Black History Month YouTube ZEFR Data top influencers

To celebrate Black History Month, ZEFR Insights tracked and ranked five of the top black influencers on the rise across YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine. As we’ve watched the digital influencer landscape continue to grow and evolve, what ties all these creators together is their ability to build highly engaged audiences by carefully maintaining authentic relationships with their biggest fans. By just being themselves and celebrating what makes them unique, they transcend expectations and deliver a singular voice that draws people into their world.

1. Marques Brownlee

Platforms: Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube
Total YouTube Reach: 3,223,615
Total Social Reach: 4,504,119
97.7th Percentile in Cross-Platform Social Engagement*

Brownlee, better known to his fans as MKBHD, has been a YouTube creator since 2009, honing his unique voice as a technology reviewer. In that time he has attracted over 3 million subscribers to place him third overall in the tech category on YouTube. Originally from New Jersey, Brownlee attended the Stevens Institute of Technology before becoming a full-time YouTuber in 2015. Brownlee’s most-watched clip—a review and “scratch-test” of the Apple iPhone 6 sapphire crystal display—catapulted him to YouTube stardom when the footage was featured on NBC News, TIME’s website, and numerous other tech outlets that Brownlee beat for the scoop.

2. Tré Melvin

Platforms: Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Vine
Total YouTube Reach: 3,028,686
Total Social Reach: 5,860,756
97.9th Percentile in Cross-Platform Social Engagement*

Originally from Cincinnati, Melvin has studied both theatre and business marketing, uniquely preparing him for his influencer role as both performer and entrepreneur. His LA-based YouTube channel, This is a Commentary, features new webisodes every Monday. The content draws from his performing arts background (comedy sketches, music, and parodies of vlog culture) and his newfound status as a bisexual role model. In less than five years, Melvin has grown his audience to 3 million subscribers and 272 million total views.

3. Teala Dunn

Platforms: Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Vine
Total YouTube Reach: 1,239,337
Total Social Reach: 3,082,098
97th Percentile in Cross-Platform Social Engagement*

Known to her YouTube fans as Tealaxx2, the 19-year-old Dunn already has an impressive resume as an actress with appearances on the TBS sitcom Are We There Yet? and in the feature film Expelled. Her on-screen experience is evident in her engaging YouTube uploads; among Dunn’s most-viewed videos are variations on the timeless “Truth or Dare” game and glimpses into her daily rituals (makeup tutorials, school lunch ideas, etc.)

4. Todrick Hall

Platforms: Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Vine.
Total YouTube Reach: 2,042,900
Total Social Reach: 3,057,103
89.9th Percentile in Cross-Platform Social Engagement*

Hall shot to YouTube fame when his carefully orchestrated (and choreographed) Target store flash mob (set to Beyoncé’s “End of Time”) went viral. Currently the third most-watched clip on his channel (hovering near the 14.5 million mark), the joyous stunt got the attention of Beyoncé herself (who filmed her own YouTube response) and laid the groundwork for an official partnership with the retail chain. With over 2 million subscribers and 300 million views, Hall keeps his fandom engaged with unpredictable content ranging from Disney tributes to prank calls.

5. Tianne King

Platforms: Facebook and YouTube
Total YouTube Reach: 683,428
Total Social Reach: 708,264
95th Percentile in Cross-Platform Social Engagement*

Tianne King, and her daughter Heaven, first caught the public’s attention when they appeared on The Ellen Show as a mother-daughter dancing duo. That video alone has pulled in more than 70 million views. Since their career-defining television appearance three years ago (when Heaven was just 3 years old), Tianne King’s YouTube channel is approaching 700,000 subscribers with over 250 million views across her videos. The family business has expanded into a full-on dance troupe and choreography studio, which provides fresh content for King’s YouTube channel in the form of dance tutorials and behind-the-scenes footage from the studio’s popular dance productions. The Kings’ audience appeal has been recognized by brands such as Cheerios and Gymboree.

