Saudi Focus: Same, but different – by Starfish’s Maria Khoriaty

When looking at influencer marketing, should you go regional or stay local? Starfish’s influencer marketing manager, Maria Khoriaty compares Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Influencer marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools used in digital marketing strategies in GCC countries. Though it is a crucial tool, many are not aware of the best way to use influencer marketing in their marketing strategies, especially when considering working with regional or local influencers. It is crucial in influencer marketing to curate the content according to regional or local needs. Though most countries in the GCC are economically similar, there are differences between their cultures that affect the exercise of influencer marketing in these countries.

One of the best ways to help in deciding whether to go for local or regional influencers is understanding the market needs. In this article we will be using Saudi Arabia as a case in point to explain the use of local influencers, and the United Arab Emirates to describe regional influencers.


First and foremost, Saudi Arabian influencers incorporate their cultures and norms a lot when posting on social media. For instance, it is exceptionally rare to find Saudi influencers speaking in English. Arabic is the language with the highest proportion of influencer content. In the UAE, there is a mix of languages within influencer content: Hindi, English, Arabic, Russian, etc. Additionally, female influencers in Saudi Arabia tend not to show their faces when posting photos, and modest wear tends to be of high importance. Influencers in the UAE come from a diverse range of nationalities, whereas most of the social media influencers or key opinion leaders based in Saudi Arabia are Saudis.

To best use influencer marketing, marketers must know the audience of each market, in Saudi Arabia, the working week begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday. Because of this, for influencers’ posting schedules and to understand which days are best for high engagement, a Saudi Arabian influencer should not post on a weekend that differs from the weekend in the UAE. Furthermore, Saudi influencers seem to be more reserved when posting about their personal lives compared with influencers living in the UAE.


There are several different categories influencers place themselves in, such as fashion, lifestyle, gaming, storytelling, beauty, automotive, motherhood, etc. In the UAE, there is a wider variety of categories for influencers to be placed in because of the wide range of nationalities and differences between people. For every 10 influencers in the UAE you can find at least six different categories; on the other hand, in Saudi Arabia you will find three different categories among every 10 influencers. This could be due to the culture and norms Saudis have within their social media. The most accessible categories in KSA are storytellers, gamers and comedians.

The main social media platform used among the Saudi people is Snapchat, followed by YouTube. People admire staying up to date with other people’s lives. Their activities keep them entertained, and Saudi influencers are natural storytellers. Influencers provide information to their audience, such as activities to do in Saudi Arabia, news happening in Saudi Arabia, new restaurants, discounts, promotions and much more.

Snapchat also has the highest engagement rate for influencer content among other social media platforms. YouTube, being the second most popular platform in Saudi Arabia, has social media influencers who are comedians, gamers and vloggers. In the UAE, the two top social media platforms where creators post are Instagram and TikTok.

Cost and insights

When viewing Saudi Arabia, one should always consider the importance of culture to Saudis in comparison to the UAE. Prices and limitations also come to mind when looking at influencers in KSA. For instance, one may find a micro influencer in Saudi Arabia who has a rate that is cheaper by fifty per cent than a micro influencer in UAE. This is because of the percentage of population in UAE, which has 24.2 million fewer residents than Saudi Arabia. Therefore, an Emirati mega influencer having more than 1 million followers from the UAE might have a higher cost than a Saudi mega influencer of 1 million due to the difference in the population numbers. This plays a key role in the demographic insights and statistics of influencers as well. It is important to stay aware of the population number in Saudi Arabia, because most influencers in KSA must have a high percentage of followers coming from KSA due to the large population. By contrast, 40 per cent of audience demographics coming from the UAE for a UAE-based influencer is considered very good.