Is it just me or are online influencers everywhere? It seems they've almost doubled in number. No surprise, perhaps, given the rise of "twinfluencers" – identical twin influencers who are flooding social media.
Flocking largely to Instagram and YouTube, they often play up to their sameness for the audience's amusement: dancing in sync, singing with the same voice, trying two different make-up looks at once.
"Twins are fascinating, I do get it", says Niki Albon, a 27-year-old from Canvey Island, Essex, who runs two YouTube channels with his twin, Sammy. "Two humans who look the same, think the same, it's interesting". In 2017, nearly 11,000 sets of twins were born in the UK – around 1.5 per cent of that year's births. The chances of having identical (or monozygotic) twins is the same for all women, around one in 250, as it does not run in families.
The brothers do differentiate themselves with subtly different styles and haircuts, but the resemblance is undeniable. "I can dye my hair rainbow-coloured but we're still twins with the same mannerisms", says Sammy. They have 200,000 followers on YouTube, popular enough to run the channels as full-time jobs, and prominence that has led to guest presenting slots on BBC Radio One.
"Psychologically people like to see mirrors of stuff", says Nico Cary, COO of influencer management agency Influentially. "For example, very good-looking people have symmetrical faces – for the brain it feels balanced. Visually it's more appealing."
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In some ways, this is nothing new. Pop culture has always had an appetite for seeing double: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen became wildly successful child actresses in the Nineties, and now run fashion label The Row; Dubliners Jedward are still remembered a decade after they appeared on The X Factor. It is big business on screen, and on social – not just for people, but things: Symmetry Breakfast (which, as you might imagine, posts identically laid out morning fare) has 771k followers on Instagram, and has since secured Michael Zee, the Londoner behind it, a book deal.
Twinfluencers are now in on the act and, able to analyse the popularity of their pages, tailor-make content for a hungry crowd. "When we dress exactly the same on our Instagram it is much more popular," explains Ayse Clark, 24, who runs a YouTube channel full-time with her sister Zeliha from their Norwich home.
The pair are strikingly similar, even for twins. They keep their dark brown hair long, and combed into a centre parting with no fringe. And then there are the clothes – one of their videos, in which they visit Primark, has been viewed 165k times. "We went shopping today and we just bought everything the same", says Ayse. "We do have the same sense of style". They appear to have similar taste in men as well – each has a boyfriend called Ben, both of whose middle name is James. The four of them live together, and recently all holidayed in Malta.
It may all sound like overload, but twins are a social media goldmine, where duos' natural chemistry makes for engaging viewing. "It's like having a wingman", explains Nico. "Engagement is higher when people collaborate, because you get two personalities."
This is certainly true for Niki and Sammy, who found that their videos as a pair were more popular than Niki's initial solo attempts. Their performance on screen is so seamless it looks scripted. "Having the same mind helps you as presenters because of the non-verbal communication", says Sammy – something in which they are well versed as, like many twins, they spoke in their own language as children.
Ironically, the sameness of twins helps them stand out in an increasingly saturated influencer market. "It's a niche, and people are running out of niches", says Nico. Niki and Sammy have sought to stand out by making a second channel centring around Korean pop music. "Everyone has their USP and ours is that we're twins that like K-pop", Niki says.
Having a twin around also helps influencers to stay sane in a job which could otherwise mean being alone in your bedroom all day, talking to strangers on the internet. "The mental health side of being a creator online is not touched on much", says Sammy. "Without someone else there it's easy to find yourself on a negative mindset when you're a slave to an algorithm that doesn't care about you."
Ayse and Zeliha agree. "It's nice not doing it on your own", says Ayse. "I have heard a lot of people who say the industry can get very lonely, so I'm glad that I can have my twin" – not least in fending off unpleasant comments from watchers, too.
The pair "love being twins" and claim to never get sick of each other, despite living and working together. And they are not just twinfluencers, but twin twinfluencers. They have 17-year-old identical twin sisters Ceylan and Ceyda, who sometimes make appearances in their videos. This double mirror image is difficult to take in visually, especially when you know the odds of a family like this is 1 in 52,000.
A double dose of twins has also proved popular for Victoria Morrell's Instagram page @mama_and_the_peas, where she posts about her five sons, which include two sets of identical twins. The pairs, aged 6 and 1, are usually dressed similarly, if not completely the same, with her two-year-old slotting in between.
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Having a big family can be hard. I have to be extremely organised and a fine tuned routine helps us function in the best possible way. I find the most difficult days are when things happen that I’ve not planned for. Yesterday, Nico had an extremely high temperature and just wouldn’t settle. His constant crying in the afternoon and refusal to eat were the final signs I needed to call the doctors. We were squeezed in for an appointment at the end of surgery. I was dreading the wait. The mix of an ill child, four bored children, a frazzled mama and a room full of watching eyes is my idea of hell. We had to wait for just over an hour, thankfully the boys were really well behaved. A kind couple told the receptionist that they were really impressed with how good they were and asked her to pass the message to me. It really made me smile. Nico has another ear and throat infection and has been awake most of the night. A day at home for us before Seve’s swimming lesson and the dreaded child unfriendly viewing area after school. #motherofboys #twinstwice #boymama #motheroffive #bigfamily 📸@malpassphotography
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"I think I'm more popular because I've had the two sets of twins", says Morrell, 35, who is on a break from her career as a solicitor. She says she started the page to show that it is possible to look after five children and that twin pregnancy isn't always like the horror stories you find online. "My inbox goes crazy every evening with people asking for advice," she explains.
"It's so hard to get out of the house when you have twins", says Morrell, who looks after the children while her accountant husband is at work. "If you go to a baby group you're like a circus show. You're often known just as 'the one with the twins'. Then if you are doing well, some people step away because you're coping with twins and they're not coping with one."
Companies are more enuthsiastic: keen to get in on the audience of followers she has built, clothing, buggy and crockery brands send Morrell products to try out, while out and about, "people come up and take pictures, she says. On a trip to London this week, "tourists would come over to you and go crazy."
And beyond those interested in the optics alone, scientists want to know more about how Morell has produced such a phenomenon – so much so that she and her husband were asked to donate eggs and sperm in order to guide further research.
"I am fascinated," she concedes of her multiple-twin setup. "I still can't believe it'."