The Top 20 Young Influencers--And 6 Rules They All Live By

I would bet when most brands go looking around for personalities to boost their image, they’re thinking more along the lines of LeBron James, Matthew McConaughey or Ellen DeGeneres. 

But Zefr, which is in the business of monitoring and helping advertisers take advantage of engagement on YouTube, has put together a more eccentric--and possibly more useful--list of go-to personalities who are so popular with young consumers that they can move product. 

The social-media marketing and rights management company strongly sells the idea that likes and dislikes, comments and shares are often the secret sauce to a good ad campaign and a great influencer. Views alone sometimes don't cut it.

Zefr’s list of  “20 Under 21” influencers on social media probably contains just a few names you’ve ever heard of. Even Zach James, the co-CEO and co-founde at Zefr, says he’s only aware of--maybe--six of them. 



But that doesn’t mean much. These influencers aren’t trying to exert their influence toward him but toward millions of millennials and younger viewers.

I heard of just half as many as James, which makes a ton of sense. And one of my three is probably the same one you’ve heard of--Bethany Mota, who as a 20-year old has her own clothing line, and got outside-the-digital world publicity from being a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”  

But first on the Zefr list is Rachel Levin, “part beauty guru, part comedienne,” who applies certain brands of make-up while romping around on in her videos, and has over 5 million YouTube subscribers.

Better known influential types--PewDiePie, for example--are not on the list because they're sort of done being up and coming and have really already arrived. As James explains it, the Zefr list is more a chart of “trending engagement,” or in other words young people who have just reached the top of their game and seem comfortable there.

StreamDaily notes: “By straight numbers, it’s rare to find female influencers in the top ranks.”  Forbes ranked PewDiePie, Smosh and the Fine Bros. as YouTube’s top earners.  (PewDiePie is pegged at $12 million a year; he sweetly acknowledges his wealth and asks us to like him anyway. I do.)

Marketers pay attention, because things change.  “View and engagement turnover can be something like 20% from week to week,” Tom Galido, head of product market and data at Zefr, told StreamDaily.

Mota is second on the Zefr list and Meg DeAngelis is third. She started her channel as a place to show off her cheerleading videos, Zefr explains, before moving to the beauty area, which is seemingly overcrowded with advice-givers, make-up appliers and bargain shoppers.

Jenn McAllister, who makes the list, and a look at the snippet of a video Zefr provides shows how naturally she grabs an audience, with the kind of humor and honesty the best vloggers have.

Sitting on her bed, she starts the video confessing she thinks she’s obsessive. “I tend to like something and then I like it a little too much.”  As an example, she reaches under her bed and comes back holding a package of Nature Valley Granola bars. “No, this isn’t a brand deal,” she says, “but I wish it was.”

Nash Grier, famous for his Vines, makes the list. So do Viners Matt Espinosa and Lele Pons, who is 19. She is proclaimed to be “currently the most looped person on Vine, with over 7 billion in total.”

The whole list and Zefr’s blog is here.

James has an interesting take on what makes an influencer work. He says there are six attributes:

  1. Imperfection: “They’re authentic because they’re imperfect. They have triumphs and struggles.”

  2. Mundane: They show that they go through the same grind, the same boring classes, the same bad pick-up lines that you do.

  3. Dedication: Fans (and brands) want to know they’ll be there with new episodes, all at a certain level.

  4. Passion: You know, they care. They're involved.

  5. Conversation: That’s “how much they talk to you. People like YouTubers who really read and comment on their comments,” says James.

  6. How specific they are to each platform: James says certain influencers know they’re better at one kind of social platform, and perhaps, not others They’ve found their medium.
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