(CBS News) — So you want to be an “influencer”? Turns out you’ve got plenty of company. About 86% of young Americans surveyed said they’re willing to try out influencing on their social media platforms — and 12% of young people said they already considered themselves one, according to a report from Morning Consult. Another 20% of young people said they know an influencer personally.
The business of social media influencing is projected to grow into a $6.5 billion industry by the end of the year. “Social media star” has become the fourth-most popular career aspiration for kids. “Influencer” even made the shortlist in 2019 for “Word of the Year” in a U.K. dictionary. (“Climate strike” took the crown.)
All this is because influencers who’ve made it big on YouTube or Instagram for their “authentic” and “engaging” personalities can amass enormous social clout, not to mention big bucks. The top five most popular influencers ranked in the report — PewDiePie, Jeffree Star, Shane Dawson, Markiplier and Kylie Jenner — are worth tens of millions of dollars.
According to Forbes, YouTube video game commentator PewDiePie, who has roughly 102 million subscribers, raked in $15.5 million last year in earnings. YouTube makeup guru Jeffree Star has 16.5 million subscribers and pulled up $18 million. Markiplier has 24.5 million subscribers and pulled in $17.5 million.
And Kylie Jenner? Forbes said the youngest Jenner is personally worth about $1 billion thanks to her beauty business Kylie Cosmetics and social-media savvy.
Half of millennials said they trust influencers on product recommendations, compared to just 38% of celebrities. Gen-Z men said they’re just as likely to follow YouTube gamer PewDiePie as basketball player LeBron James on social media, but that they like PewDiePie more.
Morning Consult surveyed 2,000 young Americans aged 13 to 38 for the report.