It's time to start taking influencers more seriously

Jan 12, 2024
It's time to start taking influencers more seriously
A two-day summit in Dubai brought thousands of content creators together in a glimpse of what the future of this multibillion-dollar sector could look like

Tne of the main indicators of the generation gap is the rise of social media – particularly that of the influencer. Few of those who came of age before the proliferation of smartphones could have predicted that creatives, reviewers and performers in their late teens or early 20s can be a credible commercial vehicle, commanding fees worth thousands of dollars in some cases.

The world of traditional advertising and mass media has changed profoundly during a process that began about two decades ago with the advent of Facebook and YouTube. Now, the ubiquity and accessibility of high-level technology has been harnessed to social media platforms with unimaginable reach that allow homemade content to be shared instantly with millions of users worldwide. All that’s needed to get started is a smartphone, an internet connection and plenty of drive.

The 1 Billion Followers Summit that took place in Dubai this week offered a platform for many of the most – pardon the pun – influential figures in this youthful and dynamic part of the global economy. The influencer has well and truly arrived; they are also demanding recognition. As Alia Al Hammadi, chief executive of the New Media Academy, which organised the two-day event, told some of the 3,000 attendees: “It's not just a bunch of youths standing in front of the camera for the sake of fun and entertainment. It's a multimillion-dollar industry, and it's expected to keep growing.”

That growth, particularly in digital advertising, cannot be dismissed by those who find social media content frivolous or unappealing. According to Statista research published in December, an estimated $616 billion was projected to be spent on digital advertising worldwide in 2022. This figure is projected to surpass $1 trillion by 2027. The second generation of social media platforms, such as TikTok, are the go-to medium for millions around the world and the sector’s appeal is undeniable – Ms Al Hammadi told the Dubai summit that there are about 50 million people working as content creators globally.

This part of the Middle East is already embracing the potential and challenges of the content economy. The GCC’s high rate of internet connectivity and social media use mean careers in content creation, from coding to digital storytelling, are more viable and numerous than ever. These positions offer talented and ambitious young people an opportunity to succeed and are an important part of Gulf states’ diversification away from energy-based economies.

Dubai has become a regional centre for the content economy, as is evidenced by consistent government support for the industry and efforts to encourage more young people to equip themselves with the tech skills of the future. The UAE’s One Million Arab Coders initiative, launched in 2017, is a good example of this approach, offering courses that range from basic digital literacy to app development, machine learning and data analysis. As well as preparing Arab youth to become the next generation of technology experts, such initiatives take place in the wider context of the UAE’s embrace of artificial intelligence.

As with any boom there is always the possibility that if it is not well managed, it will prove to be unsustainable, or its benefits will not reach everyone. Issues like protecting digital assets and enforcing intellectual property rights are continuing challenges. This is why events like the 1 Billion Followers Summit are important; by bringing as many people as possible into the mix, they increase the chances of building a digital sector this is not just home to a handful of superstar influences, but is a place that offers millions of young people steady, paid and fulfilling careers for years to come.

Source: thenationalnews