0-1% and 1-2% engagement rate buckets, it also excels in the highest engagement rate range. Fully 10.25% of its influencers see engagement rates exceeding 20%, compared to 6.15% of Instagram influencers and 3% of YouTube influencers.

As regards Instagram, a plurality (24.1%) have engagement rates of 2-5%, with the next-most common engagement rate range being 5-10%, as generated by about one-fifth (21.5%) of Instagram influencers.

Other Findings

In other highlights from the report:

  • 72% of influencers currently use Instagram as their primary content channel.
  • Nano and Micro influencers’ followers count clothes, shoes, handbags and accessories as their top interests.
  • The most popular categories for followers of Mid, Macro, and Mega influencers are friends, family and relationships.
  • An average of 80% of influencer ad viewers are able to recall seeing the brand featured in the ads.
  • In the US the largest share of total influencers across the 3 platforms are on Instagram, whereas in Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines the largest share are on TikTok.
  • The top influencer on Instagram is Cristiano Ronaldo, with 453 million followers. On TikTok the top influencer is Charli D’Amelio with 140 million followers, while on YouTube the top influencer is T-Series, with 214 million.

About the Data: Nielsen notes that “Influencers of all ages nationality, language preference and creator category who have posted in the last six months (i.e., November 2021 to April 2022) across social media platforms have been taken into account in this study. All influencer tiers (i.e., Nano, Micro, Mid, Macro, Mega) have been analyzed based on the same methodology in order to ensure the delivery of robust and consistent results.”

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