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Arab luxury world 2015 discusses “Use and Abuse of Social Media”

The two-day annual event serves as a successful platform for members of several sectors from the luxury industry to interact, share and exchange knowledge as well as insights.

Arab luxury world, the key annual regional conference on the business of luxury, opened the doors to its second edition today. The two-day annual event serves as a successful platform for members of several sectors from the luxury industry to interact, share and exchange knowledge as well as insights.

One of the plenary sessions of the day, “Use and Abuse of Social Media”, brought together everyone in the social media spectrum – from platforms to bloggers to agencies. Fashion blogger Zahra Lyla Khalil of Lyla Loves Fashion expressed her frustration with the term “blogger” being overused and somewhat abused as anyone with a Smartphone and Instagram-uploading abilities is now labeled a blogger.

Irrespective of the definition of a blogger or a real influencer, Tarek Daouk, regional managing director – MENA of Starcom MediaVest Group, remained wary of brands investing their time and money on influencers. “Today, everyone is obsessed with influencers, but majority of them don’t add any value ,” he said. However, Khalil reasoned that brands work with influencers because influencers understand the platforms better than brands do and know what works.

For instance, Instagram users in Kuwait use the platform in an entrepreneurial spirit by commercializing it to sell products and set up pop-up shops. Instagram is a place where people come for a different experience that’s ad-free and that’s why influencers have such great power on the platform. Yet, Daouk wondered what would happen to influencers once Instagram launches its advertising products in the Middle East.

As it turns out, Instagram has a solution for that. Sheelah Odedra, agency partner at Facebook, said that in markets where Instagram has launched its advertising solutions, it uses data and insights to identify real influencers and pair them with relevant brands. Daouk remained unconvinced, questioning Odedra on where Instagram sees a majority of its revenue coming from: is it through ads or brands asking Instagram for advice on who’s the best influencer for them?

According to Odedra, it depends on the brand, because certain categories such as travel and luxury might prefer Instagram, which is more niche than Facebook, which reaches a mass audience. Moreover, Khalil felt that the importance of influencers is underestimated, as audiences tend to ignore advertised content – even when it’s promoted by a blogger.

Daouk shared another concern that could lead to brands looking for an easy solution in influencers: not only are there several social media platforms, but each of them also has different ad products and formats, which make it difficult for brands to create different types of ads and content. Emphasizing the topic of the panel – the abuse of social media – Odedra clarified that social media is really abused when brands and clients don’t understand the targeting capabilities of platforms such as Facebook and bombard users with ads. That’s why, she said, Facebook listens to its users, not advertisers. “The community tells us when they don’t like the content. If we listened to adverts, we’d have flyers everywhere,” quipped Odedra.

While Daouk remained persistent about brands investing time in learning social media and working with their agency partners rather than influencers, Khalil admitted that brands don’t have to work with influencers – there’s a lot more they can do on social media. After all, “It’s social media. A girl in her bedroom is conquering it… I’m sure a multimillion dollar company can too,” she says.