Social media influencers: The power players in the Middle East

Social media influencers: The power players in the Middle East
It is down to the influencer to provide their fans with compelling content, harness loyalty and nurture such relationship if they wish it to last.

Dubai - Region a haven for those who want to be seen and heard - and there's no signs of slowing down

By Semia Azaiz

Published: Wed 5 Jul 2017, 5:56 PM

Last updated: Wed 5 Jul 2017, 7:59 PM

What is influencer marketing? Simply put, it is the essence of marketing a product or service using a social media personality in order to increase awareness and/or drive sales. Influencer marketing is nothing more or less than the usual offline celebrity endorsements but adapted to the online media, using a new type of celebrity we call "social media personalities" and more broadly "social media influencers".
It's more common here
In the Middle East, the traditional media's restrictions of a more conservative and traditional society offer celebrities, vloggers, bloggers and YouTubers a new online platform where they can express themselves, using their own tone of voice and personality to connect with a public in constant need for interaction with their idols.
It is no surprise that Snapchat and YouTube are the top social media platforms in the region, with the highest YouTube penetration per capital than anywhere else in the world. Such success can be explained by the fact that since YouTube isn't under as strict censorship as traditional medias. Plus, the boom of YouTube sensations are nourishing that trend.
Who are the key players?
As the former TV host of the successful daily show Sabah El Kher Ya Arab, Lojain Omran (5.4 million followers) has become one of the most influential media personalities in the Middle East. The "darling of the nation" and goodwill ambassador is now the face of the Mohammed bin Rashid Award For Tolerance. It is no surprise that she is one of the most-loved celebrities in the Middle East and a role model for all Arab women while being among the top five fashion and beauty icons in the region. She's also ranked as the top five most influential personalities in Saudi Arabia, as well as being the fourth most-followed celebrity on Snapchat in the kingdom with an engagement way higher and stronger than any of her celebrity peers.
As the host of the popular makeover TV show Joelle, Joelle Mardinian (6.3 million followers) has become the number one beauty reference in the region. She is also a highly-successful entrepreneur and founded Maison De Joelle, Clinica Joelle and Aurora Spa, while launching her skin-care line Joelle Paris and was elected by Forbes in the World's 500 Most Influential Arabs list.
Alongside, Noha Nabil (also known as "Nohastyleicon" with 4.6 million followers), Fouz Al Fahad ("The Real Fouz"; 1.9 million), Ascia AKF ("The Hybrids blog"; 2.1 million) and Mariam Mohamed ("avatar mrmr_4"; 1.2 million) are also some of the most popular profiles with high fellowship and strong engagement in the region.
Mohanad Alwadiya, CEO of Harbor Real Estate and senior advisor and instructor at Dubai Real Estate Institute (1.1 million followers), is the region's award-winning real estate entrepreneur. Dubbed "The Wolf of Real Estate" by the media, he is the face behind Memaar, the first-ever fast-selling property reality TV show in the Middle East making regular Press coverages and TV appearances as a guest expert for news channels. He has no equal in the region, and is, by all means, the one and only voice people truly value and listen to when it comes to property in the region.
The Emirati social media sensation Taim Al Falasi (2.4 million followers) is one of the most popular travel and lifestyle influencers in the region and just launched a week ago her first-ever YouTube show with Diwan Videos.
Osama El Sayed ("Chefosama"; 4.1 million followers) has produced and hosted his own television cooking shows for Arabic-speaking viewers around the globe, served as a spokesperson for global brands, published numerous cookbooks in both English and Arabic, and provided professional culinary consulting services, nationally and internationally. He is without a doubt one of the nation's favourite chefs.
Australian foodie Karen McLean is the creative mind, photographer and sneaky chef behind the popular blog Secret Squirrel Food (220,000 followers) where she shares weekly recipes based on fresh ingredients and while endorsing Activia as the brand Ambassador. As McLean says: "Healthy food doesn't have to be boring! Let's make it fun!"
The cost for a picture or video (length) will be different depending on the social media platform. Prices for an Instagram post could go from $3,000 to $300,000 (Dh11,000 to Dh1.1 million).
What really gives an edge to influencers nowadays is that they do not force themselves on an audience as opposite to direct advertising for which, regardless of your choosing will be exposed. The audience chooses to follow/unfollow and engage/disengage with a specific individual. It is down to the influencer to provide their fans with compelling content, harness loyalty and nurture such relationship if they wish it to last.
The writer is head of talents at Diwan Videos. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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