Nowadays, Instagram is one of the biggest and most successful social media networks in the world with more than 1 billion active monthly users online.
The platform has also become a source of income for many users – if there could be one social media network called “the land of social media influencers”, it would be Instagram for sure.
Not to say that influencers didn’t exist before the Instagram boom.
There were a lot of influential people both in traditional and social media.
However, Instagram gave people perhaps the most undemanding way to become famous.
The only content required were aesthetically pleasing photos with live-laugh-love captions and you could easily become the next It girl/boy/person like Caroline Calloway.
Instagram goes through its own life cycles, demanding more authenticity and less polished aesthetics from users nowadays.
But it doesn’t seem like social media influencers are going anywhere (even if the network decides to completely remove vanity metrics).
Although the gender breakdown of Instagram users is pretty equal (56.4% women and 43.6% men in the U.S.), when we hear the words “Instagram influencer, we usually imagine a woman.
Instagram is strongly associated with women influencers. Think:
- Beauty bloggers.
- Fashion queens.
- Instagram models.
Perhaps, women are more prone to take advantage of the visual aspect of the social media platform or are more used to be evaluated based on their looks, which is a sad fact.
But, hey, if you can turn it into a career, you go girl!
With all that being said, it’s quite fascinating to take a look at top female influencers on Instagram and see what their secrets to success are on the platform.
Surely, the absolutely most popular women will be real-life celebrities, but their Instagram presence might be a crucial factor in their real-life fame.
Besides, determining the top influential women on Instagram can give you a lot more insights than a simple list of names as I’ll prove in this article.
The questions that I want to raise are:
What makes these women so popular: Is it their posts or external circumstances?
Does their success on Instagram translate into the number of discussions about them in traditional and social media?
Does the high number of followers entail a high engagement rate?
These are not just questions born out of boredom and curiosity.
The top 10 women on Instagram can give us an insight into what makes you popular on the social media network and maybe even give some pointers for social media managers for their Instagram strategy.
To define our top 10 women on Instagram I used the following and engagement data sourced from Instagram and social listening data provided by Awario. (Disclosure: I work at Awario)
I wanted to explain the methodology behind our top 10 to highlight what metrics could tell us about social media influence.
In order to identify the most popular women on Instagram, I had to draw out some criteria to estimate the influence on the web.
If you were to search for “most popular people on Instagram”, you’d probably come across a list of most-followed accounts.
However, the number of followers alone does not an influencer make.
At the very least, if you’re looking for real influencers (i.e., people who actually have a loyal audience that they can influence with their posts), the number of followers shouldn’t be your only indicator.
It is too easy to manipulate and can be blown up with a little bit of money.
So which metrics can be relied on to determine the influence on social media?
I pinned down three main indicators of a person’s influence online:
- The number of followers: While it can’t be the single metric we are judging the influence on, it’s still an important figure to see how many people want to keep up with a person’s life.
- Engagement: Likes and comments are good indicators of how many of your followers actually want to engage with your content. Besides, we should pay attention to likes on Instagram while we still can.
- Online mentions: The more popular a person is, the more online buzz she generates.
I used these three categories to calculate the Influence score.
Here’s how the top 10 most influential women were selected:
I sourced a list of top 50 most-followed women on Instagram from Social Blade.
For each of them, I counted the average number of likes and comments for the last 20 posts.
I decided to focus on the number of posts and not posts for a specific time period since all the women on the list post with a different frequency: while Kendall Jenner shares her pictures almost every day, Beyonce is much more of a restrained poster.
I also set up social media monitoring alerts in Awario to see how often they are mentioned online.
In each category, I counted a score for each woman by assigning the highest value a score of 100 and calculating all the other scores in relation to that value. To make it clearer, here’s an example:
Ariana Grande has the highest number of followers of all women on Instagram – 193,618,197.
I assigned this number a score of 100 points and then counted Kylie Jenner’s score by dividing her number of followers by Ariana’s number of followers: 184,113,286/193,618,197.
