Influencers have become part and parcel of the marketing landscape. In fact, an entire section of the business has been devoted to them, dubbed “influencer marketing,” where brands collaborate with these internet celebrities to more effectively engage with their audiences.
So, what is the influencer landscape in the Middle East like, and which sectors are under the influence?
The rise of the influencer
According to Expertcity, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from others, even people they don’t know, over branded content. Data from AdWeek confirms this, revealing that 70% say that online reviews are their second-most-trusted source, and 47% of U.S. readers consult blogs to keep tabs on trends and ideas.
With advertising pervading every aspect of modern life, it has become difficult to trust marketing campaigns and first-party advertising. With the rise of bloggers and influencers, a new opportunity has presented itself, and brands have been quick to latch on.
With influencers amassing followers in the millions, companies have found the perfect opportunity for reaching their audiences in a way that had not really been available to them before. Worried your skin cream’s advertising campaign will fade away in the sea of skin care product marketing that bombards customers every day? Get in touch with an influencer.
These self-made “experts” offer your customers what your company never could: a relatable persona on the other side of the screen they can trust. There is a certain charm to influencers that businesses often fail to grasp, and that’s the personal, one-on-one feel customers get when they engage with an influencer’s content.
Therefore, companies have made an effort to sponsor influencers to get their brands and products featured to millions of potential customers who will be more engaged with your content than through any other means.
The Influencer Marketing Report found that the average influencer engagement rate across the industry is 5.7%. As a comparison, the average engagement rate for brands on Instagram has fluctuated between 2-3% in the past year, proving that influencer marketing is more successful.
According to Grin, a study found that 39% of marketers are going to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2018. The Influencer Marketing Report found that influencer marketing ad spend is expected to reach between $5 billion and $10 billion in 2022.
Does influencer marketing work?
Rhythm One, a digital advertising solutions specialist, found an astonishing answer to this question. The answer is yes, very much so.
Their findings show that on average, influencer marketing campaigns reap a 960% ROI.
These positive results are also spilling outside the realm of the digital, and into the real world. According to a Collective Bias study, 60% of consumers have been influenced by a social media post or a blog review, while shopping at a store.
So which kind of influencers find the most success in the Middle East?
Fashion and beauty influencers reign
Influencers in the Middle East often find success in the fields of photography, culinary meals, gaming, and lifestyle.
However, the online personalities specializing in fashion and beauty have found greatest success in the region.
Huda Kattan, the UAE’s number one social media influencer, has a whopping 26.6 million followers as of this writing, with fans spanning the entire Arab region. She has an estimated worth of $550 million, and her cosmetics brand is estimated to be worth $1 billion, according to Forbes.
Maya Ahmad, a Lebanese beauty and lifestyle blogger, is regularly sponsored by major brands such as Guerlain, Dior, and MAC cosmetics.
Some of these influencers, such as Hanadi Diab, go on to launch their own product lines, sometimes in collaboration with international brands, blurring the line between brands and influencers.
Influencers fall under new UAE laws
The surge in internet personalities has caused the UAE government to create laws to address this new trend, to protect the influencer, the consumer and the brands involved.
The new laws require influencers and sponsor brands to acquire a license to share content online if they wish to sell or promote a product together, or if influencers want to market products independently.
Some small-time influencers have found that their hobby-slash-business might not be worthwhile anymore, as these licenses could cost upwards of $4000 (AED 15,000).
Currently, influencers need to register with the country’s National Media Council (NMC), with 3 tiers of licenses available:
-Official Influencer Agencies License
The details can be found on the NMC’s website.
The dark side of influencing?
Kuwaiti online personality Sondos Al Kattan made headlines last month after she made controversial comments on foreign workers in the country. Al Kattan is a major name in the social media scene, boasting 2.4 million Twitter followers. Her Instagram specializes in beauty and fashion.
She came under fire after she questioned laws protecting Filipino immigrant workers’ rights in the country to keep their passports in their possession. She later gave clarification following media scrutiny, saying that “the passport of any expat employee should be in the possession of the employer to protect the employers’ interest.” She also questioned the number of days off Filipino workers are entitled to.
Following this debacle, many fans put pressure on the brands that sponsor her to end their sponsorships. Max Factor Arabia, MAC, and Chelsea Boutique were among the brands that cut ties with her.
This has brought into light the responsibilities influencers have, whether to their fans or to their sponsors. The influencer landscape is still somewhat of a wild frontier, and the aforementioned UAE laws are trying to combat this. At the end of the day, anyone can rise to internet stardom, and brands need to investigate who they associate with ahead of time.