Charting the social path for Middle East corporates

Social media tools have become a staple in the everyday lives of many people. Enabling individuals to merge their offline and online experiences, it has become one of the lead methods of social connection and interaction across many societies. Yet, it seems that brands in the Middle East are still trying to play catch-up, when it comes to engaging with a consumer base that is clearly quite active online.

Earlier this year Bayt.com published a report on Corporate Usage of Social Media in the Middle East, following a poll it had carried out among communication professionals across more than 12 countries in the MENA region. The report goes some way in shedding light on why this is happening:

  • The majority of respondents (29.8%) are looking for content on social media that is educational and informative.
  • Eight out of every ten respondents (81.6%) claim that the potential for social media to damage a company’s reputation is one of the biggest challenges to overcome.

Now, while brands/corporates struggle to overcome their fear of the social media platform, from the consumer side, adoption of all things digital is steadily going from strength to strength; with Facebook undoubtedly leading the pack among social networks (see the Social Media Cheat Sheet we shared last week).

Although figures suggest that corporate are struggling with strategically linking their participation in social media to their business goals, it is clear that adoption of social media in our region is steadily increasing and the value that social networks have to users in MENA countries is highly significant.

The graph below illustrates the penetration of three of the most popular social network services in select Arab countries.

A couple of weeks ago Econsultancy published a report on the growth & impact of social media usage across the Middle East. The fuller Internet Statistics Compendium 2012, which covers Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia & the UAE, is available from here and is a worthwhile investment for companies/brands keen to understand the digital landscape across the region.

Interesting report highlights:

  • LinkedIn outperforms Twitter across many countries – most significantly, in the UAE where the business-focused network reaches more than 12% of the population (compared to around 3% for Twitter).
  • In the UAE, Facebook penetration is more than 40% of the population, followed by Kuwait at 34%.
  • Eight out of every ten respondents (81.6%) claim that the potential for social media to damage a company’s reputation is one of the biggest challenges to overcome.
  • The majority of respondents (29.8%) are looking for content on social media that is educational and informative.

Here in the UAE, we are in a unique position in that we have a consumer that is brand savvy & very familiar with digital tools. Likewise as managers of global brands we have access to case studies and industry reports on successes and wins on the adoption of best practice social media from our counterparts in more advanced markets such as the UK & US.

Combine this with efforts by ‘local’ platforms such as Bayt, Govt, etc that are publishing more reports with comprehensive insight & highlights from ME markets helping us to better understand the relationship between users and social networks as something more than a superficial past-time – marketers and businesses have the opportunity to leverage the growing significance of digital and chart the social path for a Middle East audience.