DUBAI: The rise of digital and social media has been prolific over the past two years – a phenomenon that has only been accelerated by the pandemic. So it’s no surprise that social media was one of the hot topics of discussion at the recent Step 2022 conference in Dubai, UAE.
The two-day tech festival covered a variety of topics related to digital media, fintech, future technologies, health and wellness, and the start-up ecosystem.
One trend in social media marketing is a shift of power from brands to content creators, which empowers creators, said Mashal Waqar, co-founder and COO of media startup The Storm.
During a panel titled Table Turn: Creators, Economy, and Brands, she said, “There’s so much change, even in terms of what creators will say yes and no to, whether it’s of brand deals, revenue or partnerships – there’s a huge shift in dynamics.
This shift in dynamics, a certain “reclaiming of power” by content creators, Waqar added, had changed the narrative.
Waqar was joined by Abed Agha, founder and CEO of Vinelab, and Michelle Arrazcaeta, head of brand strategy and collaborations at Polaroid.
The global trend of content creators having more power – especially branded content – is also true in the Middle East. Although the region is generally slow to follow global trends, this is no longer the case, Agha said.
He explained that social media platforms were “nice to have channels”, but as the industry is booming, social media now has its own budget in the media pie.
As society moves away from “hierarchies toward networks that can monetize these modes of influence,” brands have new opportunities to participate in conversations, Agha said.
The power of content creators comes not only from their autonomy, but also from their ability to connect and grow their network and audience. “It’s the power that people have now and it’s provided by the networks, (along with) the power to connect with people on other networks and in other geographies,” Arrazcaeta said.
When brands work with content creators, trust is of the utmost importance. Brands need to trust creators with content while keeping in mind that to earn the trust of creators and their audiences, they need to stay true to themselves.
Arrazcaeta added that brands should be able to get to know each other, know their values and what they stand for, and connect with creators who share those same values. A successful example of brand collaboration is where there is mutual respect and alignment of values between the brand and the content creator, she said.
Globally, there has been a massive growth in the volume of media consumption, said Lemya Soltani, managing partner of Next Broadcast Media, during a panel titled Growing and Scaling Content Channels.
She was joined by Waqar and Casey Fitzgerald, lead writer and host, Lovin Dubai.
In the United States alone, public consumption has grown 276% over the past seven years, said Soltani, who explained “brands’ appetite to run ads around this content” and monetize it through sponsorships or even producing their own content, as in the case of podcasts.
However, the struggle, almost always, is growing the numbers and knowing the trick behind growing content channels.
Panelists discussed frequently asked questions such as how podcasters can get more listeners, how content creators on YouTube can get more views, and how social influencers can get more followings and likes. commitment?
For Fitzgerald, it’s about choosing the right platform for the right content.
“It’s about understanding the platform you’re on, so when you’re getting started you really need to understand the flow and the algorithm and then be consistent,” she said.
Waqar added that brands often misunderstand the platform, which is why they might not see the results they hoped for. For example, “I love TikTok – the access you get is unprecedented and I think the one mistake a lot of people make is they overthink it,” she said. “It’s not a platform where you have to think too much – it’s literally about creating and feeling comfortable with being unfiltered.”
The 10th Step Conference 2022 event, organized in partnership with Dubai Internet City, took place on February 23-24.