Social Media in the Middle East: The Impact and Role of Social Influencers 

This is the last post in a series of ten short extracts from my sixth annual round-up of social media trends from the Middle East and North Africa (written with University of Oregon student Amanda Lam). Social Media in the Middle East: The Story of 2017 is available for download from the University of Oregon Scholars’ Bank and on Scribd, SlideShare and

  • Huda Kattan, an Iraqi American makeup artists and Dubai-based business woman, was determined to be the world’s highest paid social influencer in the first ever Instagram Rich List. She boasts 20.5 million followers and charges $18,000 per post.
Image: Screenshot from @hudabeauty Instagram feed.
  • According to a survey of 100 in-house marketing and communication experts and brand managers, conducted by BPG Cohn & Wolfe in the UAE, around 43% of marketers spend up to $10,000 per social media influencer campaign. 
    • Half of those polled currently work with social media influencers in the region.
    • 94% of in-house marketers in the UAE believe social media influencer marketing plays a major role in the success of their brands.
    • 55% said their biggest challenge when picking influencers was finding relevant ones that relate to the brands.
Image: Section from BPG Cohn & Wolfe Influencer Marketing Survey with YouGov.
  • At the ITP Live Conference, in November 2017, some experts argued that social influencers in the UAE should be regulated and operate within a legal framework.

    • At the same conference, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising giant WPP, argued that although “[social media influencers] have become important,” they were not reshaping the media landscape, arguing they are “a variant of traditional celebrity endorsement and word of mouth… [which] has become, in a way, even more important”.
    • Sorrell suggested micro-influencers, those with 10,000 followers or less, are becoming the more dominant players.
  • One of the Middle East’s most popular social media personalities is Mohammed al-Arefe, a religious leader based in Saudi Arabia with more than 19 million social media followers.
Image: Mohamad al-Arefe Source: Wikipedia 
  • Despite the rise in influencer marketing, three-quarters (74%) of Middle-Eastern women say traditional media remains their main source of information on products or brands.
    • However, this figure is reversed in Kuwait where 54% cite online sources as more important.
    • Younger women also have a different perspective. According to Ipsos MENA, 47% of 18–24 year olds says online platforms are their main source of information on products or brands.
Image: Sources of Information, “She Speaks” research. Source: Ipsos MENA — October 2016

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