We're now officially in the age when you can go to university to learn how to become a full-time influencer.
As of September, those interested in making a living on social media can go pro and enroll in the Social Media Influencers Diploma Program. The six-course diploma is the region's first accredited certificate program for online influencers. It was developed in a collaboration between the Dubai Press Club and the American University in Dubai's Mohammed bin Rashid School for Communication (MBRSC).
The program, which is accredited by the UAE's Ministry of Education, aims to train "Arab social media influencers in strategic communications and enable them to produce effective content on social media platforms."
Another one of its goals is to help people produce more innovative content in a rapidly changing industry.
In a statement, Mona Al Marri, President of the Dubai Press Club, said the program "comes in line with Dubai's vision to develop and empower talented individuals in various fields and enhance their role and contributions in the advancement of their communities."
"[It] was designed to be aligned with the objectives of the Arab Social Media Influencers’ Club (ASMIC), which was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai three years ago," she added.
"In light of the growing impact and role of social media platforms on various levels, ensuring that these platforms provide reliable information and high-quality content is of great importance," Al Marri explained.
The influencer diploma at a glance
The diploma has been in the making for over a year as it was first announced in 2018. The program was created and developed by an elite group of university professors with different specializations in communication media. Its courses will be delivered by the faculty of the MBRSC at the AUD campus.
Adjunct faculty including experienced media professionals and social media influencers will join in on teaching the classes and will also be invited to discuss their experiences as guest speakers.
In its debut semester, the diploma will "be offered to 100 active and aspiring social media influencers based in the UAE, in successive cohorts of 20 each."
Those enrolled will be taught a wide variety of skills including public speaking, presentation, creative content development, working on social media strategies, and understanding the ethics of the platforms they use.
They will also gain "the conceptual knowledge and practical skills required to analyze news and detect fake news."
It's not just about getting a diploma, for the UAE, it's about ethics as well. In 2018, 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.
To no one's surprise, over 1,000 already-existing online influencers applied for the license.
"Paid influencers operating without a license invite a fine of Dh5,000. We are discovering new numbers (of paid influencers operating without a license) every day. When we encounter any illegal activity, we call and warn them and if it is repeated, we will fine them," Nasser Al Tamimi, manager of Media Licensing Department at the NMC, told Khaleej Times back in June.
So, for those who desire to (professionally and legally) get into the field in the UAE, both a diploma and a license afterwards have been developed to help you launch your career.