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A Decade in the Era of Social Media: Top Influencers Who Redefined the Way We Think

© AP Photo / Marcio Jose SanchezA journalist makes a video of the Instagram logo
A journalist makes a video of the Instagram logo - Sputnik International
Over the past 10 years, social media has swiftly evolved from just a means of keeping in touch with others to a platform wielding immeasurable influence, forever changing the way in which we communicate.

Around the first day of the year every year, We Are Social updates its massive global compendium of stats, offering insights into the world of social media. Some of the key takeaways from their Global Digital Report 2019 show that the number of internet users worldwide in 2019 is 4.388 billion, up 9.1 percent year-on-year, while the number of social media users worldwide in 2019 is 3.484 billion, up 9 percent year-on-year.

​Annual growth continues apace, especially among active mobile social media users – 42 percent, up 3% from 2018.

The global increase in social media usage since January 2018 is 9 percent.

​As social media expands its dominance, it has redefined the way people interact with celebrities, companies and brands. Social media “influencers” have emerged, adept at utilising their access to a huge audience by successfully steering the online conversation and motivating others to act based on their recommendations, while promoting products and services.

Social media provides people ranging from bloggers to celebrities to online entrepreneurs, with the tools to attract a remarkable following, as they capitalise on their tremendous social reach.

Here are a few names riding high on the growing ubiquity of social platforms.


PewDiePie, a Swedish YouTuber and author whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, has been named the most influential digital star in the list of the top 100 digital influencers for 2019.

The ranking was determined using an algorithm created by digital trends platform CORQ which scores influencers.

The vlogger and entrepreneur first registered his YouTube channel in 2010, primarily posting Let's Play videos of horror and action video games.

PewDiePie took the fledgling market of video game commentary by storm, turning it into popular entertainment, spicing it up with his own brand of genuine humour and emotion. However, it was his comedy, perceived by some as brash and outrageous, that really sold his content.

Gaming is the second most popular type of content on YouTube after music, and as video game streaming exploded with the rise of YouTube's gaming community, so did PewDiePie's channel. His style of video content became more diverse; coming to include vlogs, comedy shorts, formatted shows, and music videos.

Kjellberg broke the 100 million subscribers milestone on 24 August, the first individual creator to do so.

Pewds was the second channel on YouTube to reach the coveted subscriber mark, having narrowly lost out to Indian record label T-Series after their race to the goal that became one of the most gripping ongoing feuds in digital space.

The 29-year old Swede, who generated controversy in the past by using anti-Semitic jokes and racial slurs, married his long-term girlfriend and fellow vlogger Marzia Bisognin in August.

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Photos from our first dance, we were both so nervous ✨ I took a few wrong steps, but we look like we knew what we were doing.

Публикация от PewDiePie (@pewdiepie)

In December, the digital superstar reaffirmed he would be taking a break from uploading to his channel, allowing himself some time to relax following the holiday season.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Wherever football celebrity Cristiano Ronaldo goes, the “world is sure to follow”, as no one has a bigger social media following than the Juventus soccer megastar and five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

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Публикация от Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano)

The Portuguese footballer was a celebrity long before the advent of social media, securing his 1st Ballon d'Or in 2008 when he was playing for Manchester United and winning his first trophy in England, the FA Cup, during his first season there.

Ronaldo at 20 was also the youngest winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1996.

However, the advent of social media platforms placed him in a whole new league, apart from every other athlete.

The athlete is one of the most recognisable players in the world and has a huge fan following not just on the pitch, but on social media too.

The Juventus star ranks third in the highest-paid Instagram influencer list, making $750,000 per sponsored post, according to an annual list put together by Hopper HQ, an Instagram scheduling tool.

His 145.3 million followers are privy to several of his sponsored posts, including paid partnerships ranging from Nike to his own underwear line.

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The Show started with Love💏

Публикация от Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano)

The Portuguese footballer also shares various game and training posts as well as family photos, keeping fans committed to his content with regular updates about his life.

The Kardashians

One of America’s most famous families, the Kardashians were propelled into the spotlight via the world of reality TV, showing the world that one needn’t possess particular skills to be in the limelight.

