According to StarNgage, an influencer marketing platform tracking profiles with followers between 1,000 and 10 million, the UAE is home to around 27,315 influencers.
The growth of the influencer scene is most felt by community members, such as Rama Murad, a lifestyle content creator focusing on fashion, beauty, and travel. “The influencer scene in Dubai had been rapidly growing, fueled by the city’s glamorous lifestyle and strong social media presence,” she says, “Many influencers from various niches found Dubai to be an ideal location to create content.”
Lara Geadah, an influencer focusing on wellness, food, and lifestyle, shares the same sentiment: “Over the years, Dubai has become a hub for social media influencers, with various opportunities emerging for collaborations, sponsored content, and brand partnerships.”
ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT AND RISE OF INFLUENCERS
The influencer community, with names like Jessica Kahawaty
Joelle Mardinian, Noorstars, and Karen Wazen Bakhazi, have seen an exponential surge from homegrown names and expats, making the emirate their home base.
Rand Dalati, an influencer sharing beauty, fashion, and lifestyle content with her 1.7 million followers, says, “The unwavering support from the government has further enhanced Dubai’s allure as a top destination for influencers.”
“The UAE’s clear and transparent rules for business setup make it remarkably conducive for entrepreneurs to navigate and understand, contributing to a supportive and thriving business environment,” she adds.
An example of this, says Geadah, is the introduction of freelance and golden visa structures. “Freelance permits have made it easier for influencers to establish themselves as sole proprietors, providing more flexibility and autonomy in managing their brand and content.”
Murad adds that golden visa schemes have made it easier for influencers to launch brands, which, she adds, is a natural progression for many successful influencers. Dalati, who was granted a Golden Visa, says, “As a content creator living in Dubai with my family, I am immensely grateful for the remarkable opportunities. Setting up my business in Dubai was exceptionally smooth, taking less than a week to establish.”
ECONOMICS BEHIND THE INFLUENCER LIFE
The business-friendly environment and economically attractive opportunities have only fanned interest. “Being an influencer in Dubai can be quite lucrative if you play your cards right,” Geadah says.
According to The State of Influencer Marketing in UAE 2023, 76.9% of marketers said influencer marketing is a top priority for their brand, and 76.5% say they’ve shifted their budgets from TV, print, and outdoor to influencer marketing this year. The report further revealed that most brands are running up to five campaigns a year, and 59% spend over $68,000 annually on influencer marketing campaigns.
“Influencer marketing has become a powerful tool for brands in Dubai,” Murad says, underlining that with influencers embracing platforms like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat, many are professionalizing their online presence, collaborating with brands, and monetizing their content.
One of the primary sources of income for influencers is sponsored content. Dalati says collaborative brand partnerships manifest in diverse guises, including affiliate programs.
Product reviews are also common sources of income for influencers. Murad says guest appearances, hosting, and public speaking are additional income sources.
Another successful monetization method is content creation services, says Geadah. “Today, we see influencers increasingly extending their skills to make a living. Influencers with strong photography, videography, or content creation skills may offer their services to brands or businesses, further monetizing their expertise.”
THE COST OF KEEPING UP
While the economics of being an influencer can be rewarding, it can also be challenging, says Dalati. “It’s important to recognize that being an influencer comes with its own set of expenses,” she points out. “To maintain relevance and engage with my audience, I continuously invest in my lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and health. Moreover, updating my filming equipment and staying technologically up-to-date are crucial investments for producing high-quality content.”
Murad points out that negotiating fair rates for brand collaborations is also critical. “Influencers with strong negotiation skills can command better compensation for their services,” she says.
“As the influencer market becomes more saturated, it can be challenging for newcomers to break through and establish a significant following,” she adds. “It takes a few years of building relationships with brands, building a community that loves and trusts you, and, of course, proving yourself and your creativity.”
CARVING OUT A NICHE
The increased competition pressures influencers to innovate and accommodate potential shifts in social media algorithms affecting reach and visibility. “This is why carving out a specific niche is highly important for influencers,” says Geadah.
“While influencers may be tempted to appeal to a broader audience by covering a wide range of topics, having a specific niche offers more benefits in terms of audience engagement, brand partnerships, and overall career growth,” says Murad.
According to YAAP, 87.2% of brands say that they work with lifestyle influencers the most, followed by fashion at 35.9%. Dalati explains that various niches have experienced fluctuations in their levels of prominence over time. “Lifestyle, fashion, and beauty have traditionally been strong niches, reflecting the aspirational nature of the region.”
“However, new and emerging niches, such as sustainability, wellness, and technology, have gained momentum as societal values and interests evolve,” she adds.
Staying updated on the latest trends and adapting to changes in audience preferences can help influencers succeed in Dubai’s dynamic and evolving social media scene, says Geadah.
AUTHENTICITY AND CULTURAL SENSITIVITY
Beyond cultivating their brand, influencers also have a responsibility to their followers. “Responding to comments and engaging with followers shows that influencers value their audience’s feedback and opinions, fostering a sense of community and trust,” says Murad.
However, the engagement should be firmly rooted in honesty. “People today also expect influencers to be transparent,” says Geadah. “When promoting products or services, influencers should genuinely believe in the value of what they are endorsing. Authentic recommendations lead to more trust from their audience. Disclosing brand partnerships helps maintain trust and credibility with their followers, which is paramount.”
Mark Anthony Monzon, a blogger focusing on food and travel dedicated to the Filipino community, says these values should be ingrained among creators. “I don’t sugarcoat and edit something so that when a follower goes there, they will be disappointed,” he says. “Honesty is the most important thing, I will share my feedback with them, whether positive or negative, and I do not post anything I do not recommend.”
Geadah says influencers should also refrain from spreading false or misleading information, as it can damage their credibility and reputation. “Dubai is a multicultural city with diverse traditions and beliefs,” she points out. “Influencers should be mindful of cultural sensitivities when creating content to avoid unintentionally offending or alienating their audience.”
Dalati says maintaining authenticity and credibility involves cultural sensitivity, honesty, and transparency, highlighting that “being true to their unique voice is key to fostering genuine connections in Dubai’s influencer landscape.”