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Meet Sonoma Valley’s social media powerhouses

[This article has been edited to update follower totals and to add THREE new locals in the top 10].

Over the past decade, Instagram has slowly taken over the social media world – and it rose to prominence that much faster after Facebook bought the start-up for $1 billion in 2012.

The term social media 'influencer' dates to around 2015, intended to refer to people who have access to a large audience, typically in specific niche, and the power to affect purchase decisions of others.

Social media devotees might be surprised by the number of semi-professional influencers who grew up in, or currently live right here in Sonoma. None are at the Kardashians level with millions of followers, but these dozen locals have gained an impressive numbers of followers reaching far beyond the Bay Area.

While the most-followed person on Instagram currently is soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo (167 million followers), the average number of followers for a personal Instagram account is 150, according to mention.com; only about 5 percent of all Instagram accounts have 10,000-50,000 followers.

The photo (and video) sharing platform now has 1 billion monthly active users, according to BrandWatch, and 90 percent of Instagram users are under 35.

One might expect that residents of sleepy 'Slownoma,' with its median age of 51, would not make much of a stir on the social media platform but our first-ever list of Sonoma's most popular personal Instagram users includes a former Prestwood Elementary and Adele Harrison Middle School student with almost a million followers.

Here's the Index-Tribune's 2019 list, which ranges from teen photographer to a cute tortoise to a radio DJ.

There's no official way to tally a region's top Instagram accounts, but we've done our best. If we missed anyone, email managingeditor@sonomanews.com or, better yet, send a direct message on Instagram @indextribune (2,083 followers).

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Anna Katharina @akatharinav

1.1 million followers

(720 posts)

Swimsuit model and major Instagram presence Anna Von Staehle, 27, grew up in Sonoma, and attended Prestwood Elementary and Adele Harrison Middle School before graduating from Justin-Siena High School in 2010. She now lives in L.A. where she is represented by Brand Models as Anna Katharina and posts bikini photos and fitness and nutrition tips regularly.

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Scott Mathison @scott_mathison

354,000 followers

(1,945 posts)

Athlete and fitness celebrity Scott Mathison was born and raised in Sonoma, and attended SVHS from 1998 to 2002. He posts fitness photos and tips.

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Lili Arnold @lillianarnoldstudios

212,000 followers

(727 posts)

Artist Lili Arnold grew up in Sonoma and attended Sonoma Valley High School (SVHS). She is an artist, printmaker and designer, now living in Santa Cruz after graduating from UCSC. In her bio, she says she is 'obsessed with making things.' Her posts are almost entirely images of her floral block prints.

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Kelly Needleman @kellyneedleman

136,000 followers

(299 posts)

Kelly Needleman, 17, grew up and lives in Sonoma and he is a current senior at Sonoma Academy. His parents own Salsa Trading on Broadway. The photographer, filmmaker, actor, director and entrepreneur told the Index-Tribune that he has grown his following simply by posting his best work on a consistent basis and making sure his Instagram feed 'looks aesthetically pleasing.' His account gets a huge boost every time his photographs are published on the National Geographic website, as it's currently the most followed brand on the site, with 109 million followers. Needleman frequently meets other young people who hope to establish a significant social media presence. 'If you enjoy what you are doing and are satisfied with your own work, other people will see that passion and follow you.' Needleman is currently applying to colleges in Los Angeles and New York.

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Ethan Cohen @emoneydoesit

60,100 followers

(448 posts)

eMoney is a SVHS graduate (2009) and a hip hop music artist. He has also worked on a few TV shows, including MTV's "Are You The One?" He currently lives in Hollywood.

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Katy Marioni @katimarioni

58,400 followers

(113 posts)

U.C. Santa Barbara senior Katy Marioni is a fourth generation Sonoman and her uncle, Hank owns the Swiss Hotel. She graduated from SVHS in 2016. She has amassed a huge following at a young age and despite very few posts. She primarily posts photos of herself in charming settings.

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Jenna Pardini @jennapardini

56,900 followers

(1,402 posts)

Pardini grew up in Sonoma and now lives in San Francisco. She attended Prestwood and St. Francis and graduated from SVHS in 2005. She posts about styles, beauty, fitness and life in general.

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Molly McAdam @ mollsmcadam

53,100 followers

(293 posts)

Fashion and lifestyle blogger Molly McAdam splits her time between Los Angeles and Glen Ellen. She frequently posts about her travels, including recent fun at the Sonoma Harvest Music Festival. She told the Index-Tribune that the reason that she has attracted so many followers, 'is that I produce content that inspires me and happily it has the same effect on other people.'

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Nikita Ducarroz @ nikita.ducarroz

46,000 followers

(1,745 posts)

This 23-year-old BMX athlete from Glen Ellen competes for the Swiss national team and hopes to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Ducarroz got started on Instagram as a way to share her journey as an athlete. 'I hope to be real about life with the hope of providing some inspiration along the way,' she said. As one of the top BMX athletes in the world, she has also garnered some impressive sponsorship deals (Mongoose Bikes, Black & Decker and more) and she uses her Instagram account to promote their products. She advises kids to 'be authentic – it goes a long way.'

