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 firstname.lastname@example.org or, better yet, send a direct message on Instagram @indextribune (2,083 followers).
Anna Katharina @akatharinav
1.1 million followers
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.
Scott Mathison @scott_mathison
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.
Lili Arnold @lillianarnoldstudios
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.
Kelly Needleman @kellyneedleman
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.