Many young people have been using TikTok as an educational platform for years. Short video content provides an entry point into topics that can otherwise be intimidating, like finance, politics, entrepreneurship and even Excel.
As of July 2022, TikTok has been downloaded more than 3.5 billion times. It’s the most engaging social media platform, with an average user session of 10.85 minutes compared to Instagram’s 2.95.
This is largely down to the “bold personalities, cultural experts, trend-setters, and pioneers” (as TikTok calls them) that have amassed millions of followers on the platform.
These TikTok influencers have major power. They’re brilliant content creators with engaged communities and this is a big draw for brands. Particularly since more than a third (35%) of users discover products and brands through creators. When Benefit Cosmetics partnered with TikTok influencers to promote their new Brow Microfilling Pen, the 22 ‘Benefit Brow Challenge’ videos generated 1.4 million impressions and over 3,500 hours of views.
And it’s not just brands that are increasingly understanding the sway of TikTok influencers. Many young people have been using TikTok as an educational platform for years. Short video content provides an entry point into topics that can otherwise be intimidating, like finance, politics, entrepreneurship and even Excel. Much of this is created by educational influencers like Miss Excel and Tori Dunlap—but more on them in a moment.
Before we dive into the influencers, a quick caveat: this isn’t a list of TikTokers with the highest number of followers. These influencers have followers ranging from 280k to 151m (yes, we had to include Khaby Lame!), cover a range of topics from finance to food to travel and continue to push the creative boundaries with their TikTok content.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the list of 13 TikTok influencers to watch in 2023.
The most followed influencer on TikTok, Italian Khaby Lame is a comedy video creator who has amassed millions of likes on his mocking life hack TikToks. Some of his most popular videos include debunking a magic trick (70.6 million views) and what happens when you take Valentine’s Day cologne too far (136 million views).
Khaby started TikTok after being laid off from his job in 2020. Now the 22 year-old makes between $8-10 million a year and partners with brands like Hugo Boss, Google, and now cryptocurrency exchange, Binance.
Vanessa Chen (or Vivacious Honey as she’s known online) is a fashion TikTok influencer with more than 2.3 million followers. The Boston-based TikToker rose to fame in 2020. Her content ranges from fashion hacks and modeling tips to clothing reviews that often feature her alter ego—not her ‘twin’ as she confirms in her TikTok bio.
Kevin Noparvar is a 28 year-old food blogger living in Los Angeles. While working in real estate, he began posting photos and videos of the food he was eating and quickly accumulated 20,000 followers on Instagram. Today he is a big star on TikTok too, with 2.6 million followers and a 14% engagement rate.
Another foodie TikToker is Richard Chao aka Hangry Blogger. ‘Mad af when I’m hungry’ (according to his TikTok bio), Richard shares a mixture of restaurant reviews, weird and wonderful culinary creations, and fun ‘listicle’ style TikToks like ‘5 ways to eat a pizza’ and ‘top 3 most underrated food to get a the night market’.
When Chao first started posting on TikTok in 2020, his growth was slow. But in April 2021 he had his first viral video. The TikTok begins with him picking up a gooey slice of deep-dish pizza and just as he goes to take a bite, it transitions into a speedy edit of 4-second long shots of other food. According to Chao, “it gained 250k followers in a month.” Now he’s up to 2.3 million followers.
Tori Dunlap aka @herfirst100k is one of the biggest financial educators on TikTok today—and she often says how instrumental the app has been to her success. At only 26 years old, Dunlap has earned herself the title of TikTok Finance Queen.
She’s been featured on CNBC, NBC and the TODAY Show, has recently written a book ‘Financial Feminist’, hosts a podcast, and offers multiple products and courses to help young women improve their financial literacy. The idea for her business came about after she set herself the goal of saving $100,000 in three years. She accomplished that goal by age 25.
Keen to pass on her knowledge to others and to fight the patriarchy, Dunlap began sharing financial education online. First through Instagram, then TikTok. With more than 2.2 million followers, her best performing TikToks include ‘How to pay off debt’ and scary but important advice about what to say to recruiters.
Ok, so technically Milk Bar is a brand and not an ‘influencer’ but we couldn’t not mention the New York-based bakery company doing a brilliant job on TikTok. They share recipes, baking tips and mouth watering close-ups of some of their best-selling baked goods.
With more than 224.5k followers, Milk Bar’s most popular TikToks include the ‘add soak baking tip of the day’ (2.1 million views) and their cookie recipe (1 million views). The irresistible call-to-action (Desserts 👇 ) takes users straight through to relevant pages on the website, whether that’s their classes and events, a specific product like apple cider donut cake, or the grocery locator.
