The Big Influence

Oman’s home-grown ‘influencers’ are ruling the social media with their daily dose(s) of suggestions and ideas on a variety of topics, opening exciting new avenues for followers to subtly promoting products and services to their followers


Social media influencers have arrived and how…

Oman’s retail industry has quickly latched on to the trend, scouting high profile social media influencers (SMI) to promote their products/services. Whether it’s the launch of a new product, menu or simply highlight a fashion trend, the new breed of SMIs are proving to be the best bet to create social media flutter and garner the right attention.

In the following feature, we present the takes of two popular SMIs – Halima Abdul Salam and Layla Al Siyabi – on the influence they wield in the infinite world of social media.

For Lifestyle Blogger Halima Al Abdul Salam, the prestigious tag of social media influencer happened when she started sharing her ‘authenticated’ personal experiences on social media, on lifestyle elements – movies, events, beauty products and the like – which caught the interest of her followers. “The number of followers were on an increase, daily, and their interactions and being influenced caught the attention of local and international brands and corporates, which led to me being identified as one of Oman’s SMIs,” she notes. Winner of Al Mara 2015 Excellence Award in Social Media, she relies mainly on Instagram and SnapChat, and also uses Twitter and Facebook. She credits Instagram for building her name and company.

For Layla A. SMI and Creative Director of Being Layla, social media provided an outlet to her fashion design business, following the start of her blog way back in 2010, when she was trying to navigate through her career. As she points out, “I wanted an outlet where I could express myself through fashion, beauty and just being myself. I wanted other women and youth to know that you can be true to yourself while you carry on your journey… That is when ‘beinglayla_A’ came up – it is a platform for many like me who do not fit into labels can connect and find my fashion, beauty and lifestyle ideas as inspiration.” Her journey of ‘influencing’ led her to explore other mediums and soon she started using Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram as well as Facebook to present her views and opinions. “Each of my platforms are utilised to show bits and pieces of myself through fashion, beauty, lifestyle and inspiration,” she adds.
Challenges of being a SMI

Halima: The challenges I faced on the way, in terms of followers, was that some didn’t understand what was I doing (sharing personal experiences and blogging about it). Some thought it was just bragging and showing off. But, eventually, they understood and started supporting. In terms of corporates, some weren’t themselves on the social media, so it was a bit hard to explain the importance and power of social media (but that is changing too).

Layla: There are always challenges in every step you decide to take that is ‘unconventional’. And with social media being such an open platform, where so many different types of people mingle, it came with a price. Generally, I faced naysayers, critics and the ones that didn’t think what I am doing was serious. Overcoming these was through practice and patience. Practicing to be consistent in my content, deciding to stick with my true self and believing that sooner or later there will be hope for what I preach. Two years into this game and I can safely say my journey into social media influencing has been proactive, valuable and encouraging.

Role of SMIs

Halima: In Oman it isn’t as big or accurate as it should be… There are many individuals and corporates who still don’t know the meaning of an influencer. A lot of them think that you are considered one just because you have a big number of followers – which is wrong. It’s true they give more exposure due to the number of followers, but people need to look into their content, what and who do they represent… In this part of the world, most successful SMIs are those in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Layla: With social media taking the front seat at the moment, it is crucial for businesses and individuals to connect to the right audience. Each influencer has his/her own aesthetics, style, influence and audience. As an influencer I believe you should create value to your content; your ideas should be worth sharing. It is very important for the audience to realise why they should dedicate their time to listen, watch or be interactive on your platforms, and to me that is what I focus on. It makes a big difference to businesses and brands, especially in growing economy like ours.

What is needed to become a recognized SMI?

Halima: Be unique, be yourself, don’t imitate, create a specialised line of yourself, see what you are most good at and focus more on it. Improving the way you present it will gain you more success – like how from reviewing food on Instagram led me to have a weekly column on one of the local publications and on YouTube. Recently, I worked on a shooting to be featured in one of MTV Lebanon shows and will soon work with a European channel, to be announced soon.

Layla: Good content – it shouldn’t just be a bunch of photos or videos promoting things. The content you create should have value to yourself, your audience and potential brands and businesses. You should also be able to connect with your audience on a personal level while being honest with your views, reviews and opinions. You have to be brave since you have to put yourself out there.

Can it open up newer career options for Omani youth?

Halima: Indeed it can; but only if you think right and work it right, in a way that both you and the client would benefit from a collaboration. I now own a company, of which one of the activities is to manage social media personalities and influencers, which I collaborate with brands and corporates and link them to influencers and social media personalities.

Layla: Yes I do believe so. Through my career in being a public figure I have had some amazing opportunities, meeting other high profile figures, working with brands I truly believe in… But the most important fact has been that I am able to express all the things I am passionate about and tie it into one form. Omani youth can definitely benefit from this era, where we connect the most through digital life.

What is a typical day in the life of a SMI?

Halima: It begins at night when I check my schedule for the following day and coordinate accordingly. I start by heading to my office and finish pending tasks. Then, rest of the day, is either spent attending events, planning events or just meeting up with clients for possible collaborations. Then end the day with the family during dinnertime…

(Instagram: @halima.alabdulsalam)

Layla: I have to say, it is crazy sometimes. The social media industry is super fast, and not only am I in social media but my niche is fashion and beauty, which means I have to be on top of the game all the time. I take up meetings, do my content creation, schedule posts, attend events, make public appearances, keep in touch with other social media influencers online and offline, video editing and branding. I started as a one-woman show, but I have had the pleasure of forming a reliable brand out of my platform and now have help of equally strong people that helps me keep up with my agenda. My brand manager being my husband, working with a good PR and assistant and of course forming a team for production was evident once my platforms kicked off.
Instagram, twitter and snapchat: @beingLayla_A;



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