Beyond influencers, we believe that the creator economy is the future. It's not just social media influencers, but everyone who is on the internet.

Heidi Yu Co-founder and CEO, SocialBook

Heidi Yu, co-founder and CEO of SocialBook


Heidi Yu, MBA ’12, is CEO and co-founder of SocialBook, a VC-backed SaaS (software as a service) platform that connects enterprises with social influencers via popular social media platforms. Bay Area-based SocialBook provides influencers’ full-cycle insights on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and other social media sites, enabling brands and agencies to improve influencer marketing performance and also helping creators to grow and monetize in various ways. The serial entrepreneur, creator economy evangelist, and AI enthusiast founded two startups: SocialBook (Impressed INC.) at the end of 2019 and Boostinsider INC. in 2014.

How important is influencer marketing as a viable marketing channel these days?

If you search for ‘influencer marketing manager’ on LinkedIn, you’ll find more than two million people and position results right away. This means it’s a real job nowadays. Likewise if you search for ‘influencer marketing agency’ on Google, and you’ll find a plethora of search results [editor’s note: there are 58.4 million results, according to analytics tool SEMRush].

In 2022, all companies have a social media marketing manager. Companies are also performing influencer marketing internally, working with a professional platform like SocialBook’s, or working with an agency. Below are some stats demonstrating why influencer marketing is a must for brands and businesses:

  • The influencer marketing industry is set to grow to approximately $16.4 billion this year.
  • Influencer marketing-focused platforms raised more than $800 million in funding in 2021 alone, an indication of the significant growth of the industry.
  • The global number of influencer marketing-related service offerings grew by 26% last year, reaching 18,900 firms offering or specializing in influencer marketing services.
  • More than 75% of brand marketers intend to dedicate a budget to influencer marketing in 2022.
  • 68% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing spend this year.
  • Zara, the most mentioned brand on Instagram, has an estimated reach of 2.07 billion followers.
  • Netflix was the most followed brand on TikTok in 2021.

The Top 10 Most Followed Instagram Accounts

Data from SocialBook; all figures as of May 2022

Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2022

#1 Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

Forward for Manchester United
446.4 million followers
5.6 billion likes

#2 Kylie Jenner
Kylie Jenner

Celebrity, model, and businesswoman
341.4 million followers
7.3 billion likes

#3 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

Forward for Paris-Saint Germain football club
330.6 million followers
2.4 billion likes

SocialBook really took off in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic.

Working from home became a lifestyle and bringing everything online was the way to go. A lot of advertisers allocated larger portions of their marketing budget towards online advertising. People spent more time online while searching for remote jobs. Some became online creators making content and/or running online businesses.

At SocialBook itself, we think remote working is the way for future businesses. Our employees can live wherever they want. We encourage them not just to work from home, but also on the road. We want them to feel secure in experiencing life. We believe in living free, working happily, and creating great things that will impact the world positively.

Our team grew internationally during the pandemic. We now have people in San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, Beijing, Turkey, and India. We also have a presence in Ukraine, a couple of software developers. One said he is shooting rockets during the daytime and writing code at night.

Which brands have been clients of SocialBook?

Our clients come from all verticals and range from big brands to indie games, DTC (direct to consumer) products, to small and medium businesses such as Amazon sellers, app developers, and so on. Some of the most notable brands we’ve had the pleasure of working with are Amazon, Walmart, DoorDash, Wix, Wish, Lyft, Alibaba, Shopify, EA, MachineZone, and more.

Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2022

#4 Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez

Singer, actress, and producer
322.1 million followers
1.5 billion likes

#5 The Rock
The Rock

Actor, businessmen, and former professional wrestler
317.7 million followers
2.4 million likes

#6 Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian

Celebrity and businesswoman
314 million followers
3.6 billion likes

They are all looking for social media influencers who believe in their brands and their stories, and can make the best content to convert their audiences into new fans of these businesses.

What is your definition of an influencer? What does a person have to do to become a bona fide social media influencer?

The industry says ‘an influencer is someone who has:

  • The power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of the influencer’s authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.
  • A following in a distinct niche with whom the influencer actively engages. The size of the following depends on the size of the niche topic.

It’s important to note that these individuals are not merely marketing tools but, rather, social relationship assets with which brands can collaborate to achieve their marketing objectives.’

Beyond influencers, we believe that the creator economy is the future. It’s not just social media influencers but everyone who is on the internet. We created a special platform called Link.One, which helps influencers host all their content and links in one place.

It acts as a central hub for them and it’s not only for content or social links, but provides a method for them to monetize anything they see fit. They can sell a physical product such as homemade soups or NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2022

#7 Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande

Singer, songwriter, and actress
313 million followers
3.5 billion likes

#8 Beyonce

Singer, songwriter, and actress
258.7 million followers
2.4 million likes

What drew you to the business of influencer marketing?

I was selling mobile accessories from my bedroom for my first startup, Pocomaru, back in 2012 while I was still studying for my MBA. Pocomaru was envisioned to be an e-commerce site selling tech accessories.

Instead of hiring expensive models, we started photographing classmates and friends, tagging them on social media. Magic happened from there. After working with more than 150 people and kicking off an ambassador program, we learned that people who have tons of social media followers do not necessarily guarantee great results. Their followers had to be our target audience and be active on social media as well.

Seeing our success, my startup friends started asking me how they could work with our ambassadors. They wanted me to figure out who were the best ambassadors for them and who would be more likely to bring them sales. They were willing to pay me for their referrals and help them with the marketing.

That’s when I realized there was much bigger potential to this than selling mobile accessories. I wrote about the full journey on Medium.

Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2022

#9 Khloe Kardashian
Khloe Kardashian

246.1 million
2.4 million likes

#10 Kendall Jenner
Kendall Jenner

Celebrity and model
238.5 million followers
1.6 billion likes

More stories from the Albers Brief Spring 2022 edition