The age of social media, specifically Instagram, has allowed many people to take it upon themselves to become another stream of marketing for brands. In turn, companies allocate a portion of their budget to pay these so-called influencers a hefty amount of cash in a bid to increase brand awareness and engagement.
Earlier this year, Instagram announced it was debating the removal of "likes" from its platform - and there was speculation that it might just be the end of the influencer era. A newly released study suggests that influencers' influence is already spiraling down. Engagement with influencer posts is near an all-time low, Mobile Marketer reported.
According to Mobile Marketer, research conducted by the analytics firm InfluencerDB found that the engagement rate for influencers across various industries including beauty, fashion, food, and lifestyle declined in the past year.
The study also found that sponsored posts fell to 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Three years ago, the engagement rate stood at 4 percent. The engagement rate for non-sponsored posts also decreased to 1.9 percent from 4.5 percent in 2016.
According to Mobile Marketer, the decline in the engagement rates is due to the surge in sponsored posts on the platform, making it harder for influencers to reach their followers.
In the Arab world, countless humans aspire to become influencers in their own right - though the majority of them are not "influential" per se. The spike in the number of influencer wannabes forced the UAE to make the process a bit more challenging for people. Last year, the Gulf nation rolled out a licensing program, demanding influencers apply for a license and follow the rules and regulations occupying that space. Anyone who wishes to become an influencer must apply for a trade license first and then for an e-media license which costs 15,000 dirhams ($4,000) annually.
Even with the new rules, more than 1,000 people have actually applied and have been granted a license to operate as a social media influencer in the country.
All about the money, money, money?
There's never a dull moment if you're scrolling through Instagram in an Arab country. From a random bottle of Herbal Essences on the backdrop of Burj Khalifa to a Twix bar in the sweltering heat, promoting certain brands is not even done in a subtle fashion anymore. After all, if one can make thousands of dollars (or freebies) in exchange for a couple of photos, then why not, right?
Well, how much does an influencer in the UAE get paid?
According to data released by Gulf News, influencers in the UAE get paid an average price of $1,000 to $5,000 per post. Some of us (A LOT of us) don't even get paid that much for a full-time job. According to the data, that is what 94 percent of influencers charge. As for the remaining 6 percent, the price tag amounts to $10,000 per post.
In some cases (76 percent), influencers agree to freebies (products or experiences) instead of actual cash payments. According to that same report, 67 percent of UAE-based influencers said they really want to make "impact and drive real change in consumer behavior and attitude" and that it wasn't just about online popularity. As much as I'd like to believe that, it's quite hard to wrap my head around a statement that isn't reflected on many posts shared by "social media influencers."
In December, Iraqi-Kuwaiti fashionista Dana Al Tuwarish revealed how much an online influencer can make a month in response to money laundering accusations from social media users.
"I started six-seven years ago and I get stable income from ads, this is other than businesses I launch or partner in," she said.
"Now I want to calculate with you. If someone makes 4,500 Kuwaiti Dinar ($14,788) per day, multiply that by 30 and you get a monthly income of 135,000 KD ($443,600). This is how much a top influencer, who does 3 ads a day, would get. So what's weird or difficult about the amount of money they're making?" she added.
So, is the true impact (or non-impact thereof) of influencers finally manifesting in numbers? Will the influencer era soon come to an end?