I multiplied the result by 100 and got Kylie’s score – 95.
Once I had a score for each of the categories, I counted the final average value – the Influence Score.
Now we have the results!
Top 10 Most Influential Women on Instagram
What can we notice at first glance on the list?
First of all, if you’re familiar with modern pop culture, you recognize that the list is mostly comprised of pop artists and Kardashian-Jenner family members.
Indeed, three of the sisters from the reality TV show made it to our list.
Two of the women on the list are black, all of them are American.
That’s pretty much all of the information you can derive from looking at the names on the list.
However, we don’t have to limit ourselves to the list!
With the data I gathered and social listening data provided by Awario, we can take a thorough look at the top 10 and discover more interesting information about those women and Instagram fame.
While in the overall ranking we focused on the combination of different data, it’s also interesting to break down each category and see which influencer was more successful in which category and what exactly affects the influencer score in particular cases.
Let’s take a look!
Most Followers: Ariana Grande
The young pop artist has high scores in pretty much every category, but in this one, she is completely unparalleled.
Actually, if we look at the list of the most followed accounts in general, without separating them by gender, Ariana takes the third place after the official Instagram account and Cristiano Ronaldo.
(Plus Ariana is seven years younger than Ronaldo and doesn’t have weird bronze statues made in her honor yet).
What’s interesting is that when it comes to engagement metrics, Ariana doesn’t have as high scores as some other women on the list.
Perhaps, the reason for that is that while she posts a lot, it’s not always the most “high quality” content.
Her feed features not just excerpts from the photoshoots and selfies but also pics of her dogs and low-quality videos of the moon.
This authenticity brought her followers but might not be the best strategy to keep people engaged.
Most Likes: Kylie Jenner
6,396,985 Likes on Average
Kylie’s average number of likes combined with a high number of followers placed her second in the overall ranking.
She also posts quite often – more than 7 times a week on average.
However, her feed feels much more curated: she posts a lot of beauty shots and seems to put thought into color coordination posting several pics from one shoot or location separately to give a more coherent feel to her feed.
She also posts quite a lot of promotional posts for her makeup brand.
Still, her Instagram doesn’t feel overly-promotional or polished because she occasionally shares her everyday life and actively uses Stories for more day-to-day content.
Most Comments: Billie Eilish
62,502 Comments on Average
Even though Billie doesn’t have as many followers or likes as other women on the list, her average number of comments is what took her to the third spot in the general ranking.
The post that has the biggest number of comments is the one discussing #AllLivesMatter hashtag – this controversial topic generated more than 172,000 comments.
Note: Taylor Swift is the only person out of the initial top 50 who has her comments disabled – this was the result of online hate she received over the years. The comment metric was not taken into account when calculating her Influence score.
Most Mentions: Ariana Grande
92,100 Mentions in a Month
Another win for Ariana Grande! Awario collected 92,100 mentions of Ariana across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and media websites.
By looking at the analysis of social listening data we can find out more about her mentions.
For example, men and women are interested in the singer pretty equally, with slightly more attention coming from women.
We can also look into what topics generate conversations about Ariana Grande with the Topic cloud.
The two most prominent topics of discussion are Lady Gaga and Ariana’s single “Rain On Me” and the fact that she became the second most followed artist on Spotify.
This top 10 is not the only ranking she’s in!
Since we’ve already turned to social listening data, let’s dive even deeper into data analysis.
One of the ways to analyze online mentions is to look at their sentiment.
By calculating the Net Sentiment Score – the share of negative and positive mentions for each woman.
We worked out both the most loved and the most controversial of our influencers.
Most Loved: Selena Gomez
42/ Net Sentiment Score
Selena Gomez has the highest sentiment score – 42 out of 100.
This means that the overwhelming majority of her mentions are positive.
If we take a closer look at the Topic cloud, we can see that a lot of social media users are talking about the launch of her new video with the artist Trevor Daniel.
One of the main words is love which could explain this high of a sentiment score.
