Social media marketing is the gold rush of the MENA region

gold rush

gold rush

Last week I bumped into Amer Massimi, a Communication manager at Leo Burnett MENA & social media enthusiast working from the KSA. So we got to talk about social media and see how it was fairing in KSA so I thought I would share some of his insights into the Saudi market, and how marketers are using social media over there and what are the challenges facing them.

How do you feel the MENA region and KSA are handling online and social media?

In a region where Facebook had an accelerated growth of 78% last year, Twitter saw a skyrocketing surge of 240% in less than a year and YouTube videos viewership/upload are one of the highest in the world, Social media marketing is the gold rush of the MENA region, everyone wants to be in it, and everyone wants to know about it! However, I still feel that companies constantly fail to recognize the massive value social media could bring to their business and the important role it holds to achieve an effective integrated marketing communication, that’s in part related to continuous clinging to traditional media use, concerns of tracking ROI and the overall lack of education on the matter, what’s more, we can’t ignore the fact that some advertising agencies are slow in absorbing the shift and applying it to their clients’ brands.

Although you can see some brands embracing social media, implementing active Facebook pages and accounts on twitter, but still they didn’t employ the full social media strategy and planning across their websites or other communication platforms (activating reviews, comments…etc)

Saudi customers expressed through numerous polls that they formed a positive perception about brands that has active presence on social networks who actually listens and engage them in meaningful ways; they have also mentioned that negative impressions about other brands had occurred due to a bad experience with the product/service mentioned in a simple tweet that went viral.

Do you think there are enough budgets in it?

It’s not really about the budgets as much as it’s about how marketers in the region have to utilize social media as a tool and customize it to fit with this region different culture, values and behavior. Companies should employ the right people who are equipped with local strategic expertise to contribute to the success of a brand social effort.

In the same time, we can see the increase in MENA digital marketing budgets to accommodate more online marketing activities but still rewards traditional online marketing tools such as email marketing or online spots on high-traffic-websites! And Social media marketing wins a smaller cut of the pie so far.

What kind of obstacles do you face when you mention this to your clients? What are the main challenges?

There are many challenges for social media marketing mindset at the client end, as most of the clients are still preoccupied with traditional media channels, they see that his audience won’t respond positively, or they can’t track ROI and impact or they prefer to allocate the communication budgets at other channels.
At the end of the day, the core of every campaign is either to acquire, retain or grow profitable customers, so responsibility lies on the agencies to educate Clients that social media marketing is the one of the most effective & efficient ways of reaching customers. “Unless”, as per David Meerman Scott author of the fantastic book New rules of Marketing and PR said: “if you’re selling camels at the Riyadh camel market, then keep marketing the same old ways!!”

I’m fully optimistic that more brands in Saudi and the ME region will respond once the right case is set, and we will see them going social in a short period of time.
I guess most of the clients should invest more in social media marketing, interact with both fans and existing customers who love the brand, and defend their products at the questioning customers, by having a simple and human conversation; it will be appreciated and rewarded by glad customers.

Did you get a chance of running any campaigns, and would you like to share the results? If positive what were the steps you had taken? and if negative what would you change or what did you learn from it?

In Leo Burnett we were eagerly watching the shift in customer’s online, social media marketing really complements our HumanKind communication, where we consider the real success of any work we do results from the participation and engagement of people which is at the heart of any work we do.

We have some cases for social media campaigns, with some remarkable results; we have learned a lot from various examples; however, we are constantly monitoring to see what the trends are to optimize it in the right way to our client’s success and customer’s satisfaction.

Some tips learned through the way:

  1. Customers  expect brands to be active on social networks and demand attention for their problems or views
  2. Deal with the fact that some not so favorable things will be said about your brand by listening and solving any problems through transparent conversation
  3. Engage fans constantly, it’s not about setting up profiles and updating them once a while, interesting content should pave the way for engaging with customers and building relationships with the brand
  4. Take your fans opinions and emphasize how their feedback is essential in building  better products/services
  5. Show your fans some love! Reward them by simple gestures for their active contributions, and watch positive word of mouth spreading
  6. Keep authenticity and humanize the brand online as possible

So there you have it, I’d like to thank Amer Massimi for his input. You can follow Amer on Twitter @amermassimi

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Having worked with top digital agencies and companies in the MENA region for the past number of years I'm now looking now to venture on my own with small side projects in online, SaaS products. Things I like include: gaming, sports, technology, social media, start ups, funny things and reading about new bright ideas.