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Ben Flajnik @benflajnik

33,700 followers

(947 posts)

Bachelor Ben no longer lives in Sonoma but he gathered quite a social media following during and after being a runner-up on the seventh season of ABC-TV's reality show, 'The Bachelorette' and then starring on 'The Bachelor' in 2012. He is a winemaker and distiller and he still owns the 'Live from Sonoma' webcam on the Plaza. Today, he works for Yelp in San Francisco, but can frequently be seen in Sonoma visiting family and local wine industry friends.

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Ethel the tortoise @etheltheglamourtort

32,300 followers

(485 posts)

Firmly among the top 10 most popular Instagram accounts coming out of Sonoma is Ethel, a sulcate tortoise. She can be found walking around the Plaza with her ma, Kasey Kucinski. 'It's all for fun,' laughs Kucinski. 'If it ever gets too crazy and stops being fun, we'll quit.' Kasey enjoys posting pictures of Ethel at pet-friendly businesses and locations around town. Her 'Inst advice' is to 'just be genuine and not try too hard. Let it be fun and happen naturally.'

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Bradley Van Patten @bradleysuicide

19,600 followers

(1,439 posts)

This SVHS graduate, class of 2001, is a lifestyle guru focused on tattoos, cannabis, whiskey and baking. She's been on VH1, HBO and Showtime. She also runs King Chameleons, an L.A.-based 'event company curating private Five Star intimate cannabis experiences.' She describes her feed as 'brain, boobs and tattoos.'

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Brian Posehn @ brianposehn

18,800 followers

(475 posts)

Comedian and writer Brian Posehn grew up in Sonoma and graduated from SVHS in 1985. In additional to stand-up, he has appeared on 'Seinfeld,' 'NewsRadio,' 'Everybody Loves Raymond' and 'Friends'; as well as films like 'Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer' and 'Surf's Up.' He has a new book out, 'Forever Nerdy.' His account is private, making his following extra-impressive.

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Marylouise Pels & Vanessa Giovacchini @posso

16,400 followers (2,690 posts)

The two DJs/designers have been best friends since graduating from SVHS in 2001. The 'intersectional feminists' now DJ at festivals like EDC in Vegas and Ultra in Miami, and have designed a clothing line with Volcom. 'Posso' means 'I can' in Italian. The duo primarily posts pictures from parties and events around L.A.

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Rush Kemp @ rushalan

15,800 followers

(10,053 posts)

Rush Kemp can be found most days at Sonoma Fit where he works as a personal trainer/coach. He is also an ambassador for Dry Farms Wines, an organic winery in Napa. His PG-13 (sometimes R-rated) posts focus primarily on fitness and inspiration. 'Instagram is a great way to showcase your talent to an unlimited audience,' he said. 'You are what you make of it!'

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Ellen Toscano @ heyellentosacano

10,300 followers

(581 posts)

The singer, charity auctioneer and reiki master grew up in Sonoma, graduated from Justin-Siena in 2001, and lives here now. She is known to many from her years with 'Beach Blanket Babylon,' her involvement with Broadway Bound Kids and her current work in alternative and holistic health. Her robust follower count is all the more impressive because her account is private.

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Corrine Monique @corrin_monique

11,400 followers

(10,300 posts)

Blogger Corrine Monique posts about fashion, beauty, family and travel from her home base in Sonoma. 'I want to always use this space to inspire and support, and to make every person passing by feel like the best version of themselves,' she said. She warns young people against 'getting caught up in the chaos of it all' by staying true to themselves on social media and 'having an authentic and organized presence.'

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Andrea Bogart @ andreabogart

10,000 followers

(3,497 posts)

The actress, yoga instructor and writer now lives in Sonoma full time. She is perhaps best known for her role as Abby on 'General Hospital' but she has also appeared in a recurring role on Showtime's 'Ray Donovan.'

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Alex Ward @ alexanderward777

10,000 followers

(245 posts)

Alex Ward may be familiar to many from past articles about his career in the Index-Tribune. The 6-foot 4-inches, L.A.-based actor specializes in being transformed by elaborate professional make-up to play monsters and creatures. He graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, after SVHS in '01. His posts include the back-story on some of his more notable roles in such films as 'Annabelle Comes Home' and 'Conjuring.'

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Fernando Ventura @fernandoforreal

7,747 followers

(949 posts)

Radio personality Feranando Ventura climbed to fame hosting the 'Fernando and Greg Show' weekday mornings on 99.7 in San Francisco. 'Morning show listeners are the best and along with listening about our lives on the radio each morning, many wanted to get to know me a bit more via social media,' he said. These days, he gets to sleep in a little later as he hosts the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. slot. When he is not in San Francisco, he sometimes broadcasts from his Sonoma studio. Fernando says he and his husband hope to live here full time as soon as possible.

Email Lorna at lornasheridan@sonomanews.com or follow her on Instagram @lornasheridan, where she has a measly 289 followers.

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