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Публикация от Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian)

As they turned their daily life into their profession, spilling it out on social media, they triggered numerous fans to eagerly emulate them.

The patriarch of the family, the late Robert Kardashian, Sr., was an attorney who rose to fame in 1994, when he defended the family’s good friend O.J. Simpson in his very public murder trial.

In the years following Robert Kardashian’s death, the family went through a difficult period of appraisement to get their bearings.

Finally, in 2007 the entire Kardashian clan, including Kris Jenner, Bruce Jenner, Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, and Rob Kardashian, as well as their younger sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner, appeared in their brand-new reality show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, that became one of the longest-running reality shows on television.

© AFP 2023 / Alain Jocard(From L) Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian and Kris Jenner
A Decade in the Era of Social Media: Top Influencers Who Redefined the Way We Think - Sputnik International
(From L) Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian and Kris Jenner

There was no precedent for the kind of stardom the Kardashian sisters were to be propelled to from what started out as a 30-minute reality show about a semi-famous family.

Originally, critics sought to write off the Reality TV nobodies as a flash in the pan, “famous for being famous”, yet the siblings displayed unerring instincts as they carved a space for themselves in the evolving digital culture, ascending to A-list stardom, ruling fashion trends, making billions by building a veritable empire that includes a billion-dollar makeup company, at least five clothing lines, and eight spinoff shows.

Today, the Kardashians are celebrities that no one can underestimate.

Kim Kardashian

One of the most celebrated members of the Kardashian clan, American media personality, model, businesswoman, socialite and actress Kim Kardashian West is acknowledged by many as one of the most powerful influencers in the world.

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❄️ The West’s ❄️

Публикация от Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian)

Rising to stardom from the reality TV ranks together with her siblings, over the past decade she has become a fashion and beauty icon, successfully launching KKW Beauty, KKW Fragrance and trailblazing many fashion trends.

Kim Kardashian first gained media attention as a friend and stylist to socialite Paris Hilton. However, the well-timed leaked release of a 2007 sex tape that Kardashian had made with her then-boyfriend Ray J quickly made her a pop culture phenomenon.

In subsequent years, Kim Kardashian developed a huge online and social media presence, including hundreds of millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram.

Her relationship with rapper Kanye West also received significant media coverage.

© AP Photo / Evan Agostini/Invision/AP In this April 21, 2015 file photo, Kanye West, left, and Kim Kardashian attend the TIME 100 Gala, in New York. Kardashian and West are expecting a baby boy, the reality TV star's spokesperson confirmed Monday, June 22, 2015.
A Decade in the Era of Social Media: Top Influencers Who Redefined the Way We Think - Sputnik International
In this April 21, 2015 file photo, Kanye West, left, and Kim Kardashian attend the TIME 100 Gala, in New York. Kardashian and West are expecting a baby boy, the reality TV star's spokesperson confirmed Monday, June 22, 2015.

The couple married in 2014 and they have four children together.

Time magazine included Kardashian on their list of 2015's 100 most influential people.

Marie Kondo

Dubbed the “Tidying Expert”, Japanese organising consultant and author Marie Kondo is the founder of KonMari Media, Inc.

The success story of a 19-year old student who opened a consulting firm to help people tidy up and went on to become the author books which sold millions of copies and command a business which includes over 200 consultants could not fail to generate tremendous interest on social media.

Kondo became a household name around the world for her worldwide best-selling book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising.

The book has sold over two million copies, and hit home with its message of a cleaner home and a more minimal "space" in a decade when the world is besieged by over-consumption and the stifling accumulation of more and more stuff.

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Follow the steps: place everything in a pile, joy-check each item, keep only those that spark joy and store accordingly. Great work, @supercorgi_jojo!

Публикация от Marie Kondo (@mariekondo)

In 2015 Marie Kondo entered the ranks of the "top 100 most influential people" according to Time.

Gigi and Bella Hadid

Gigi and Bella Hadid are two of the biggest supermodels, renowned for their roles as Victoria’s Secret Angels, whom social media transformed into the influencers of their generation.

