In the Arab World, the role of a ‘social media influencer’ is becoming a lucrative career path for many young professionals. Global content creators and influencers from around the world are moving to cities like Dubai to reap the benefits of high paying partnerships and brand deals.
Social Media has become a popular choice for young adults over other careers and a new generation of internet entrepreneurs has spawned with the anticipation of earning a lucrative income. A number of YouTubers in the United Arab Emirates that have gained international recognition for their social brands including Huda Kattan, a beauty vlogger who went on to create the billion dollar brand, Huda Beauty. Others like Mo Vlogs showcase stunts, flashy cars and a wealthy lifestyle to a predominantly young, South Asian audience.
An average sponsored post in the Emirates can fetch up to four times more value than North America and the UK, with brand deals valued in the tens of thousands of dollars. And it’s all for one simple reason; supply and demand. There are a number of prominent social media personalities residing in the Emirates that earn considerably more than similarly popular influencers from western countries, simply because they have far less competition.
The opportunities to earn up to seven figures with brands and advertisers has made the Emirate of Dubai a hotspot for content creators, with British Youtuber Mike Thurston and American Larry Wheels making the move to Dubai in 2019 to take advantage of the possibility of earning much more for their content.
And it’s not just expats making lucrative careers out of social media. A number of Dubai-born influencers have also capitalized on social platforms to launch their own identities, along with those of their businesses. Rashed Saif Belhasa, aka ‘Money Kicks’, has 2.3 million YouTube subscribers and uses the platform to promote a personal life of extravagance, showcasing a teenager living a lavish lifestyle. He is often seen with major celebrities including Cristiano Ronaldo, Jackie Chan, and Khloe Kardashian, and known for his famous catch phrase ‘we livin’ life’.
Saygin Yalcin, a German-native entrepreneur with ventures including sellanycar.com, leverages YouTube and Instagram as a promotional tool to grow his personal and business brand, and is often seen collaborating with local social media celebrity Mo Vlogs to promote his profile.
Some content creators like Khaled Mazeedi are influential businessmen. Mazeedi founded the financial company Swipemint, online auto classified Autosheik, and as an early adopter of what had become the current cryptocurrency frenzy, is rumoured to be holding over 1000 Bitcoins.
With over 3.4 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, and millions of views, and his instagram handle @ten attracting 2.1 million followers, Mazeedi is well versed in the power of social media as a tool for business – and influence.
It seems that dominating one platform isn’t a guarantee of dominating them all, but there are exceptions to the rule. Supercarblondie, an Australian car fanatic with an equally fanatical following, got her start on Instagram, with exclusive reveals of exotic multi-million dollar hypercars. Upon reaching 2 million Instagram followers, Ms. Blondie, aka Alex Hirschi, quickly grew her following on YouTube, capitalising on an algorithm that favours easily consumable content. Others, such as Justsul have grown enormous followings on Instagram, posting viral comedy skits with global celebrities, but haven’t been able to successfully transition into YouTube.
Middle Eastern influencers generally produce content that showcases an ostentatious, luxurious lifestyle, often well outside of their means, all in the hopes of gaining popularity, followers, and subscribers. Part of the common refrain, ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, many Arab creators seek to create viral content that will get recommended by YouTube’s algorithm to their loyal followers, all in the hope of turning their passions into monetizable careers. Copying viral stunts, or creating contrived prank videos, many aspiring YouTubers simply copy what has previously worked for creators in the past, and lack originality. However, exceptions such as Mazeedi, and some channels helmed by western Youtubers living in the Emirate, appear to be driving towards true innovation in the space.
With an ArabAmerica Report claiming over 90% of Arab youth utilise social media, the region is emerging as one of the world’s leading consumers of social media, with YouTube and Instagram leading as the most popular platforms among the socially-savvy population.
Recently, the YouTuber Awards, a series hosted by YouTuber Magazine and based in Los Angeles, California, has introduced a category specifically for Arab YouTubers. The major contenders for the award are Huda Kattan, Khaled Mazeedi, Narins Beauty and Khaled Al Meri, demonstrating that arab YouTubers are among the top contenders for the world stage.
Mazeedi, 34, said ‘YouTube is interesting, you can invent and create your brand with the power to publish whatever content you please. It’s a powerful tool and is a great way to spread a message to the world’.
As they gain popularity, Arab YouTubers are finding that showcasing an extravagant and luxurious lifestyle isn’t enough to remain relevant and keep their young, aspirational audience engaged. It would seem that the region lags behind the rest of the world in one of the important aspects in social content; creativity. It may be that the demographic simply isn’t mature enough to embrace the originality of their own heroes – those creators based out of North America. But with regional advertisers claiming to pay a premium for regional influencers, it seems there isn’t an incentive to shift the status quo.
Mazeedi, along with a select few, may be the first creators in the Arab world to use their channels as the distribution channels for their ideas, and express these ideas through realism and originality. With their raw, unfiltered content, in an arab society where showing all facets of your life is considered taboo, Mazeedi notes, ‘I just show it and tell it like it is. People are much more aware nowadays, and being at the forefront of unconventional content gives me the opportunity to be authentic, I like to share my life as it is. I have an interesting life and story to share.”
As more Arab content creators join the platform, it’s evident that creators like Jake Paul, MoVlogs and even those more prone to clickbaiting will always gain views and a large following. However, the future of content does appear to be shifting towards realism and originality.
With socially savvy followers slowly starting to notice the difference, Mazeedi and others within the Arab world may serve as examples of the type of social content that will resonate with fans – and brands – alike.
It would seem that the future of social influence will belong to those that need the income of social influence least, since they are in a position to produce the type of content that audiences crave, and that advertisers wish to access, signaling the start of a new movement of original content creators in the Middle East.
The content marketing team at Vidooly publishes articles and blogs on current and relevant online video industry related news.