Most Controversial: Kylie Jenner
-23 Net Sentiment Score
I tactfully decided not to name this heading “most hated”, but Kylie Jenner indeed seems to get a lot of flak on social media.
Topic cloud helped identify the reason for such low Sentiment Score – the criticism around one of her Instagram posts.
The photos she posted were taken at the Navajo native land, which is supposed to be closed for tourism.
This shows how one Instagram post can cost you a reputation when you’re an influencer or are working with one – take note, social media managers!
White privileged at its finest.@KylieJenner gets to do a photoshoot on Navajo land BUT Navajos closed those sites due to COVID and OUR people are on lockdowns. Did you donate anything to help the Navajo nation and tribes land you’re on while potentially exposing them? No. https://t.co/zYyjpsTZYA
– Tádídíín Queen✨👌🏽 (@traciej_) July 12, 2020
Most Mentioned by Brands: Beyonce
18.3% Mentions by Brand Accounts
One of the social listening metrics available in Awario is the breakdown of the Account types: personal or company account.
The person most mentioned by company accounts was Beyonce.
If we take a look at the influencers who mention her, we see a lot of accounts owned by organizations and brands, and not just to-be-expected news and media companies, but also, for some reason, the Manchester Сity football team.
Women’s Favorite: Kendall Jenner
62.2% of Mentions Are Posted by Women
Gender analytics allows you to see if an influencer was mentioned more by men or women.
The women from our top 10 have pretty equal shares of men and women talking about them, but there are some exceptions.
Kendall Jenner has a higher share of women talking about her – perhaps this is the case because she works in fashion industry, and many women are interested in fashion.
Men’s Favorite: Katy Perry
58.2% of Mentions Are by Men
Although the difference is not huge, Katy Perry’s mentions more often come from men than women.
What Do the Most Influential Women Talk About?
Now that we identified “the most of the most,” let’s take a look at the issues our influencers bring up on Instagram.
Social listening allows us to analyze the captions of the videos and images posted and find the sentiment behind them and the topics common for our top 10.
Using Awario’s Whitelist in the Strict mode, I created a social media monitoring alert that only gathers posts published by our top 10 women influencers.
We analyzed 925 posts in total published in the last three years.
These posts gathered more than 137 billion impressions!
This is the power of an influencer.
For starters, let’s look at the overall sentiment of Instagram posts published by the most influential women.
As you see, the majority of the sentiment is positive – perhaps, this could be proof that positivity draws people in?
To see what our influencers are so happy about, let’s look at the Topic cloud that displays the frequently repeated words and phrases.
From the get-go, we see that “happy” and “love” are the biggest words in the cloud: the word happy was mentioned 47 times, and the word love – 84 times.
No wonder the sentiment of the posts is so overwhelmingly positive.
Other popular words are:
- New (61 posts) that was used in all type of posts ranging from product and music announcements to political opinions and congratulation on the New Year’s Eve.
- Video (42 posts) that slipped into this post thanks to all the music video announcements.
- Guys (33 posts) which is mostly used to address the followers.
- Collection (32 posts) mostly used by Kardashian-Jenner sisters in promotional posts for their makeup and undergarments lines.
What conclusions can we draw from this data?
Well, to be a successful influencer on social media, you need to:
- Stay positive.
- Talk to your followers directly (i.e., using informal language and addresses).
- Update your audience on your launches.
For many women on the list, Instagram hasn’t been the deciding factor in their fame.
It’s highly unlikely that Beyonce’s album sales could be ascribed to her Instagram activity: and she knows that since she posts quite infrequently.
On the contrary, for some women, Instagram is the primary source of attention, with their posts dissected by the media.
They use Instagram as the platform for brand announcements and engagement with their fans – and this tactic takes them higher on the list than other more established celebrities.
All in all, you don’t need Instagram to become famous, but it can help.
And don’t forget to throw in the words “happy” and “love” in your captions from time to time.
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In-Post Images: Awario
All screenshots taken by author, July 2020