* Percentile calculated based on 55K top-tier influencers tracked in ZEFR’s Influencer Management System (IMS)

Data Insight: Most Engaging Content Topics

ZEFR Insights also conducted an analysis of the most popular content topics from top black influncers, identified through ZEFR’s BrandID IMS data platform.


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What is social media “influence”?

There is, in fact, a metric by which to measure it with accuracy, but not enough media experts know how to do it. In the old model, viewers drove television ratings, so the show with the most viewers would reap the windfall of the most advertising dollars. The math was simple. Now, media is social. That is obvious enough to most people, so why do analysts continue to lean on the old model and simply add up followers or subscribers when talking about social media celebrity and influence?

At ZEFR, we value engagement over the simple math. We tracked and ranked the trending engagement of some of the top digital creators under the age of 21 across thousands of data points to find out just who wields the most influence on the web.

ZEFR’s trending engagement data is a proprietary projection of how much fan interaction an influencer will drive on future posts, which is derived from a recency-weighted average engagement on each channel, corrected for outlier posts and adjusted for the upward or downward trend of engagement on the channel.

As we’ve said before, engagement is everything. Viewers and followers might lead you to the next celebrity, but if no one is engaging with that creator’s content, well, then all you have is fame without influence. With all of this (and more) in mind, ZEFR Insights presents 20 Under 21, the top social media influencers ranked the right way with the right data.

1. Rachel Levin

Rachel Levin -- 2.7M

Age: 20
Genre: Beauty DIYs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 2.7M

Part Beauty Guru, part comedienne, Rachel Levin (Rclbeauty101 to her followers) is a vlogger that creates beauty DIYs, with a twist. Although she does the usual tutorials, Rachel puts her own spin on things with her comedic take on the world of Beauty on YouTube.

2. Bethany Mota

Bethany Mota -- 2M

Age: 20
Genre: Lifestyle vlog

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 2M

The teenage Beauty Guru makes YouTube videos about beauty, fashion, and DIY-related topics. In addition to her YouTube success, Bethany Mota recently appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has her own Aéropostale clothing line.

3. Meg DeAngelis

Meg DeAngelis -- 1.5M

Age: 20
Genre: Lifestyle vlog

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 1.5M

Meg DeAngelis originally started her channel MayBaby as a place to feature her own cheerleading videos. She soon moved on to hair tutorials and fashion-related content. After those took off, she quickly became a rising star in the highly coveted Beauty community.

4. Kian Lawley

Kian Lawley -- 1.2M

Age: 20
Genre: Comedic sketches, vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 1.2M

Videomaker Kian Lawley (aka Superkian13) is a vlogger with his own channel, but has also been featured on collaborative channels. He was involved with the highly popular, but recently disbanded, Our2ndLife, a channel featuring weekly themes and challenges. His current project, a comedy channel run with fellow YouTuber Jc Caylen, is aptly titled “KianAndJc.”

5. Nash Grier

Nash Grier -- 1.1M

Age: 17
Genre: Comedic sketches, vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 1.1M

Famous for creating comedic six-second videos on Vine, Nash Grier also uses YouTube for longer form creative projects. Along with his social media fame, Grier is exploring the world of music video directing.

6. Meredith Foster

Meredith Foster -- 887K

Age: 20
Genre: Fashion and Beauty

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 887K

With over 3 million subscribers, Meredith Foster is one of the most popular Beauty and Lifestyle vloggers on YouTube. She is expanding beyond the platform by recently participating in the live Girls’ Night In Tour with five other popular female YouTubers. The event was described as a version of their videos “in real life.”

7. Joe Weller

Joe Weller -- 831K

Age: 19
Genre: Comedic vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 831K

British vlogger Joe Weller devotes his time to producing humorous videos. Weller, an avid World Wrestling Entertainment fan, often parodies WWE stunts in his videos. He even attracted the attention of WWE star Brock Lesnar, who called him out on his antics.

