TikTok grows in GCC despite global controversy

the most popular TikTok influencers in the GCC have emerged on the platform itself rather than crossing over from more established social media channels, such as Instagram. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 01 September 2020

TikTok grows in GCC despite global controversy

Short-form mobile video platform TikTok is seeing phenomenal growth across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with the app ranking among the top downloads in regional Apple and Google Play Stores despite the controversy surrounding the Chinese-owned platform in the US and elsewhere.

TikTok App Store Rankings, August 1, 2020


Apple App Store

Google Play Store



















                                            Source: similarweb.com

The region’s top content creators are continuing to grow their follower base and generate fan engagement.

Latest figures from analytics and technology consultancy Anavizio, which has been tracking TikTok’s growth in the GCC throughout this year, shows that new influencers on the platform are enjoying phenomenal fan growth, with a number of top content creators from Saudi Arabia and the UAE increasing their fanbase by a million or more between February and August. This includes influencers such as UAE-based Sarahh Miladd (@sarahhmiladd), who has seen her fanbase surge from 4 million in February to 6.6 million as of mid-August, with an average of 126,000 hearts and 2,000 comments per video.

Influencers in other GCC countries, while perhaps not seeing the same follower growth numbers in absolute terms due to smaller fanbases, are nevertheless seeing incredible growth in percentage terms.

TikTok Follower Growth (select GCC Influencers)



Feb 2020

Jul 2020

Aug 2020

% Change


@ jumana_khan_






@ sarahhmiladd





Saudi Arabia

@ a5_l





Saudi Arabia




































Source: TikTok

As seen from the table above, influencers have continued to increase their fanbase between July and August despite an executive order from the US that could see TikTok banned in the country or the recent prosecution of five TikTokers in Egypt for indecency.

Of note is that the most popular TikTok influencers in the GCC have emerged on the platform itself rather than crossing over from more established social media channels, such as Instagram. This new breed of influencers by and large appears to be younger than on other platforms and more in tune with TikTok’s Generation Z audience.

Beauty industry mogul Huda Kattan (@hudabeauty) is one of the few celebrities or influencers to have successfully crossed over, ranking among the top UAE-based TikTok influencers with 2.1 million followers (although this pales in comparison to her 47 million Instagram followers).

However, this is not for a lack of trying; many GCC celebrities and established influencers have flocked to TikTok over the past year. It may therefore simply be a question of time before the better-known personalities establish themselves on the app. Examples include Saudi Arabian TV personality Lojain Omran (@lojain_omran), with 9 million followers on Instagram compared to 66,000 on TikTok, or Emirati singer Ahlam Al-Shamsi (@ahlamalshamsi), who has 12 million Instagram followers and just under 140,000 on TikTok.

At the same time, the more successful cross-over influencers who have gained a million or more followers on TikTok — such as Huda Kattan, Saudi fashion model Model Roz (@modelroz, 1.4 million TikTok followers) or Emirati internet couple Khalid & Salama (@khalidandsalama, 1.7 million followers on TikTok) — are in a race against the new TikTok stars who remain a step ahead by continuing to rapidly grow their follower base.

However, one must also bear in mind the format and lighthearted nature of content on TikTok. New influencers on the platform are all highly innovative content creators, putting out skits and routines on a range of topics such as fashion, beauty, comedy or dance. While these subjects, particularly fashion and beauty, align with the interests of popular influencers on other platforms, the key is to package the content in a way that appeals to the generally younger audience on TikTok.

Creating the right content and presenting it in new and engaging ways applies as much to brands as it does to celebrities and mainstream influencers. Brands in the GCC region have yet to take to TikTok in a big way, with product promotions making up just 1 percent out of a sample of 8,000 influencer posts analyzed by Anavizio.

TikTok as a whole is popular among Generation Z, whose members have strong notions about such things as brand purpose and who may not necessarily engage with content that is blatantly promotional. Should brands, therefore, wish to capitalize on the TikTok growth trend, they would need to tweak their existing influencer marketing strategy to suit the platform, focusing on whom they want to reach and speaking their language.

At the same time, brands need to allow influencers creative license to create content in their own unique styles, which fans have come to love and expect. While this would need to be done within agreed parameters that protect a brand’s image and reputation, seeking too much control stifles creativity, rendering influencer marketing ineffective and backfiring among the intended audience. On no platform is this more important than TikTok, where success is so tightly linked with creativity.

However, prior to taking the TikTok plunge, the bigger question for brands will be the fate of the platform in the US. While Tiktok’s global problems have not yet had an impact on its usage and growth in the Middle East, it would be prudent for brands to take a wait-and-see approach over the next few months. If, for instance, American companies are banned from dealing with TikTok, as the recent White House executive order suggests may happen, then the app will presumably be removed from the Apple and Google app stores. Such a development would obviously have a worldwide impact irrespective of any given government’s stance on the matter. Nevertheless, that should not stop brands who would otherwise be willing to enter the TikTok fray from starting to think creatively about how to engage on the platform once the time is right.

The research is based on a sample of 8,000 videos posted by the most popular TikTok users — based on follower numbers — in each of the six GCC countries between January 15 and August 15, 2020.

Egyptian YouTubers could face jail time for 'blackface' prank on daughter

Updated 17 September 2020

Egyptian YouTubers could face jail time for 'blackface' prank on daughter

CAIRO: Egyptian YouTubers Ahmad Hassan and his wife Zeinab could face a possible jail term, according to a child expert, after a prank video showed them scaring their infant daughter and laughing as she cried. 

Dr. Sahar Al-Sunbati, undersecretary of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood in Egypt, the incident of Zeinab's intimidation of her daughter was monitored by the council.

Al-Sunbati was quoted on TV channel Saad El-Balad saying that a report was submitted to the Public Prosecutor's Office over the incident and that the couple could face a jail term for their act. 

The couple filmed their daughter’s reaction to seeing her mother Zeinab after she had applied brown paint to her face to prank her child. 

Zeinab can be seen laughing as her frightened daughter cries and screams at her mother’s unfamiliar face.  

The video was met with outrage and people accused the parents of mistreating and exploiting their child for fame on social media.

Some users called on authorities to save the innocent child from her parents.

The couple have a YouTube channel where they share videos of their daily life and has five million subscribes.

Applying black and brown face paint - known as "blackface" - is considered a symbol of racism given its historic associations with negative portrayals of African-Americans.