Opinion: Everybody wants to be an influencer. Sondos Al Qattan shows why most people shouldn't

ITP Live general manager Ahmad Bashour on why Influencer marketing is now a serious business, with serious rules
Opinion: Everybody wants to be an influencer. Sondos Al Qattan shows why most people shouldn't
Kuwaiti influencer Sondo Al Qattan.
Thu 26 Jul 2018 05:45 PM

In many ways it’s the dream job. You wear the coolest clothes, eat in the finest restaurants and visit the trendiest places. Most of the time, big companies pay you huge amounts of cash to say something nice about them. You probably can’t remember the last time you paid for anything. But that doesn’t come easy…Many think that your main requirement to get this job is to be very good looking, highly photogenic and say something vaguely interesting (that’s often the hard bit) every now and again. But to be a real influencer, that’s not the case.

At ITP Live, we get approached by several hundred potential influencers every week. But we’ve only signed 30 plus in two years. Why? What could be easier? The unfortunate truth is that while some of them are of genuine quality, many aren’t. The influencer marketing industry is now a serious $6.5bn a year business. A serious business has serious rules, and no time for people like Sondos Al Qattan.

The Kuwaiti influencer surely always dreamt of one day really going global, just not like this. Last week, Al Qattan posted a video of herself pontificating on the new Kuwaiti labour laws, and why she wasn’t keen on now having to give her maid a day off.  "The new laws that have been passed are like a pathetic film. For her [domestic worker] to take a day off every week, that's four days a month. Those are the days that she'll be out. And we don't know what she'll be doing on those days, with her passport on her."

Her video soon went viral, and her career down the pan. Big brands who previously loved the fact she was young, smart and had 2.3million followers on Instagram are now hating the fact they ever signed her up. MAC Cosmetics gave her the boot, with the likes of Anatasia Beverly Hills, Max Factor Arabia, French perfume brand M. Micallef, the UK-based Chelsea Boutique, as well as cosmetics brands Shiseido and Etude House all now distancing themselves from Al Qattan.

From perfumes to pariah in three days. Oh how ironic the power of social media is. What I would say on the Al Qattan issue is that had she apologised after the first post she would probably have seen this through. She should have learned from the master of self-inflicted messes, Logan Paul.  A nice friendly TV interview on the error of her ways, but how this has all made her a better person. Haters gonna always hate. Maybe even dinner with her maid, the two of them posting together on Instagram. Who knows, had she really played this right, she could one day have got the freedom of Manila. Instead, to now come out and say this is a foreign media campaign against Islam and the Hijab is both ludicrous and shameful.

But as this story continues to get new legs (thanks mostly to her), there are important wider issues here for both brands and influencers. As I said earlier, this is now a serious industry. According to Mediakix, global ad spend on influencer marketing went up from $500m in 2015 to $6.3bn this year and $10bn by 2020. Advertisers likely to spend $1.6bn on Instagram alone in 2018 and $2.38bn in 2019.

All of which means that brands must be far more careful before choosing who to work with. Checking that someone doesn’t have fake followers is only the start. What about the social background, the likes and dislikes, and yes, even their political views? Isn’t that what any employer looks at before hiring someone on a big salary (even if they won’t admit it?).

I am sure Al Qattan’s many contracts had clauses that meant she could be fired for doing anything that brought the brand into disrepute. With influence comes responsibility.

But not too late. She still has a small window in which to make a genuine apology. Done the right way, she can have impact the views of the fans who have wrongly sided with her. She is still young, still influential. Now she must make a positive influence. And it really is a case of now or never.

Ahmad Bashour is the General Manager of ITP Live

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