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YouTube stars are often considered a new breed of celebrities most influential with younger audiences, particularly teens. But they also carry clout with adults, and increasing, more clout than traditional Hollywood stars.
Adults in the U.S. consider YouTube stars to be up to five times more influential and believable than traditional celebrities, according to a study conducted by University of Southern California marketing professor Jeetendr Sehdev. The study's findings could hold particular significance to brands looking to hire new celebrity spokespeople.
"What brands want to know more than anything else is who is the person who is going to most convince somebody to part with their dollar, who's the person who's going to influence a behavior change where I'm actually going to buy the product. That is influence," Mr. Sehdev said.
The study surveyed 1,500 18- to 59-year-old adults in the U.S., asking which YouTube stars respondents had heard of and then delving into how influential those stars are to the respondents. The findings were then compared with a running list Mr. Sehdev keeps of how influential traditional celebrities are.
Adults find YouTube stars more influential than traditional celebrities seemingly for the same reason younger audiences do: They seem more like real people and therefore are considered more trustworthy. "The celebrities that have influence today amongst audiences are those that are very much right next to them and have actually been created by the audience. And the appeal of YouTube stars is that the audiences feel that they own them, that they have an equity stake in them, that they actually made them," Mr. Sehdev said.
"What we're seeing here is it's not about how popular a celebrity is. It's the difference between popularity and influence," he continued. "The key point here is that popularity doesn't move the needle."
Here are the 10 YouTube stars whose popularity moves the needle most among U.S. adults.
YouTube subscribers: 15.28 million
YouTube subscribers: 9.08 million
YouTube subscribers: 38.03 million
Ray William Johnson
YouTube subscribers: 10.81 million
The Fine Bros.
YouTube subscribers: 12.75 million
Prank vs. Prank
YouTube subscribers: 8.40 million
YouTube subscribers: 3.59 million
YouTube subscribers: 1.76 million
YouTube subscribers: 9.86 million
YouTube subscribers: 4.67 million