AB de Villiers hits sixes on Instagram

Batsman AB de Villiers.                                                                                                                          Image: James Oatway

Batsman AB de Villiers is hitting models, reality stars, actors, socialites and bloggers for a six on Instagram where his follower score is the highest in SA.

HypeAuditor — an artificial intelligence-powered Instagram and YouTube analytics tool that helps to get insights about the creator’s audience — has rated the cricketer as the most influential Instagram creator in the country, for his 10.2-million followers in May.

“We have analysed millions of creators and ranked them by the number of real followers and authentic engagement which is number of likes and comments that come from real people and influencers,” said HypeAuditor marketing specialist Nick Baklanov.

De Villiers told the Sunday Times that it wasn’t his intention to bowl over Instagram users.

“It certainly just happened. I enjoy social media, and love the opportunity to be creative, to edit videos and tell stories, but my primary focus has always been on my family and cricket; if people wish to follow me, I am grateful.

“It would be as stretch to say I am the most influential anything in SA, especially in such difficult times as so many people are enduring right now. I would certainly not claim to be influential. It has been a massive privilege to have played cricket at a decent level for the past 16 years, but I am still just a cricketer.”

When asked if he knew why he was so popular on social media, De Villiers replied: “The simple answer is I don’t know. On social media, as in other areas of life, I think it is important to try to be authentic in everything you say and do. Of course, I recognise it is important to support commercial partners at times, but maybe people appreciate a reasonable percentage of genuine personal content.”

Technology guru Arthur Goldstuck said De Villiers was the most followed South African on Instagram for the past two years, largely because of his huge popularity in India where he was one of the most successful batsmen in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

“Our upcoming Social Media Landscape 2020 report shows that his following is larger than the total Instagram user base in SA, which is estimated at around 9-million.”

The second most followed Instagram creator with 7.1-million followers is, surprisingly, Dean Schneider, who quit his job as a Swiss financier to open a private sanctuary in SA which he showcases on the social media platform.

Baklanov said most of Schneider’s followers are based in the US and that his popularity on Instagram may be attributed to the Netflix hit series, Tiger King.

Dean Schneider with one of his lions.
Dean Schneider with one of his lions.                                                               Image: Instagram/Dean Schneider
Schneider does not believe that the Tiger King series has anything to do with his growth online.

“Already before the series came out my growth was constantly on a quite high level. And after it came out and everyone started talking about it, it didn’t change anything in the numbers of my socials. I also don’t see any similarities between me and them.

“Tiger King is basically a very successful entertaining drama show on Netflix, which is basically not even about animals. It is about the fight between a very extreme activist, Carole Baskin, and Joe Exotic, a big cat breeder. There are no similarities between me and them and it’s just a Netflix show. I can’t even say that my mission or anything that I do relates or matches up with whatever they are doing.”

However his following did grow last month when he came under scrutiny for allegedly punching a lion cub.

“Over those three days where those articles came out which made me look like I’m an animal abuser, my numbers on social media grew even way faster, maybe even 15% faster than before. I believe that people wanted to know who is this new famous Instagram animal abuser. And then they went over to visit my Instagram channel to get more information about me and all of a sudden they saw it is a bullshit story.

“They must have realised that I am actually doing very great stuff and through my daily stories everyone can get an insight into my day-to-day life. And it is so obvious that this punching or abusing story is a fake story just to create some traffic. All of a sudden, instead of hating me they started following me. That’s the only way I can explain myself why my numbers all of a sudden increased a lot on social media,” he said.

TV personality Boitumelo Thulo was ecstatic to be ranked at the third most followed person on Instagram in SA for her 3.8-million followers.

“It means so much to me. I’m always celebrating every ‘milestone’ because I don’t ever want to take for granted my supporters and followers. I receive so much love, support, validation and upliftment from my followers so I am always grateful seeing my following grow. It’s so gratifying to know that people are interested in my journey and show love through it all.”

Throughout the lockdown, Thulo has seen her following grow like never before.

“It’s wild! My impressions are through the roof and I guess it’s because more people are spending most of their down time on social media. It has also encouraged me to become more interactive with my followers and to also put in more effort into my content creation. The feedback I’ve been receiving has been very humbling and encouraging.”

On-air personality Minnie Dlamini said it was “really special” to be named fourth most influential creator on Instagram with 3.7-million followers.

“It’s interesting because before social media my currency was only based on my audience rating on TV and now I have another rating scale to quantify my fame. The balance between the two is very important to me. If social media ends do I still have a career? And for as long as the answer is yes I know I’m doing it right. So yes, it’s important to me in terms of getting into the right rooms and being taken seriously when negotiating but my work as a presenter or producer always comes first.”

She hoped that her popularity on Instagram was because her followers felt like “they truly get a real piece of who I am”.

“I’m not perfect so I don’t try portray that, and from market research it’s the relatability that my following appreciates.”



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