In 2016 “We Are Social” gathered a comprehensive report on the digital status of the world. Although the report consists of 537 pages which includes results from the entire globe, today I will analyse and conclude the results concerning the Middle East alone. This report will give great guidelines for brands to improve their behaviour on social media in the Middle East.
Since 2015 there has been a substantial growth of 17% in internet users and more than 7.5 million new active social media users. What tends to be forgotten, is that many Middle Eastern countries’ social media use exceeds by far our Western social media interaction. The 2016 report also shows that Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait are rapidly adopting internet and mobile use, easily exceeding our European and American counterparts.
Here are some facts that we learned.
1. The United Arab Emirates is online, constantly!
More than 40% of consumers have bought something online in the last month compared to the UK (26%) and KSA (22%). 97% of the UAE have access to the worldwide web putting the UK and USA behind at 92% and 87%!
2. Middle Easterners and their smartphones.
It’s very usual to see people walking with 2 or even 3 smartphones – each phone serving a different purpose. Qatar (209%), Kuwait (192%), Bahrain (188%), The UAE (187%), KSA (181%) and Egypt (102%) are all exceeding the world’s average of 99% of active mobile phone connections.
3.Social media – the expression channel of the ME.
Qatar (75%), UAE (69%), KSA (40%) and Egypt (30%) of the population are active on social media. On average Middle Easterners are spending 3-4 hours daily on online social activities. The majority are using mobile phones to access and update the world about their social life and express views that otherwise, they can’t express.
4. How important are desktops?
As mentioned earlier, so many people own at least one or two phones, which are primarily being used to access the internet and social media. 55% of Saudi Arabia, 50% of the UAE and 30% Egypt are accessing the internet through their mobiles. This puts the global average of 39% and the UK’s 28% clearly behind. This does not however exclude desktops as they are still used widely at work and at homes, which means that both devices need to be taken into consideration.
5. It’s time to change, and quick!
The Middle East is spending most of its free time staring at the screens. Digital content translates into digital advertising, especially display advertising. The growing audience means that brands need to think about branding strategies. Attracting those Arabs, Millennial Muslims, Mipsterz, Muslim Futurist, or call them whatever you wish, means growing your business. Remember, high-quality Arabic and Persian language content is a must!
6. Speaking of Persian Language!
Iran is a new, upcoming giant with a population of 80 million of which 40% or more are online. Iran is already active on Instagram and many other platforms, however social media marketing is still in its early stages. E-commerce is still an untapped market. Hungry young sub-cultures and niches are ready to spend and consume the right services or products. Whether you are a B2B or B2B marketer, ignoring this golden opportunity is simply insane.
It’s only a matter of time when non-digital/non-social media marketers will fail to keep our interests away from our mobile screens anymore. Branding managers, directors and HR managers need to seriously think and strategies in creative manners for the Middle East. A hungry audience with a lack of high-quality native language content means hundreds of thousands of purchasing opportunities.
The Middle East has always been a noisy place and that will not change. To be heard you need to create a loud buzz.
By: Anmar Matrood