The inside view of Forbes’ new list of the top online influencers

Forbes has started to release lists of the biggest international social media influencers. Dubai beauty blogger Huda Kattan is in the Beauty top three.

Iraqi-American Huda Kattan, a beauty blogger from Dubai, is third on the Forbes list of Beauty online influencers. Courtesy Huda Kattan.
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Ever wondered which social media influencers rule the online world? United States business magazine Forbes can help – it has started to compile top-10 lists of the biggest international online stars in various sectors.

The newly launched Top Influencers list reflects the dramatic changes in the global media landscape. Every three months, Forbes, better known for in-depth articles on finance and industry, will rank 10 social-media superstars in three categories, starting this month with Beauty, Fitness and Home.

Topping their Beauty chart is Zoe Sugg (also known as Zoella), a 27-year-old Briton already immortalised as a waxwork in Madame Tussauds. Her 2014 novel, Girl Online, became the fastest-selling by a debut author to date.

Dubai cosmetics queen Huda Kattan made third spot on the list. The Iraqi-American has racked up 18 million Instagram followers since she launched her account in 2012, her credibility fuelled by the fact that she rarely accepts paid promotional posts.

On the Fitness list, 25 year-old Australian Kayla Itsines – who has 6.6 million Instagram followers – took top spot. Her Sweat with Kayla app generated US$17million (Dh62.4m) in revenue last year.

Briton Joe “the Body” Wicks, who headlined Dubai’s Sun & Sand Sports Fitness Festival in November, was one of only six men to make the lists.

To compile the charts, Forbes worked with analytics firm Traackr and social-insight platform Captiv8 to gauge each candidate's potential for earnings according to the size of their following, endorsements, and business generated offline.

Established celebrities were not considered in the rankings – if they had been, Taylor Swift, with 101 million Instagram followers, would probably have come up trumps.

But can such a list drawn up by a more traditional media outlet really hold much cachet with today’s social-media elite?

Naomi D'Souza, an Indian lifestyle influencer in Dubai, who has a 67,000-strong Instagram following, says she thinks the Forbes charts will boost an influencer's popularity and follower numbers.

“As a micro-influencer myself, I must admit, this makes us feel essential, seen, and gives us the confidence to work harder,” she says.

“It’s not easy to climb the ladder considering this generation is super-competitive now, especially on social media. Influencers must be commended.”

Were she to feature in one of Forbes' charts, D'Souza says it would undoubtedly help her brand.

"Forbes being a legitimate brand, and well known for its lists and ranking, it by default gives a sense of authenticity to the reader. That is what I strive for," she says.

Maurice Hamilton, chief executive of the SMC Group, which claims to be the world’s largest celebrity and influencer procurement agency, says that when picking influencers to endorse particular brands, “impressions, community engagement and the number of followers play a vital role – but the ultimate decision is based on their relevance to the campaign”.

Hamilton rates the most successful influencers as being “anyone who has been able to move their business outside of their original digital platform”.

Next quarter, Forbes will announce its lists of Comedy, Travel and Gaming influencers. Might we see Dubai travel blogger Michelle Karam (@traveljunkiediary) or daredevil adventurer Omar Samra (@omarsamra) in the running when it comes to travel? Watch this space.