The fashionable rise of Jordanian ‘influencers’

The new frenzy of “posting, Instagramming, tweeting, liking and hash-tagging” has gained significant power.
Sunday 13/01/2019
Changing the rules. Jordanian influencer Anood Barqawi poses while taking a selfie.               (Facebook)
Changing the rules. Jordanian influencer Anood Barqawi poses while taking a selfie. (Facebook)

AMMAN - “So, what is it that you do for a living?” “I Instagram! I am an influencer!” answered the slender blonde in her 20s. “I am a fashionista! I inspire young ladies on the latest fashion trends, provide styling tips and I am followed by almost 40,000 people!”

The Amman-based “influencer” is among a growing number of young Jordanians gaining publicity through social media by posting their entire lives to viewers, selecting certain shots to share with their communities or providing advice about places to go or things to do.

She is reportedly paid $2,100 just to show up at events, post photos and use pre-designated hashtags.

These young people are changing the rules of the media scene, not only in Jordan but all over the world.

The new frenzy of “posting, Instagramming, tweeting, liking and hash-tagging” has gained significant power. With 95 million photos and videos posted daily on Instagram, data from Influencer Marketing Hub 2017 Study indicate, it is no secret that such tools are used for marketing purposes, with little authenticity, value or knowledge.

A recent study in the United States said Instagram users like 4.2 billion posts every day, with modelling and fitness accounts topping the list. The Instagram influencer marketing spending reached $1.6 billion in 2018, Mediakix claimed.

While an increasing number of young people are leaning towards becoming “cord-cutters,” their attention is diverting from “classic” media channels, such as television and radio, to more accessible, easier to handle and alluring competitive contender: mobile phones. Statistics worldwide indicate a steep decline in television and print media consumption in favour of portable devices. Jordan has, as of 2017, 260,000 Instagram and 4 million Facebook users.

It might be fair to say that most of the viral posts we interact with on a daily basis are staged or at least not reflective of the real lives of the people behind them. It is alarming to see an increasing number of young Jordanians who have started to model, admire and imitate what they see on their screens, unaware that most of the posts are actually paid, sponsored or tampered with.

“I am obsessed with ‘Sandra’s account.’ I follow her meditation and food routine by heart! I am sure that with my above average photography skills and passion for sports, I will eventually land my own personal brand and gain more followers than she does,” said Hind, a 23-year-old Amman resident who asked to be identified only by her first name.

IT university student, identified as Hamza, voluntarily manages the official Facebook page of Omar, a popular Jordanian food and travel blogger. He assures that followers get interesting tips and useful information on where to go and what to eat by following Omar.

“Omar might not be your typical neat writer but, at 29, he is well-travelled and trilingual and has more than 35,000 likes on Facebook, though he launched the page only last year,” Hamza said.

A close look at Omar’s page shows he presents his content in a smooth, easy-to-understand and concise way. Concise is the word of generation. If you add visually appealing elements, you hit the jackpot.

It is not surprising that in the light of the declining traditional readership figures in the Arab World (6 minutes per year) that Jordanian youth are seeking fast, fun, colourful, animated and, most important, “likes” guaranteeing content. It is the new language of knowledge.

Mohammad Tahhan, a Jordanian digital media expert and trainer living in Canada, said: “These social butterflies are usually young individuals with some sort of communication skills, who know how and when to take the photos, what keywords to use and whom to reach out for to be invited and seen.”

Labelling those young people as “influencers” is quite overrated, Tahhan said. However, in the lack of accurate, internationally agreed upon term that speaks to what they do, the majority of social media users find it easy to call them “influencers.”

It is doubtful that this means more engorged the accounts are, the more effect the persona has on changing followers’ beliefs from the core. However, it does affect their looks, purchasing behaviour, use of language and consuming habits.