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Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Influencers on the Internet

What have been the pros and cons on the journeys of Egypt’s Internet influencers

Mai Samih , Tuesday 27 Oct 2020
Views: 1764
Views: 1764

New terms relating to the Internet and social media have been circulating for some time, including “influencer” and many more, with an Internet influencer being an individual who can affect change in society through activities on the Internet, whether that means in terms of ideas, buying products, or other areas.

Some such influencers are celebrities like actors or singers, and there are influencers in every field. Instagram and YouTube have become full of such influencers, many of them in search of an income.

“Anyone can be an influencer as long as he influences other people on social media and thereby affects society,” commented one Egyptian Internet expert who chose to speak on condition of anonymity. “An influencer can change things on social media, just like a member of parliament can in real life,” he said.

According to the expert, for an influencer to become known and be able to host advertisements on a YouTube channel there are certain conditions that must be met. “For a YouTube channel, it should have 1,000 views and 4,000 hours of viewing time to get advertisements. After that, it is up to the channel-owner to accept advertisements on the channel. When the owner accepts advertisements, he or she starts receiving money from advertisers,” he said.

“Another way to make money from a YouTube channel is to start posting videos on the channel on a regular basis, for example twice a week, and then getting money for these clips on a monthly basis,” he said. In this way, the more the number of views, the more money an influencer can get, meaning views are transformed into money.

“So, a channel-owner starts getting money from the first 1,000 views and 4,000 hours. These conditions must be fulfilled within a year for the channel to be recognised as that of an influencer,” he added.  

“On Facebook, a page-owner has to have 10,000 likes for their page to get advertisements. Some advertisers either ask page-owners to post their advertisements or to make advertisements for them. The same goes for Instagram, except a page-owner needs 20,000 likes to get advertisements. As for Twitter, there is no set number of likes to get advertisements,” the expert said.

 “It all depends on how popular the person owning a page is. And it is the company that wants to advertise something on the page of a celebrity that approaches that person. For instance, if an advertiser gives a Twitter page-owner LE1,000 and asks him to make images to advertise a product, the owner will make advertisements worth that sum of money,” he added.

RISING STARS: Egyptian influencer Nada Hegazi is one example of how influencers can use their popularity to educate their audience.

She designed a Facebook page called saferat al-loghat (ambassador of languages) to help people correctly pronounce French words. “I am originally from Alexandria and a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Sculpture Department. I went to the Notre Dame de Sion School in Alexandria, a Catholic school, where I became fluent in French. I always wanted to be a TV presenter, so I started posting videos on my profile on my Facebook page before I even had my current page, the ‘ambassador of languages,’” she said.

 “I didn’t focus on one topic at that time because it was mainly a hobby. I didn’t even know that many people would see my videos. I mainly talk about words that were originally French but are now used in other languages. They are often mispronounced, and the idea is to correct that,” she said.

“The main idea behind the page is to teach people the etymology of the words,” she added, saying that the page also helps to teach people that French is not too difficult for them to learn.

After Hegazi’s first video on the site, people then asked her for more. She started her own segment on radio presenters Omayma Mahran and Hana Al-Deif’s programme on the Egyptian Radio, Min Al-Qahera (From Cairo). She then presented part of presenter Sherif Madkour’s TV programme for a season.

Another influencer is Sarah Al-Dhahabi, a pharmacist by profession and a satirical writer who has written three books and is currently writing for the Yomeyat Al-Akhbar (News of the Day) columns of the Cairo newspaper Al-Akhbar. She shares her passion for writing with both her paternal and maternal grandfathers.

“I started my Facebook page six years ago after becoming a mother. I would write socially satirical posts or produce videos since I felt that there were not that many women writing  in this field,” Al-Dhahabi said. “I use the dialect in what I write because I feel it is closer to the hearts of Egyptians,” she added.

“I talk about different social issues, but not politics,” she said, adding that she has both female and male followers. “I talk about the ups and downs of life, and I feel that this is what people want to read about — real-life experiences.” She also speaks about the problems faced by Egyptian and Arab women and how hard they work, especially mothers with children.

These are things that only a woman could write about, she says, because in most cases she is the one who does all the household and children-related tasks, not men.

“This is why I write in the voice of women. I try to convey the point of view of women to men and vice versa,” she says, adding that the number of followers of her personal page has reached 497,000, and there are 175,000 following her fan page.

“The main aim of my page is to express the feelings of people through my posts and videos and to have a positive role in voicing people’s problems, not just in making people laugh. People want someone close to them to talk about their problems. I am also doing something I like, and I am pursuing my passion.”

SCHOOL FOR INFLUENCERS: “Young Influencers” is a project affiliated to Cairo’s Real Academy, which aims to help young influencers start future projects, including Facebook pages or websites, notably by teaching them a proper knowledge of the English language before designing a website.

Founder of Real Academy Mohamed Arafa said that “we discovered there was a gap between the practical and theoretical knowledge of new university graduates, so we decided to turn to the new generation through teaching English and that was how the idea of the Young Influencers started.” The academy also worked on developing the characters of future influencers and linking them more closely to Egyptian culture.

“We included a part in our syllabus about morals to improve the morals of children at a young age,” Arafa said, adding that they had trained influencers as young as six years old on both the theoretical and practical level.

“One practical example of successful influencers is a group of 12-year-old students who came up with the idea of the virtual sight-seeing of monuments by taking 3D images of them and posting them for people to see on their website. They also provide people with information about each site,” Arafa said.

Real Academy business manager Ahmed Salem explained the practical side of training young children to be influencers. “We build the characters of our future influencers through four modules on morals, history, entrepreneurship, and the environment,” he said.

According to a study by the Ministry of Communication, there were over 39 million mobile Internet subscriptions in Egypt in 2019, a huge audience for would-be influencers. This makes it more important than ever that the content of the pages is beneficial, helping an influencer to build popularity.

“Influencers should focus on what content they share and not only on how many people see it,” Hegazi commented, adding that if the content is good, the number of followers will increase automatically. Influencers should also listen to constructive criticism given by their followers.

Al-Dhahabi agreed and said that for an influencer “the most important thing is continuity.”

“Influencers should gain people’s trust,” she said, adding that those who want to be influencers should be specific, persistent, and try to be unique. It should not be their only aim in life to be a fashion-blogger on the Internet, for example. Instead, they should get on with their lives while pursuing their passion in order to create content for their sites, she concluded.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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