Is Instagram Over? Only 10% of the World’s Most Popular Influencers Use Instagram as Their Main Platform, Study Reveals

For decades, influential celebrities have been employed by businesses as part of a bigger promotional strategy. However, there has been a shift in recent years, with corporations wanting to collaborate with more social media influencers to attract an audience. But why and when did this become the era of the influencer?

Television was, for a long time, the main form of entertainment as well as the most widely used platform for the dissemination of marketing and advertising messages. Until YouTube was established in 2005.

One of the Internet's fastest-growing websites, YouTube quickly eclipsed Facebook with its estimated 2 billion active users per month. YouTube was first made available as a platform for sharing videos with people across the world, making it the first website where users could find online material produced by other people who shared their interests.

The influencer craze started in 2009, just 4 years after YouTube's debut, with the likes of Zoella, Alfie Deyes, Tanya Burr, and Caspar Lee sweeping the world and igniting the movement.

Social media platforms have expanded in accessibility for users as the Internet has grown. It should therefore come as no surprise that influencer culture has expanded to each of them, resulting in the success of today's most well-known influencers using a variety of online channels.

In an effort to determine which social media platforms have produced the largest full-time creators of all time, Higher Visibility has examined the influencers with the highest follower counts on each of the most well-known influencer-led social media platforms and tracked back to where they started their influencer journey.

Here are some key insights from the report:
  • A mere 10% of the world’s most popular creators use Instagram as their main social media platform.
  • 65% of the world’s biggest online creators leverage TikTok as their main platform as of 2023.
  • Of the top-performing creators of 2023, 35% started their careers on YouTube.
  • 10% of the world’s most popular creators began their careers on Vine.
  • 80% of popular creators who began their careers on YouTube have stayed on the same platform .
  • Though Instagram is seen as an ‘influencer platform’, just 10% of the most popular creators in 2023 currently use it as their main platform.
  • Vine has created more popular full-time creators than Instagram.
The Platforms Creating the Biggest Full-Time Content Creators

Higher Visibility initially wanted to learn which of today's influencers had the most followers in order to determine which social media platform was producing the most full-time creators and influencers.

The winner was Khabane Lame, a social media star who became well-known in 2020 after quitting his job as a factory worker due to the coronavirus outbreak and starting to post videos on TikTok under the moniker "Khaby Lame." Using the app's stitch feature, Lame made popular responses to "life hack" videos. He rose to the position of the most-followed creator on TikTok on June 22, 2022.

Charli D'Amelio, a fellow TikToker, gained popularity on the video-sharing app and currently has 149,200,000 followers.

Overall, of all of the platforms studied, TikTok came in first place for the highest amount of followers on average across the top 10 performers on the app. Organic reach for brands on TikTok is reported to be 118%, and when compared to the likes of Instagram which is reported at 13.51%, the difference is astronomical. When taking this into consideration, how much of an impact does the ‘virality’ of content on TikTok combined with organic reach have on the success rate of full-time creators on the platform?

If we look more closely at particular platforms, we can see that many of the creators in the top 10 on TikTok really started their careers on the same app.

Even though TikTok only debuted in 2017, the app reportedly attracted its one billionth user just four years after becoming global. It had previously taken Facebook and Instagram over a decade to collect the amount of a user base as TikTok did, so it is not surprising that the number of creators on this app is also increasing quickly.

Following in third place is Vine, despite shutting down in 2016 after 3 years in circulation the platform still played host to some of today’s most well-known creators. The majority of which have found further success on Instagram.

Although Vine was a short-form video-based platform, it’s interesting to note that many of the most popular personalities now utilize Instagram as their main platform.

YouTube was among the first mainstream platforms created that enabled users across the world to create online video content, and though many feel that YouTube creator culture is declining, our research finds that it is a platform that attracts long-term, loyal subscribers. However, has the time to create a successful career on YouTube passed if you didn’t build your main audience on the platform, to begin with? Though some have moved to TikTok, the majority of full-time creators on YouTube have found less success on alternate platforms.

The majority of popular YouTube creators in 2023 began their careers on YouTube. So, is it more difficult to build a following outside of YouTube once your influencer career has started there, and is it best to gain fans on YouTube from the start if you want to have a great career there?

Instagram places last with the lowest amount of average followers among the top 10 creators on the app. It was said in 2019 that the Instagram aesthetic was ‘over’, with users on the lookout for more real-life, relatable content on other platforms instead of the glossy, idealised lifestyles promoted through carefully curated feeds on the picture-sharing platform. We can see from this study that although this platform may once have been the go-to app for influencer culture times are, without a doubt, changing.

Instagram is frequently considered an "influencers platform." In fact, according to recent research, as of 2022, the app would still account for 94 per cent of influencer marketing initiatives.

Instagram was the only social media network examined during the study where all of its top creators found their initial success on a single platform and stayed. The average number of followers held by users who were successful on the app, at 22,170,000, was the lowest of any app in the study.

This begs the question; does obtaining followers on other platforms become more difficult if you are successful on Instagram? And although TikTok's growth rate vastly outpaces Instagram's, does gaining Instagram followers present a chance to forge deeper connections with loyal fans?

TikTok ranked #1 overall among the platforms examined for having the greatest average number of followers among the top 10 influencers on the app. When compared to platforms like Instagram, which has a reported organic reach of 13.51 per cent, TikTok's reported organic reach for brands is 118 per cent. What effect, if any, does TikTok's "virality" and organic reach have on the success rate of the platform's full-time creators when this is taken into account?

Although many believe that YouTube's creator culture is waning, Higher Visibility’s research shows that it is a platform that draws devoted, long-term followers. YouTube was one of the first widely used platforms that allowed users all over the world to create online video content. If you didn't first establish your primary following on YouTube, has the window of opportunity for building a successful career on the site closed? Although some YouTube full-time creators have switched to TikTok, they have generally had less success there.

The third-place finisher is Vine, which hosted some of the most well-known artists of the modern era even after it shut down in 2016 after three years of operation.

Instagram comes in last with the fewest followers on average. The glamorous, idealised lives offered through carefully curated feeds on the picture-sharing platform were reported to be "over" in 2019, with people searching for more realistic, real-life content on other platforms. This report demonstrates that, even if this platform may have once been the preferred tool for influencer culture, times are unquestionably changing.

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