Breaking down the four types of influencers

From firecrackers and superfans to buddies and icons, new research from Insight Kids reveals how different types of social stars build relationships with young audiences.
February 28, 2019

As adults in the kids industry, we may be ready for kids to stop making slime and watching other people play video games, but the fact is that influencers are more than willing to keep these crazes alive for the youngest generation. And those influencers matter to kids…a lot.

Overwhelmingly fan-favorite YouTubers, Instagrammers and other social media mavens obviously affect the way kids think, what they watch and and what they want to buy. But, what people may notice if they spend hours and hours looking at posts from different influencers, is that while personalities widely vary and actual content creators beloved by kids number in the thousands, they tend to boil down to a handful of stereotypical types. Crafting coaches are lighthearted and conversational, whereas, gamer dudes (yes, mostly dudes), are high energy and goofy.

Insight Kids - 4 Influencer Personalities

To make sense of the landscape, Insight Kids, the kids and family specialists at Insight Strategy Group, conducted a study to understand the types of personalities that engage kids in different content areas. Insight Kids surveyed 1,200 kids and parents (ages five to 12) who generally engage with technology and online content. To measure the participant’s understanding the group asked if they had ever used two or more platforms (from an extensive list including YouTube and gaming options) and if they interact at least a few times a month with at least three different types of content (e.g. unboxing, music videos, and memes).

Their styles boil down to four main personalities: the superfan, the buddy, the firecracker, and the icon.

The superfan


According to our research, superfans aren’t necessarily, well fanboys and fangirls, but rather are fans of their chosen genre. They are true experts in their field. They are really good at what they do, and know what they’re talking about. They’re also honest, even if they don’t like something. They build kids’ trust through a combination of objectivity and competency, not a hard sell.

The superfan traits are especially important for influencers who want to showcase their skills, like those in music (such as Pentatonix, pictured above). They tend to give kids something to aspire to.

The buddy


According to the survey, buddies are approachable and relatable, engaging and inspiring to kids through their own journeys to learn and perfect their skills. They are described by kids as being “regular people” and “always kind.” They also give their audience ideas of things to watch, buy or do, and tend to go slowly enough for kids to follow.

The personality traits of the buddy are especially common for folks in the crafting/DIY and food/drinks/snacks (like Karina Garcia, pictured above) space. Kids know that making stuff is challenging, and they want the validation of that from their influencers.

The firecracker


Firecrackers make followers feel like they are part of the experience, providing a link to the fun. They’re funny, energetic and they take extra care to interact with their fans. We found that firecrackers help viewers feel connected by talking directly to the camera in videos, conducting Q&A sessions, responding to comments and liking posts about them. Many firecrackers even give their fans a special nickname, providing a sense of belonging to an “exclusive” group.

Influencers who cover videogames (including DanTDM, pictured above) or toys tend to do well when they embody the personality traits of the firecracker, while those who post about fashion and technology get props for great interaction with their fans and high energy.

The Icon


Icons are masters at self-branding. They have aspects that make them look or sound different, catchphrases that stick, lots of face time, consistent visual styles and often have a posse of regular characters or friends. Many of them very explicitly solicit likes and followers and even shill their own line of products. In contrast to the buddy, who is seen as “always kind,” the icon has permission to be “obnoxious or rude, in a fun way.” Kids don’t prioritize the traits of the icon consciously, but they are influenced by good branding—consistent, signature elements that help influencers stand out from the pack and let fans know what to expect.

Being an icon is especially important for influencers who focus on fashion/style and technology.

The four key influencer personalities are not mutually exclusive. Influencers can and do embody traits of multiple types, and it’s in the smart combinations that these influencers create the magic formula that connects with kids so strongly. For example, many social media diarists who post slice-of-life videos (like JoJo Siwa, pictured above) are masterful icons, in addition to often showing traits of the firecracker. Those who understand the personality traits that work best for their subject tend to do the best job of connecting with kids, whether those influencers are pranksters or role models. Regardless, their power is mighty.

Sarah Chumsky is VP at Insight Kids, a team of business strategists and developmental experts who spend their waking hours pondering and communicating timely trends. Reach Insight Kids at or via

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