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GIF by Tom Abi Samra

The Rise of Influencers in the UAE

Influencers have become more prominent than ever, and the UAE is no exception.

Oct 14, 2018

What do you do if you are watching TV, and a commercial comes on? Chances are you pick up your phone and scroll through your social media feed. Between the ads — which are conveniently promoting something you have been talking or even thinking about — you see your favorite accounts posting about the concert they are going to, the new watch they just got or the new app they used to order KFC. Meanwhile, an advertisement about the same exact product plays on the TV in front of you, but you don’t even take a second look. Society’s attention has shifted. Phones have replaced TVs, the internet has replaced Hollywood and social media influencers have replaced traditional celebrities. The implications of this shift are significant, especially for these influencers that are poised to assume an increasingly prominent role in today’s society.
This transition is not a phase. Regardless of whether Instagram’s algorithm drives users away, people boycott Facebook because of privacy violations, or virtual reality takes over, influencers will still see their sway and standing expand. Influencers have already become a crucial element of marketing campaigns for industries around the world, from fitness and beauty to comedy and travel. The UAE has been no exception, as the growth of influencers within the UAE has been rapid in recent years. Despite the recent fascination with the idea of influencing as an actual career path, influencers advocating for themselves is not a new trend. In fact, the ultra-successful entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck advocated for influencers back in 2009, in his book Crush It!. Today, top influencers earn millions of dollars, regardless of whether some think their positions are legitimate, despite the large number fake accounts, followers, likes and comments plaguing their online presence.
In the UAE, influencers have come in a wide variety; from the lovable Khalid Al Ameri, to Huda Kattan who went from being a beauty blogger to starting a billion-dollar makeup brand, UAE influencers have been dominating. In an interview with The National, Max of Arabia, a British American influencer famous for his fluent Arabic content, revealed that he earned 5,000 USD on average per post in 2016, and the influencer market has only grown since then.
However, these top influencers aren’t the only ones within the UAE — most other influencers cannot command such high sums. Hundreds of micro-influencers within the UAE get free products, vouchers, or money for their posts. And while number of followers is what usually attracts brands and companies, a higher follower count doesn’t necessarily mean the return on investment of these influencers is higher than micro-influencers. Micro-influencers often have higher engagement rates, while many highly followed accounts have bought followers, or even engagement, despite the platforms’ continuous attempts to regulate such behavior.
Influencers in the UAE, however, are about to face new oversight. Earlier this summer, the UAE announced that in order to regulate the influencer industry, influencers working within the UAE will now need to be registered. The influencer license costs 15,000 AED, and while this might not be much for an influencer who earns that amount for a single post, micro-influencers have the option of registering with one of the many influencer platforms for free. Unregistered influencers caught earning money could be fined, or even have their account shut down completely. This is said to have been done in order to regulate the industry, so that both the influencer and the brands paying them will have to follow through with their contract; additionally, legal action can be taken if agreements are not held. While this proves the legitimacy of the influencer industry and allows influencers to better defend themselves if any issues arise with their clients, some influencers are not happy with the law because of the cost and loss of anonymity, as their account will be registered with their Emirates ID.
The internet has enabled anyone to make a career out of what they love, if they do it right. Whether that’s playing video games, wearing makeup, trying out new things, modeling or sawing things in half, if you enjoy it, chances are there are other people around the world who enjoy it too and are willing to watch your content if you execute it well. The internet and social media platforms have allowed people to take their career in their own hands. There is no middle man to make the decisions anymore; the internet is the middle man. Artists no longer need to rely on galleries or music labels to represent them; they can represent themselves in their own online galleries or release their own music. Actors no longer need to be cast; they can create their own videos and tell stories through their own platforms. Models no longer need to look a certain way and have a certain figure for a chance to be on a magazine; they can reach just as many people online. Why should these shifts make any of these careers any less legitimate? If anything, these artists and entertainers may be more respected for their independence. And no matter the field, if someone has influence over a mass audience, they are an influencer.
Melika Shahin is Deputy Video Editor. Email her at
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