The number of Facebook users in the Arab world reached 27.7 million by the end of Q1 2011, an increase of 30 per cent since the beginning of the year, according to the second Arab Social Media Report (ASMR).
This edition monitored the growth of Facebook and Twitter in the region, propelled by the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. It revealed a substantial shift in the use of social media from social purposes towards civic and political action.
The number of active Twitter users in the Arab world during the same period, according to the report, was over 1.1 million users who tweeted at least once every two weeks. These ‘active users’ generated over 22.7 million tweets during Q1 2011. Regional Twitter trends during this period focused primarily on events unfolding during the Arab uprisings. The words ‘Egypt’, ‘Jan25’, ‘Libya’, ‘Bahrain’ and ‘protest’ were the top ‘hashtags’ used by Twitter users in the Arab region.
The report noted that though the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Lebanon are the leading five countries in the region according to the percentage of Facebook and Twitter users, social media growth was the fastest in those countries experiencing social unrest. While Turkey continues to lead the region in terms of number of users, Egypt saw the highest increase in the number of users during the first quarter of 2011 among the Arab countries, adding close to two million Facebook users.
A major impact on brands and advertising
Not so long ago, the relationship that brands had with their clients was the equivalent of one-way street. Clients were told what they should love and how to love it. The only thing the customer could control was their own decision to purchase. But this is no longer the case today with the emerging power of social networks and the impact they have on our daily lives. Consumers now have the ability to speak publicly thanks to the features of the Web 2.0 tools which makes marketing teams extremely nervous.
With Internet users increasingly influential and platforms that are multiplying, social networks have become essential for brands. These spaces can now allow them to reinvent the relationship with the consumer.
In search for a real added-value
Brands should provide real value in order to foster affinity with Internet users and get them eventually to become the brand ambassadors. Social networks are primarily focused on the individual, so brands must place this individual at the heart of their strategy even if sometimes they can be considerd as intrusive.
Between Facebook and Twitter, user profiles and expectations are very different. The first is rather considered as a medium of belonging. Its members display their affinity with certain groups and certain interests.
On Twitter, however, the content is designed to power a community of opinion leaders, prescribers, etc.. So many brands have chosen to use it as a platform for customer relations.
Companies are increasingly likely to launch “Like pages” on Facebook. But what is the real benefit of these pages for the company, particularly in terms of customer loyalty vis-à-vis the brand?
Brands are seeking to promote themselves on social networks, but are still struggling to get results. Some brands do not know how to approach this young medium.
What is the real problem? Interaction.
A simple photo or video are not enough to interact with users of social networks and other social websites. To ensure the success of a campaign (to get a good return on investment, to start a positive buzz around a product, service, initiative), it is necessary to involve the user, to capture his attention, arouse their curiosity. So what should brands actually do? They should create specific web pages and original multimedia content, including videos and contests – even if the theme is not directly related to the core business of brand. The main objective is to create co;;unities around the brand or product. When people find it of value, if the brand pages are relevant to their interests and if they can act on such content (comments, play, create …), they can be ready to accept the fact that they are liking a page that is promoting a brand. In this case, users of social networks do not consider the branded pages as advertisements meaning that they do not want to switch to another page as the case may be faced with banners and pop-ups.
In order to reach their target and drive traffic through social networks, advertisers must encourage interaction with users and rely on advertising. It would be a mistake to limit to the word of mouth or viral marketing. All of us, Internet users, websites, brands, agencies and advertisers must learn to move forward and live together worthy experiences, let them be digitally or in real life. What are your thoughts on the subject? Any Lebanese brand you feel is doing the work properly?