While Instagram has become the quintessential platform for influencers, it was the beauty gurus, shoppers, comedians, pranksters, and travel vloggers of YouTube who paved the way early on - and it’s still a strong platform for influencers and content creators.
Here are our picks for the top 10 YouTube influencers brands need to be watching and collaborating with this year.
No list of top YouTubers would be complete without the reigning king. PewDiePie's subscriber count effortlessly surpasses even his closest second, with 80.2 million channel subscribers and view counts regularly reaching tens of millions.
The Swedish Youtuber initially rose to prominence with Let’s Play videos. In them, he would play video games and provide running commentary along with exaggerated reactions.
PewDiePie has recenlty dealt with controversy, but the sheer clout PewDiePie wields on the platform and his loyal fanbase have kept this YouTube influencer’s juggernaut status intact. He has maintained his #1 status as the most-subscribed YouTube channel since 2013 and continues to receive sponsorship deals.
2. Ryan ToysReview
While PewDiePie might be the edgy king of YouTube influencers in terms of subscribers, Ryan ToysReview wields a different kind of clout: adorableness.
And while he and his family might not have the sheer viewership numbers our first influencer commands, his videos have snatched him another, equally impressive crown as YouTube's top earner, making an incredible $22 million last year through his channel reviewing toys - dwarfing even PewDiePie's figures ($17.5 million) at just 7 years old.
The child star behind the channel built up his following reviewing toys beginning in 2015 and has since branched out with a line of toys sold in Walmart and Target. His most popular video has over 1.6 billion views.
3. Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa, the rising star of pop music since her debut single “New Love,” is known for her chic looks and fashionable music videos.
This year, she landed a couple big names to represent: Jaguar and Hyatt Hotels.
The sleek luxury carmaker chose Dua Lipa and the long-awaited track “Want To” for a modern, CGI-driven commercial they ran this year.
The YouTube video has 7.2 million views with overwhelmingly positive YouTube interactions at 57k likes compared to just 1k dislikes.
Dua Lipa's video for her song "New Rules" is sleek, distinctly retro, and pops with color. At first glance, it doesn’t scream YouTube influencer marketing, but the video is actually a chance for Hyatt hotels to show off their hotel, The Confidante Miami Beach.
The hotel, part of the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, is built around the chain’s new target audience: “independent-minded travellers who see travel as an exciting adventure that provides them the freedom to create their own stories.”
"New Rules" won the Shorty Award for Best Influencer & Celebrity YouTube Campaign.
Results of the campaign:
1.5 billion views overall
Over 20 million views on Hyatt channels
161 million media impressions, plus 40 media placements mentioning The Confidante in relation to the music video
Exclusive feature stories in AdWeek and Billboard
Continued popularity, resulting in sustained viewership gains of around 20 million per week
Dua Lipa is a celebrity influencer, but with a touch more depth than some of her peers - she has cultivated a style that is both retro and chic, with an image and music that feel very much her own.
She is also of Kosovar descent and in 2016 created the Sunny Hill Foundation with her father to donate to the citizens of Kosovo. In connection with the foundation, Dua Lipa and her father Dukagjin Lipa organized a music festival in Prishtina, Kosovo. According to the festival website, the “aim is to create a festival of a high standard, one that will put Prishtina and Kosovo on the music and festival map as a place that is worth visiting, a place that loves music and knows how to have fun.”
With 13 million subscribers, our next influencer maintains her spot as a top YouTuber with weekly comedy and prank videos.
Lele Pons started out on Vine, creating comedy videos in the 6-second format the platform imposed. When Vine died, she moved to YouTube (12.9m), Instagram (31.6m), and Twitter (1.91m) to continue her prolific production of content.
As an influencer, Lele Pons crosses over two huge key markets: US and Latin American viewers.
This year she paired up with Spanish pop star Aitana, known for coming second in reality television talent competition Operación Triunfo and representing Spain alongside Ana Guerra in the Eurovision Song Contest with “Lo Malo.”
Aitana remixed her song Teléfono and partnered with Lele Pons as a feature in the new video, tapping her multiple markets to reach over 30 million views.
5. Arnell Armon
Recently, amid some soured relationships with big influencers and other high profile mistakes, some brands have begun to shift their focus away from choosing a single macro influencer.
Instead, they look to what are known as micro-influencers: these are influencers with slightly smaller followings, but highly engaged audiences and a hefty dose of authenticity.
Micro influencers are a strong choice for campaigns, especially if the main aim is conversion rather than reach.
Check our our full guide on micro-influencers vs macro influencers for more.
Arnell’s channel is relatively new, with the earliest videos on her channel being from 2015, but her fun, friendly, and candid personality has been a driving force for incredible growth.
Her current number of subscribers is 476,158.
Arnell may not have the millions of subscribers some of the other content creators on this list boast, but with a well-defined niche in makeup and beauty focusing on tutorials specifically for Afro-textured hair, extensions, and wigs, her videos reach into the millions on view counts.
