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Dubai: Nothing seems to stop the billion-dollar Influencer Marketing wave, and it is growing bigger and getting smarter. From traditional media to press relations, these days all advertising and communication strategies are now dedicating significant budgets to influencer marketing.

Emirati entrepreneur Anas Bukhash, and Founder & Managing Director of digital marketing consultancy Bukhash Brothers commissioned a survey about the influencer market of the UAE and discovered some interesting facts.

The majority of influencers residing in the UAE are female, at 63 per cent. Even though the UAE is vastly populated by men, the influencer industry is dominated by women.

The research has also revealed that 84 per cent of influencers do not “disclose in a clear manner any brand integrations or branded content” that is posted, while only 44 per cent use the “paid partnership” tag on Instagram when being paid by brands. This lack of transparency in disclosure of branded content or paid partnerships is particularly noteworthy, as 61 per cent of respondents shared that they have signed exclusive contracts with at least one brand.

Bukash Brothers Survey
A snapshot from the survey Image Credit: Supplied by Bukash Brother

While over 80 per cent of respondents said that they would barter for free products, services or experiences, 24 per cent of influencers shared that ‘influencing’ was their main source of income, with the majority of micro-influencers charging in the $1,000 – $2,500 range per sponsored post.

Paying for more followers

Interestingly enough, 29 per cent of UAE influencers would consider paying money to grow followers and increase engagement. That includes bots or tools that comment, like, follow or unfollow. These are considered fraudulent, especially that they generate fake engagement.

Bukash Brothers analyses that growing a following on social media is not an easy thing to do as platforms become more and more saturated with micro and macro-influencers. Consistency, creativity and uniqueness are some of the key elements that determine an influencer’s success.

As engagement helps increasing the reach, some influencers are attracted to such tools to gain engagement, and therefore exposure. However, this practice always backfires and is only beneficial on the short terms.

Transparency is critical – It’s about respecting your audience and not trying to fool the consumer. The survey results were surprising, but we predict that the transparency numbers will level out as followers are getting savvier and influencers are getting more serious about fostering authentic long-term relationships. Additionally, the regulations by the National Media Council and licensing system for UAE-based influencers has already had an impact towards streamlining the industry into international best practice and protocols.

- Anas Bukash

Additional findings revealed that “lifestyle” was the number one category of specialization with 68 per cent of respondents posting lifestyle focused content, followed by travel at 58 per cent and fashion at 50 per cent.

Which platform do they favour?

Instagram remained the undisputed platform of choice, followed by Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube respectively. Instagram and Snapchat are two of the most popular social media platforms in the Middle East, especially in the UAE where their usage is ahead of the global average. The use of the social media platforms in the UAE is outgrowing the rest of the world, offering a real opportunity for brands to tap into this trend and create content to connect with their target audience.

More than half (52 per cent) of respondents confirmed that they are officially licensed in the UAE. In order to take part in any activations or campaigns, influencers need to be signed with a licensed agency or have their own license.

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Influencer Marketing Research in the UAE Image Credit: Supplied by Bukash Brothers