A social media influencer course rolled out by a Dubai university will encourage those carving out careers in the burgeoning industry to be 'professional and ethical' while building their brands.
The eight-month diploma, taught at American University in Dubai since September, is aimed at established and aspiring influencers and is the first course of its kind in the region.
The UAE has sought to regulate the booming digital sector in recent times, amid concerns about a 'freebie culture' of influencers demanding exorbitant fees, meals and stays in exchange for publicity.
More than a thousand people have been granted licences to operate as social media influencers since new laws were brought into force in 2018.
Influencers must apply for a trade licence and an e-media licence at a cost of Dh15,000 to post content promoting brands on social media, under rules introduced by the National Media Council in March last year.
Dr David Schmidt, president of American University in Dubai, said through the social media influencer programme, people can learn about the laws which govern being a social media influencer in the UAE.
"The programme also looks at the responsibilities of being a social media influencer," said Dr Schmidt.
"This has gone beyond a trend and is empowering people to grow their niche audiences."
Students will be informed of the necessary licenses they must obtain as well as guidelines on what topics can be mentioned on social media.
The programme trains social media influencers in strategic communications and enables them to produce effective content.
"The diploma allows participants to experiment and acquire hands-on expertise and knowledge in emerging technological in the social media field," said Dr Imad Hoballah, provost and chief academic officer at American University in Dubai.
The course was initially offered to 100 active and prospective social media influencers in the UAE, and later will be taught in batches of 20 students.
Hoteliers across the Emirates are in favour of the course.
Caroline Rowe, a hospitality marketing professional with 15 years of experience and director of brand marketing at The First Group in Dubai, said it is clear that social media influencers are here to stay - and should be supported rather than scoffed at.
"We know that one can make a living and have an income from being an influencer. Yet, many people complain or laugh about it.
"If we are going to teach people how to be influencers in a way that is professional, ethical and more creative while helping others during the course then, why not?
"We should not be scared just because it (social media influencer) is a new job title. We should embrace this."
She said this course will help add clarity and structure to the sector.
"It is working towards the professionalisation of the relationship and starting a discussion about the relationship between the influencer and the brand," she said.
"The more professionalism and structure we can put into the relationship the better."
"This is a well-planned and well-thought course. The best part is they are offering this to 100 influencers and will get a lot of input from influencers on what works and what does not," said Jenson Samuel, marketing and e-commerce manager at Mercure Dubai Barsha Heights hotel.
"Dubai has a wide range of hotels from three stars to five stars and with Expo 2020 coming up, we will be able to build good strategies with influencers which will boost Dubai as a destination."
The hotelier explained that influencers will be equipped with presentation skills so that they can show analytics and statistics from their social media accounts when collaborating with a brand.
"Influencers will be taught to add facts and figures which will not only add value to them but for the brand they are collaborating with," he said.
"This course will enhance their skills and will add value to both the influencers and the industry."
Last month, The National attended a day of the course and reported that the programme is about understanding why social media matters today and how influencers can harness that power to bring about change.