Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Digital Stars 2023: Rise of the influencers

Digital stars have changed the face of marketing in the age of social media. These creators now need to produce content that is 'engaging' enough to 'reach' the masses

Published: Oct 26, 2023 10:12:45 AM IST
Updated: Oct 26, 2023 03:59:30 PM IST

Digital Stars 2023: Rise of the influencers

Doomscrolling and jumping between social media apps when we are ‘bored’ is pretty much the norm of late. As a result, influencers or ‘digital stars’ have become an integral part of our lives. A friend bought a certain brand’s bag because Diet Sabya posted about it; a gadget seems worth buying since Techburner aka Shlok Srivastava recommended it; even destination itineraries are based on what someone like Aakanksha Monga or Sharanya Iyer would suggest. Born on the internet, these digital stars entertain, educate, inform and in the process ‘influence’ our day-to-day choices.

This has changed the face of marketing as we knew it. Multiple brands—from legacy to startups—need to include a significant chunk of their budget for influencer marketing to reach the masses. According to Statista, as of 2022, the influencer marketing industry in India was valued at over Rs 1,200 crore. The industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25 percent to touch close to Rs 2,800 crore by 2026.

On the other end, the audience is constantly evolving too, making it even tougher for content creators to predict what works and what doesn’t. These digital creators need to produce content that is ‘engaging’ enough to ‘reach’ the masses. While there are a number of creators doing great work, there are many who are known to misuse their position of power. Bodies like the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) have put together strict guidelines for influencers and brands to follow in an attempt to protect the interests of consumers.

With ‘India’s Top 100 Digital Stars’ list, Forbes India along with Goat—GroupM’s brand-safe influencer and content marketing solution—recognises the work of 100 creators, keeping quantitative and qualitative measures in mind. The second edition spans across nine categories: Comedy, beauty, fashion & lifestyle, business & finance, health & fitness, food, tech, travel & photography, and social work.

Find the full list of India’s Top 100 Digital Stars here

The making of India’s Top 100 Digital Stars

The emphasis during a multi-step process has remained on original content creators

By Kunal Sawant

In curating the 2023 ‘India’s Top 100 Digital Stars’ list, our focus encompassed Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, the premier platforms in the realm of influencer marketing.

We understand that creators may not be active across all of these platforms; thus, our approach is inclusive. If a creator is active on multiple platforms and their performance data is accessible through the Goat platform, we have amalgamated the key metrics—such as followers, engagement, views, reach, and impressions—across these platforms for the purposes of ranking in our prestigious list.

As we did in the previous year, our emphasis has remained on original content creators. Therefore, gaming influencers who primarily engage in live streams with exceptionally high viewership and interaction are not included in this evaluation. This year, the list is primarily led by tech creators, with notable contributions from tech, travel & photography and comedy, together constituting over 50 percent of the list. It’s also worth noting that both men and women enjoy nearly equal representation within this distinguished roster. The Goat changemakers, an integral part of our Responsible Investment Framework, continue to be part of the list; these represent a roster of socially conscious creators.

To compile the list, we initiated a multi-step process. Initially, we identified the top creators within nine specified genres, taking into account their engagement rate and follower count. This yielded a pool of creators. From this group, we curated the top 100 based on an assessment of several vital metrics, including reach, engagement, impressions, authenticity, follower count and trending score.

This allowed us to identify and rank the top influencers in India across various genres, ensuring a fair and data-driven assessment.


Utilising Goat’s Proprietary algorithm—


Goat Score: These metrics were then fed into our proprietary algorithm, known as the Goat score. This algorithm compares creators within similar categories, types and audience sizes, ranking their content based on engagement rate. The highest performing content receives a score of 10, while the lowest is 1.

Goat Genuity Score: We employed a ‘Genuity score’ to combat fraud by identifying patterns of fake followers across select social platforms. The average Genuity score of the top 100 influencers >81 percent. The higher the Genuity score, the better it is, as it ensures a commitment to genuine audience engagement.

Verification and compliance: To avoid imposters, only verified profiles are considered for this exercise. While the verified badge doesn’t imply importance or authority over any subject, it serves as a tool to confirm the authenticity of individuals and brands.

Disclosure labels: In line with industry standards, we also factored in the presence of disclosure labels or compliance when the absence of disclosure labels was brought to their attention, in consultation with ASCI. These labels not only meet regulatory requirements but also enhance trust between creators and followers.

Platform consideration: We focussed our analysis on three major social media platforms: Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, which are prominent in influencer marketing campaigns. Creators were not required to be present on all platforms; instead, we consolidated data across platforms, including metrics such as followers, engagement, views, reach and impressions, if available within the Goat platform.

Goat score vs Reach/Followers: It’s important to note that a high Goat score doesn’t necessarily equate to a large reach or high follower count. Goat score takes into account various data points across creators, content, audiences, platforms and formats. For instance, a creator like Malhar Kalambe with 74,000 followers may have a Goat score of 7.8, while Raj Shamani, with 1.6 million followers may have a Goat score of 7.3.

(Kunal Sawant is the business head at the Goat agency)

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