6. The Bucket List Family
This family of 5 “travel journalists” have been featured on another recent Socialbakers blog, Top 10 Travel Influencers Brands Need to Know About, by our own Jordan Lukeš. They were, in fact chosen as the top influencer in that Top 10 list because of their incredible influencer score of 87% in the Emplifi influencer search tool.
Where we covered Instagram in that article, we’re focusing on YouTubers here, and the Bucket List Family has a fantastic channel to pair with their successful Instagram account!
The Bucket List Family sold their worldly possessions and traded a mundane life for a 6-month family adventure. But once they got on the road, they found that their getaway had become a lifestyle and they haven’t stopped travelling since.
They have 623,811 subscribers on YouTube, more than double the number of subscribers they had when we previously wrote about them in July 2018! It’s safe to say that their continued hunger for adventure is shared by their fans.
7. Ingrid Nilsen
In 2009, Ingrid Nilsen created her YouTube channel, Missglamorazzi as a way to challenge herself and overcome her fear of public speaking. Since then, she has made a name for herself with videos about fashion, lifestyle, and DIY, with how-to and tutorial videos, along with recipes and more.
Currently, she has 3.8 million subscribers.
A California native, Ingrid Nilsen is an influencer whose popularity and fame are deeply rooted in the authenticity of her personal brand.
In 2016, she dove into politics and humanitarian work, reflected by her interview with Barack Obama and naming as one of the United Nations’ Change Ambassadors along with six other YouTube content creators. She brought up issues of feminine hygiene product taxation and discrimination against the LGBT community.
In July 2016 she helped launch the Power to the Period campaign with Do Something and U by Kotex, running product drives to help provide tampons, pads, and more to homeless shelters across the United States.
Her partnerships and influencer work have focused on women’s and LGBT issues, but she’s made some big deals along the way as well: in 2017 she became the face of two leading foundations for bareMinerals, in one of the biggest deals between an influencer and beauty brand to date - clocking in at over $500,000 for the year-long partnership.
This year she has placed emphasis on breast cancer, as the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, stating that “breast cancer is a disease that not only affects the person who is diagnosed, but all the people around them as well. Growing up with a sick parent is incredibly painful, confusing, complex and isolating.”
Louis Cole is the influencer for the truly adventurous. You won’t see this British-born traveller kicking back and relaxing in the sun - on the contrary, his channel will treat you to wild dog sled rides, snowboarding in the French alps, eating grilled scorpions, and general unending wanderlust.
His channel started with a series on eating “adventurous” foods, like the aforementioned scorpions, called FoodforLouis. However, it soon expanded to include other activities as his audience and the content he wanted to produce developed.
His current channel, FunforLouis, now has over 2 million subscribers.
Cole’s content is not just travel, though. He has become an incredibly diverse content creator, with videos covering everything from giveaways, DIY and home improvement videos, plus general life updates.
He has also works overtly with brands, for example publishing a video titled MY NEW FAVOURITE LAPTOP! plugging an Intel Notebook laptop.
Cole is an interesting influencer because his personal brand is fun-loving and rugged adventure, but he has also branched out in a way that allows him to talk about and promote pretty much anything he wants to on his channel in an authentic, and passionate way.
9. Zach King
This video magician YouTube influencer is another star who rose to prominence on the millennials’ dearly departed Vine, his mix of tricks paired with expert video editing skills proved a magical combination.
His YouTube channel has 3.2 million followers, and he posts videos regularly, with his top videos hitting nearly 20 million views.
He paired up with Subaru in 2017 as part of the #MeetAnOwner campaign. His video brought his signature video editing magic and humor to a brand often associated with all-terrain expeditions and rugged hikers with impressive authenticity - and garnered 8.8 million views.
DudePerfect is a channel that specializes in mind-bogglingly perfect sports tricks with 37.5 million subscribers on YouTube.
Consisting of twins Coby and Cory Cotton, Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones, and Tyler Toney, this popular YouTube influencer channel’s videos consist of trick shots, stunts, and comedy videos, like “March Madness Stereotypes,” a part of their Stereotypes series. Most of their videos are sports-related, but the hallmark of their tricks and stunts videos is, as the channel name suggests, the sheer perfection achieved. From crazy water bottle flip videos, to incredible tricks with ping pong balls, their tricks really are mind bending.
These content producers have also broken records with videos like “World Record Exercise Ball Surfing”
The group has diversified to include game apps, a book titled Go Big detailing the channel’s rise and the lessons learned along the way. They were also selected by the Harlem Globetrotters in their annual player draft, and debuted a television show called The Dude Perfect Show in CMT (later, Nickelodeon).
These top YouTubers’ content has been questioned in the past for its legitimacy, but the content producers have laughed off the challenges, stating: “We love it when people claim it's fake because it makes the shots seem even more ridiculously impossible; and we get more publicity and hits on YouTube so we love the mystery of knowing whether it's real or fake.”
YouTube influencers come from a variety of backgrounds, and there are thousands of them out there, with their own unique and engaged audiences.
These are people who have made it big with an emphasis on their authenticity, personal brand, and connecting with their audiences.
How can you choose the right YouTube influencer for your marketing campaign? By really getting to know your audiences, and finding influencers that will match up with the people you want to reach out to.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.