Many of today’s most famous celebrities have never appeared in a movie or on the front page of a magazine.

Mainstream audiences may not have even heard of them. But they’re quietly building a following and redefining fame. With rising Instagram stars like Rickey Thompson and Josh Ostrovsky creating cult-like fanbases among millennials, the term “celebrity” is diversifying. 

Generations Y and Z now look to Instagram in search of their idols.

But what makes pocket screen fame so attractive? The most obvious answer is that one viral hit (e.g., getting shared or mentioned by a major player/outlet). But the subtler (and more powerful) draw is relatability. It’s easy to believe celebs are “just like us” when they use the same stupid GIF stickers on their Instagram stories as we do. Influencers who are able to connect with their audiences on a personal level and address  their passions and pain points ultimately rise to the top and win over audiences. They make this younger generation feel seen, who in turn are eager to come back for more.

Lots of rising stars turn their passions into real businesses. They’ll start off cooking for the ‘Gram and then monetize their passion into cookbooks or cooking shows. Others channel their success into partnerships, like using  a knack for fashion to design collaborative pieces with big brands. Social gives anyone (even you!) the power to connect, find like-minded people, and ultimately grow your passions into something that more and more people people can celebrate. 

And strong engagement levels are highly attractive to marketers. It’s why rising stars are starting to wield enough power to attract attention from major brands willing to engage in bidding wars over their next sponsored post. 

But, is there longevity here? Will influencers continue to be, well, influential? My guess is yes. As long as brands continue choosing the right people, not just the right numbers, – and that these influencers tap into key psychographics of their audiences – they’re here to stay. With the fame paradigm changing so rapidly, the only question that matters is: Who’s next?

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