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merci beaucoup @chanelofficial @virginieviard 🖤 last night’s look is an all-time favorite :)

Публикация от Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The Hadids – originally hailing from immigrant origins - have become among the most famous modeling families in the fashion industry over the past decade, dubbed the "first family" of fashion.

The three children of Dutch model mother Yolanda and Palestinian real-estate developer Mohamed Hadid, Gigi, Bella, and Anwar are all runway and campaign models with a combined estimated net worth of more than $57 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Having built their own empire, Gigi and Bella dominate the covers of international and American Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and many more magazines.

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Vogue Australia 🌊 By @studio_jackson & @christinecentenera 💙

Публикация от Bella (@bellahadid)

Gigi Hadid has 24.8 million followers on Instagram and is a prized asset of brands like Hilfiger, Reebok and Stuart Weitzman.
“Bella” Khair Hadid was voted “Model of the Year” by the industry in December 2016, with a net worth of roughly $25 million by 2019.

As three out of five Hadid family members have Lyme disease - Yolanda Hadid and her children Bella and Anwar - the entire family has used their wealth and influence to bring awareness to the disease.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg first became known for her activism in August 2018 when, at age 15, she began spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament to call for stronger action on global warming.

Soon, she had inspired other students to emulate her with similar protests in their own communities.

After Thunberg addressed the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, student strikes took place every week somewhere in the world.
At home, Thunberg, who has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, convinced her parents to adopt several lifestyle choices to reduce their own carbon footprint, including giving up air travel and not eating meat.


© REUTERS / TT NEWS AGENCYSwedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends a climate strike of the "Fridays For Future" movement outside the Swedish parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm, December 20, 2019.
A Decade in the Era of Social Media: Top Influencers Who Redefined the Way We Think - Sputnik International
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends a climate strike of the "Fridays For Future" movement outside the Swedish parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm, December 20, 2019.


On the 23rd of September 2019 in New York, the United Nations General Assembly held the Climate Action Summit, the milestone of which was the speech of a shy young climate activist from Sweden — Greta Thunberg.

The teen, 16, made an impassioned plea to the UN during her address, raging at state leaders for inaction on the challenges of climate change.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” Thurnberg said.
© AFP 2023 / EVGENIA ARBUGAEVAThe Time person of the Year December 23/December 30, 2019 cover with Greta Thunberg
A Decade in the Era of Social Media: Top Influencers Who Redefined the Way We Think - Sputnik International
The Time person of the Year December 23/December 30, 2019 cover with Greta Thunberg

The address went viral, spreading across social media platforms and sparking a heated debate that split netizens and officials.

Before the Climate Action Summit, Greta had 4.5 million followers on Instagram. Now her followers’ count is about to reach 7 million. The teen’s sudden rise to world fame made her a leader and a target on social media.

But more importantly, the speech inspired the activity of environment campaigners on social media, mostly on Instagram and Twitter, with a new #howdareyou hashtag trending – in a reference to the key question Greta asked the UN member states.

Like-minded Instagram users have now flocked to the #howdareyou hashtag to discuss climate change issues and express their discontent regarding the situation, with a majority of posts made by young people or teenagers.

Thunberg has also drawn ire for some of her emotionally-charged claims, with US President Donald Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin among her high-profile critics.

In May 2019, Thunberg was featured on the cover of Time magazine, which named her a "next generation leader" and a role model.

Grumpy Cat

One social media icon who passed away in 2019 was a cat, just illustrating that some of the most followed and loved influencers aren’t always human beings.

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Публикация от Grumpy Cat (@realgrumpycat)

The late Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat, famous for her frown, had more than 2.7 million followers on Instagram, 8.3 million fans on Facebook, and more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter.

On 14 May her owners posted the sad news that Grumpy Cat had died at age seven, with the news trending and even The New York Times publishing an obituary.

With a TV movie and commercials, a line of merchandise and even a wax figure at Madame Tussauds, marketing experts say Grumpy Cat proved a pet could become a mainstream influencer, more so considering that pet influencer’s content never grows old.

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