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Top five 2014 Middle East social media trends

As we step into a brave new year it is time to reflect and review on the previous year and what key learnings we can bring to our clients and colleagues moving into 2014.

Over the festive season I have had a chance to take stock and examine my experience to date working in this region and what that has taught me about consumer and corporate social media usage. I have created a presentation below to accompany this Tumblr, your thoughts, opinions and comments are welcome as I am keen to hear different opinions from other professionals working in Social Media.

Google Plus comes of age

As far as the big players are concerned, I think one to watch in 2014 will be Google Plus. Google+ is quickly gaining steam, and in fact, now has the second highest number of monthly users globally (343 million).

With Google using the platform to collect personal information (think demographics, location, etc.), Google+ should no longer be thought of as ‘just’ another social network. It’s increasingly proving itself to be an integral part of Google’s grand scheme in terms of SEO, social signals and providing a more personalized search experience. This is especially apparent with the importance of Google Authorship, which I project will be one of the key components to Google’s search ranking algorithm by the end of 2014.

I believe that businesses who are finding themselves spread thin with their social media efforts will increasingly turn to Google+ as the closest thing we have to a ‘one size fits all’ social network.

As Google+ moves towards even greater integration with other aspects of the web – as they’ve already done with their foray into local search – I think we’ll see its growth skyrocket, both in terms of business and personal use.

Mobile is THE platform of choice here in the Middle East, The MENA region has the second highest rate of smartphone shipments out of Asia, so the region is growing like crazy.

Brands that purposefully place mobile at the heart of their experience, telling stories through the apps that embody the brands character will be the winners in 2014. Whether its allowing customers to pay with a digital wallet, read content or redeem points brands need to show consumers in the Middle East that they are as connected as their consumers.

As brands continue to focus on stories and experiences, not just ads and messaging, they will continue to create opportunities for customers and fans to engage with them intuitively through mobile. Gaming and applications specific for the regional consumer will continue to boom in 2014 with brands increasingly engaging consumers through this medium.

However, sadly the mobile networks haven’t caught up here in terms of creating affordable mobile internet. Lack of free wifi and mobile internet access is severely damaging consumer ability to connect.

Social Driving Commerce

As a region known for trade and trading, making money is very important to businessmen here in the region and we are always being asked how social can drive the bottom line.

Well I believe that 2014 will see the coming of age of digi/social/mobile commerce.  In 2013, 54.2 million people in the Middle East and Africa will have made at least one purchase via any digital channel during the calendar year. By 2017, the region’s digital buyer audience is expected to reach 94.0 million people, or 10.3% of its population.

Understanding the social, digital  and mobile shopper will become increasingly important for retailers wanting to drive engagement, customer loyalty and footfall to malls.

2013 was a year where trust in eCommerce sites to deliver increased. Fuelled by different payment options like cash on delivery the foundation is set to see eCommerce boom in 2014 for local, regional and international players alike.

What is also interesting is not only did eCommerce come of age but we are seeing mobile commerce start to drive higher ticket purchases like subscriptions. Further, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE stand respectively at 17, 16, and 13% are reasonable consumers of content as well according to MEF’s Third Global Consumer Survey for 2013.

Another commerce trend we are seeing in the region coming out of Kuwait but I predict will become more popular in 2014 is I-Commerce or driving revenue using Instagram as a free webstore.  Instagram provides enterprising Kuwaitis a free mobile and social platform, similar to the business-to-consumer platform Taobao in China, which is modeled after e-Bay. There’s no payment method on Instagram, but users post numbers to contact them on messaging services like WhatsApp or Kik, or an e-mail address for interested buyers to get in touch.

Here’s a look at one one of these self-made Kuwaiti retailers, an Instagram user by the handle of sheeps_sell who appears to be selling sheep:

 

Visual Storytelling From Brands Will Be Crucial For Engagement Success

Fifty years ago, David Ogilvy asked: “Are your ads looking more like magazine spreads yet?” The advertising and communications worlds listened, introducing infomercials, advertorials, product placement, sponsored programming and brand journalism. Now we have the next iteration of content creation – visual storytelling that is part of a well thought out integrated content plan across owned, paid and earned media.

The new platforms on the block to fuel visual storytelling are Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. As well as platforms that focus on ephemeral content like Snapchat and Vine. Although we can’t get hold of user figures on these platforms here in the Middle East, I know that early adopters will certainly be trialling these platforms if brands want to experiment with bespoke, targeted communications to a young audience then I would encourage them to trial campaigns here.

 

Social Events

Seeing the success of some major shows here in the region on social such as Arab Idol I think we will see some of the local broadcasters placing a heavier emphasis on social integration and interaction across second and third screens.

Sporting, social and music events, even conferences will elevate their social offerings this year. They have started to do the basics but there is a lot to learn and I think more sophistication and focus on great content will elevate the strategic approaches brands and companies offer here in the Middle East in 2014.

 

Social Business Is A Strategic Imperative

Senior managers, business leaders and board members here in the region will need to embrace social as a strategic imperative and one where they need to invest. This starts first and foremost with hiring Grade A Talent that really understands consumer behavior, using gamification theory and storytelling techniques to take their community management to a different level. For inspiration, simply read anything from Lithium’s Michael Wu, PHD.

Then I would hope that business here in the region looks to social to help make them smarter, more efficient and more profitable, happy places to work. I have to say I agree with Scott Hebner’s, VP Of Social Business at IBM, view on social business.  “Social business is not just about collaboration, it’s about unlocking the engines of collective knowledge, differentiated expertise and rapid learning”.

Social is no longer just about collaboration. To be meaningful and to deliver business value, social has to help business leaders break down silos and barriers across the organization. It needs to facilitate sharing knowledge but more importantly collaboration. In the fantastic book Freakanomics are told how the power of the collective solves complex problems and we need to apply that to how we do business.  I also believe we will start to see smart organization leveraging social content tools and marketing strategies to facilitate learning across the business. I know here at Social@Ogilvy our intranet and elearning site is the heart blood of how we ensure all of our employees are up to speed with the latest techniques and know how.

So to summarise, 2014 is going to be the year of mobile, visual storytelling, integrated media, commerce through social. We believe broadcasters here in the region and events organisers will elevate their engagement and advocacy through social. I’m excited about the year ahead, are you?

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