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Sunday, January 23, 2022

The rise of influencers: Can content creators make a ‘job’ out of social media?


While many consider social media merely an entertainment outlet or even a ‘waste of time’, some have utilised the tool to create financial opportunities.

The increasing popularity of social media over the last decade has allowed users to use online platforms as an alternative source of income.  

Some bloggers and influencers around the world, including here in Qatar, now earn millions a year from apps like Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and more recently TikTok.

But how do they make money online?

Social media influencers are public figures who have garnered a mass following online by honing in on niche topics including fashion, lifestyle, finance or even health.

Due to the influence and reach they have, they’ve become essential tools for brands and companies keen on advertising products to increase sales. Known as influencer marketing, this strategy has become one of the most popular blueprints for brands to keep up with the increasing surge in digital consumption. 

While influencer marketing is considered costly, the average rate depends on the platform and the influencer reach.

Macro-influencers with 500,000 to one million followers could earn up to $2000 per post, while mega-influencers who boast more than one million followers could make upwards of $10,000 on each post, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.

More ‘traditional’ international celebrities, such as singers and actors are also considered social media influencers due to the amount of followers they have, however hiring them to advertise costs companies and brands millions of dollars. 

‘Valid job’

Although statistics show that social media could be highly profitable, many take aim at the phenomenon, suggesting it could never be a “real” job. 

Doha News reached out to some Qatar-based social media influencers to discuss the global conversation and learn more about their experiences as content creators.

Prominent Qatari social media influencer and media presenter, Mashael Al Naimi said although many brands and local companies do pay influencers to promote their products, there is no consistent income.

Influencer marketing is seasonal, selective and lacks consistency, she said, noting “even though certain companies pay influencers to advertise their products, it’s mostly a one time thing.”

For Al Naimi, it’s unlikely for an influencer to rely on social media as a one-source income because they only get paid per post – unlike traditional jobs which ensure a monthly salary. 

However, not many people agree with Al Naimi.

Qatar-based social media manager and content creator, Abdelaziz Alsafadi believes that “working in social media can actually be more profitable” than a traditional job.

“I have been working in this field for over 7 years now and I can assure you that as long as you keep creating and know how to manage your time efficiently there are no limits as to how many business accounts you can handle at once,” he told Doha News.

“Each business has its own ideas and twist to it, giving me the chance to embrace my creativity.

“The ability to work on multiple different projects is very exciting as it continuously helps in increasing profit and career growth as well as build up my reputation in the market,” he added.

For well-known publicist Harriet Gyamfuah, content creators are not respected enough.

“It is a shorthand form of digitalised TV, we don’t look down on presenters in digitalised TV so why would we look down on those who use their phone – which we use more times per second than watching a box?” she said.

Social media “is like anything else work wise and profit depends on the amount of hard work you put in,” Gyamfuah, who manages major content creators in Qatar, said.

However, Qatar remains a “smaller market” compared to other GCC countries, especially when compared to countries like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

“I would like brands to understand that Qatar is a standalone market and influencers here have their own audience and their own credibility and they should be considered as such. Hopefully, we can grow within that market even though it is a very small country,” she added. 

And there is space and potential to do so.

“Qatar is a hotspot for metropolitanism, so it is not just Qatari influencers, it is Qatar-based influencers. The majority of people live here in Qatar are more expats than locals, so we have really great expatriate influencers that influence the market itself as well as homegrown influencers,” Gyamfuah noted.

Influencing in Qatar

Although Qatar has a huge number of local social media influencers and content creators, the Gulf state is a traditional, somewhat conservative country that abides with strict rules to preserve its religion and culture.

“The idea of being a blogger in Qatar is not quite accepted by people because we are a conservative country that seeks to preserve its culture and traditions,” Al Naimi said.

“We don’t like to imitate anyone else or be compared to others, so many people are still closed to the idea and highly criticise local public figures on social media.”

However, she highlighted that this phenomenon is more accepted and common in other neighbouring countries like Kuwait, which she described as the biggest hub in the GCC for influencers.

Whatever the case, the market is growing and society is becoming more open to the idea.

Speaking to Doha News, Gyamfuah said “homegrown influencers are having a voice of their own to be able to popularise and market these activities”, especially as Qatar expands its sports portfolio and continues hosting international events.

Undoubtedly, the Gulf state has gained widespread popularity in recent years, especially since winning the bid to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup – due to be held in the Middle East for the first time in its history. 

With less than 500 days to the historic tournament, international investors have cast their eyes on business opportunities across Qatar, where millions have been pumped to attract a global audience for the major sporting event.

Even for traditional businesses, the social media hype has sparked intrigue.

“The first thing consumers do when they hear about any business is search for it on any social media platform,” Alsafadi said.

“Companies in Qatar that have been in business for over 15 years are now reaching out to me for help setting up social media accounts. They can see the huge impact it has on people and how beneficial it is for a business to continue in the current state,” he added. 

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