Top Influencers on Snapchat

When it comes to tracking visitor information and statistics, Snapchat is more opaque than other social media services. For example, unlike Youtube, you can’t see how many followers someone else has. So it’s hard to say who holds the overall Snapchat records for reaching certain statistical thresholds, but it’s very likely that producer/radio host DJ Khaled was the fastest to hit the double-digit millions of followers when he racked up 20 million in his first month on the platform in late 2015. As of right now, he’s at the top of the Snapchat world, with only reality TV sensation Kylie Jenner as a rival in sheer view count. And though he doesn’t have any known formal relationships as a Snapchat influencer with any brands, when he name-drops a product there’s a massive spike in sales.

Khaled was famous prior to his Snapchat debut, but he wasn’t a household name. He started his career as a radio DJ in Miami in the late 90s, making contact with rising stars of the time like Li’l Wayne and Birdman and helping them to get airplay. His musical debut was in 2006, and with only his second album he was drawing guest appearances from prominent rappers like Rick Ross and Akon. His first major hit, “”We Takin’ Over”, came from his second album and hit #28 on the Billboard 100 in 2007. While continuing his music career, he would also become the president of the Def Jam South label in 2009.

While he was certainly well-known among aficionados of rap and hip-hop, he gained much wider internet celebrity when he debuted on Snapchat with his “Keys to Success” series. These short videos follow a formula in which Khaled gives general life advice, sometimes comedic in nature, sometimes earnest. The rampant popularity of the formula may be a little baffling to some, but it has been a runaway hit with Millenials. A big key to DJ Khaled’s own success was that celebrities with much more clout than him (like Justin Bieber and Jay-Z) quickly took a shine to his videos and helped to spread them around to their own followers. Khaled thus quickly became something of a living meme, a life coach who dispenses bursts of sometimes nonsensical advice based on his everyday activities.

Many of Khaled’s snaps are simple; he’s often seen just puttering about his house, doing things like watering plants or making a bowl of cereal, but always with his goofy sense of humor and one of his now-famous catchphrases attached to the activity somehow. He periodically goes on adventures, like the time that he went out on his Jet-ski a little too late in the afternoon and nearly got lost at sea as the sun was setting, or when he got into an accident in his Ferrari while in the middle of Snapchatting. But the appeal seems to be mostly driven by his personality, which enables him to get millions of views doing nothing more than shooting a bowl of apples in his house and attaching one of his now-famous captions to it.

What makes Khaled’s Snapchat work initially seems to be antithetical to traditional marketing, because it’s genuine and spontaneous almost to a fault. There really doesn’t appear to be anything planned out about this or any major overarching branding strategy here; Khaled just hits the record button when he feels like it and is Khaled for about 10 seconds. The chances of a business inorganically replicating a phenomenon like this is very, very small. But that doesn’t mean businesses aren’t seeing serious benefit from the phenomenon; just ask startup sandal company iSlide, who saw their sales increase hundreds of times over when Khaled took a shine to their product and started gifting their sandals to his celebrity friends. Brands that can identify an up-and-comer with the same sort of appeal can potentially ride the rocket to similarly amazing increases in sales.

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