8. Brent Rivera

Brent Rivera -- 761K

Age: 17
Genre: Vlogs, sketches

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 761K

Brent Rivera is a vlogger known for the comedic sketches he creates and posts to YouTube, Vine, and Snapchat. He films vignettes around content relevant to younger audiences, such as “Expectation vs. Reality of Being a Teen,” and “Types of Brothers and Sisters.”

9. Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan -- 695K

Age: 20
Genre: Vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 695K

South African born, Australian-based Troye Sivan is not only a vlogger but also an actor and musician. When he isn’t making videos about his daily life, he’s starring alongside John Cleese in films such as 2010’s Spud, or releasing hit singles like “Happy Little Pill.”

10. Christian Collins

Christian Collins -- 665K

Age: 19
Genre: Vlogs, music videos

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 665K

An aspiring musician, Christian Collins (aka, WeeklyChris) bypassed the traditional route, and found an outlet for his creativity on YouTube. As well as being a musician, Chris is also a vlogger.

11. Matt Espinosa

Matt Espinosa -- 629K

Age: 18
Genre: Comedic sketches, vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 629K

Matt Espinosa kickstarted his career when he started uploading comedic sketches to Vine. He joined YouTube a short while later where he now features collaborations with other digital influencers.

12. Amanda Steele


Age: 16
Genre: Fashion and Beauty

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 554K

Amanda Steele (aka, MakeupbyMandy24) rose to fame by starting a YouTube channel focused on Beauty and Fashion when she was only 10. Since then, she has released her own eyeshadow palette, designed a Prom dress, and now stars in a documentary-style web series about her life titled The Social Life.

13. Lele Pons

Lele Pons -- 544K

Age: 19
Genre: Comedic Vines

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 544K

Lele Pons is currently the most looped person on Vine, with over 7 billion in total. This is no doubt thanks to her ability to tell a joke in just six seconds. She even gained the attention of the First Lady, earning an invitation to visit the White House, along with some fellow Viners.

14. Jenn McAllister

Jenn McAllister -- 499K

Age: 19
Genre: vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 499K

In addition to becoming a YouTube Star and all-around digital influencer, Jenn McAllister (aka, Jennxpenn) can add “actress” and “author” to her résumé. Her debut film, Bad Night was released this past summer along with her book, Really Professional Internet Person.

15 & 16. Jack Johnson and Jack Gilinsky (Jack and Jack)

Jack & Jack -- 366K

Age: 19 (Johnson) and 19 (Gilinsky)
Genre: Music videos, vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 366K

These two Jacks are best friends, bandmates, and vlogging partners. After gaining notoriety for their “Nerd Vandals” Vine, they continued making content, and soon ventured into songwriting. While music is now their main focus, they continue to upload sketches and the occasional brand-sponsored video.

17. Jack Baran

Jack Baran -- 341K

Age: 18
Genre: Vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 341K

Social media influencer Jack Baran (aka, thatsojack) is a vlogger that uploads sketches and challenge videos. He is currently starring in an AwesomenessTV web series, First Times with Jenn & Jack! alongside Jenn McAllister. (See number 14, above.)

18. Anthony Quintal

Anthony Quintal -- 258K

Age: 16
Genre: Vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 258K

Anthony Quintal, known as Lohanthony to his fans, is a vlogger specializing in the slightly exaggerated daily goings-on of a teenager. A pinch more brash in his vlogging approach, Lohanthony doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects, or adult language.

19. Arden Rose

Arden Rose -- 205K

Age: 20
Genre: Vlogs

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 205K

Arden Rose started filming beauty and fashion videos when she was just 14 years old. Over the years, her content has grown to include a wider variety of lifestyle videos and vlogging. Her followers are known collectively as “rosebuds.” To celebrate surpassing 1 million followers, she filmed a video that featured her painted with rosebuds.

20. Rebecca Black

Rebecca Black -- 146K

Age: 18
Genre: Vlogs, music

ZEFR Trending Engagement Score: 146K

Rebecca Black shot to fame in 2011 with her viral hit song “Friday.” While she occasionally dips her toes back into the music world, she mostly focuses her channel on vlogging about the things teenagers worry about these days, such as “Things To Do When You’re Bored.”

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