Despite having no formal training as a dermatologist or aesthetician, 26-year-old Hyram Yarbro is now one of the biggest ‘skinfluencers’ on TikTok. After moving to Honolulu from Arizona aged 18, he trained as a makeup artist, but pivoted when he realized how much he enjoyed helping others look after their skin.
Like many of his peers, he didn’t start his online career on TikTok. YouTube was his first taste of digital success and when the pandemic hit in 2020, Yarbro moved to TikTok. He grew from 100,000 followers to four million in four months. Since then he’s launched a skincare line and recently started a podcast. Some of his most viewed TikToks are reaction videos, where he responds to people’s beauty routines with tips—and sometimes horror!
We couldn’t talk about TikTok influencers and not mention Miss Excel. In June 2020, Kat Norton made her first video—the first of many fun and engaging Excel tips TikToks. Just four days after first posting, one of her videos hit 100,000 views. By day six, the CEO of a company asked her to create courses for G-suit products. Three weeks later one of her videos hit 3.6 million views.
Norton’s been on an upwards trajectory since then. She quickly began making her own online courses which brought in more than $105k in April 2021. In less than a year she went from 9-5 corporate worker to six-figure business owner.
Up and coming couple Chloe and Jordan from Counting Countries aim to visit every country in the world. They use TikTok to document their adventures around the world with their son, Lennon. Some of their best performing TikToks include ‘Is the blue lagoon in Iceland worth visiting?’ (2.7 million views), ‘the craziest McDonald’s in Europe’ (4.2 million views) and ‘Anthony Bourdain’s favorite meal in the world’ (2.4 million views).
Stefana Avara is a fitness influencer with more than 1 million followers on TikTok. Besides workout videos and exercise tips, Avara also shares lots of personal content. For example, day in the life videos, recipes, and clips of her cute dog.
In her most popular TikToks, she highlights how fake social media can be. She compares fitness influencers 1% of the time versus the other 99% (4.6 million views) and shows us her real, unfiltered body (3.8 million views).
Humphrey Yang rose to fame on TikTok after his video about the true cost of a Hydro Flask (less than $4) went viral at the beginning of 2020. A former Merrill Lynch financial advisor, Yang is a breath of fresh air in a category (personal finance) that can be, at times, unethical—particularly when you consider how young the TikTok audience is.
He told Money.com: “If you just type in ‘#millionaire,’ you’ll see dumb videos where people are dancing and like ‘This is how I made $1 million before 25,’ but they won’t tell you anything…“It’s very shady. As a viewer, you have to figure out for yourself if something is legit.”
In the last couple of years, Yang’s production quality may have increased but he continues to educate concisely on subjects that feel complex to many. Some of his most popular TikToks include why stock prices don’t matter (1.1 million views), how to save on mortgages (2.6 million views), and psychological tricks casinos use to get people to spend more money (1.9 million views).
British journalist Sophia Smith Galer is senior news reporter at VICE World News and spends around three hours each day on her own TikTok content creation.
With her 427,000+ followers she shares videos on a range of topics like Malta’s complete ban on abortion (40.8k views), countries that have changed their names (833.4k views), and why so many of us use the word ‘tight’. She’s been named as a ‘Voice of Change’ for two years running on TikTok and is listed among their top 100 UK content creators.
Ni Nigel Kabvina is an English food, coffee and cocktails TikToker whose ‘Today I made my roommate’ videos have shot him to online stardom. Kabvina, who has almost 4 million followers, has partnered with the likes of Google, Nespresso, the BBC, and Sainsburys.
His videos aren’t just addictive because of the way they’re edited—fast, short clips of Kabvina’s cooking process—but because of his charm, style, and the gourmet meals he makes. It’s never just ‘breakfast’. It’s champagne that he sabers while wearing a three-piece suit. A bouquet of flowers usually accompanies his meals. Then he puts together the dish using equipment that wouldn’t be out of place in a chef’s kitchen, presenting it beautifully on the plate.
Some of his best performing videos include a simple blueberry pancake recipe (55.5 million views), a really easy breakfast (40.2 million views), and Kabvina’s go to breakfast before starting work (14.9 million views).
We have to admit, it wasn’t easy curating just 13 TikTok influencers to watch in 2023.
With so many creative individuals using the platform to entertain, inspire, and educate, the competition was fierce. We can’t wait to see how they grow over the next 12 months!
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Every week, Emily interviews top brands, renowned influencers, and hidden agencies with one goal in mind: to understand what happens backstage of their social media strategies.Listen to esm2