Meet the Geek: Hosam Abu Alam

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In my latest trip to Jordan, I have managed to sit down and meet with some very interesting people and experts in the Online and Digital industry in the MENA region. My first meeting was with Hosam Abu Alam, who has been working in online marketing for quite sometime now, he has experience managing and marketing web portals and e-commerce properties for international and regional brands.

He is currently a Project Manager at the well-known Yahoo! Inc. (and we had this chat with him over coffee on his personal behalf so views in this editorial do not reflect opinions of his employer). Hosam didn’t like to call himself an expert, however after meeting him and getting to know him I beg to differ, his passion for what he did was undeniable.

My main intention was to see how he views the industry in the region and what works best from his experience with dealing with customers and clients here. We started discussing social media and what he saw was the biggest challenge to which he replied, “Marketers and brands in the region are still not willing to embrace Social Media”. That was in his mind a big drawback, simply because they didn’t know how to handle it. A very good piece of advice he had to offer was that Social Media is not owned by one department, social media is the responsibility of the entire company not only marketing or IT. He even suggests that large companies might find it better to create more than one account if needed for the different departments or brands.

“Something that is very apparent is that brands in the region are still not grasping the idea that they can do so much more with their online and social media efforts they fail to see that it can be tailored exactly to what they need to achieve.” Claimed Hosam. “They are still thinking with the same old media mentalities and still perceive Likes and Followers same as the results of brand-awareness surveys conducted for print and radio.”

To make better use of online marketing Hosam gave the following key points:

  1. Invest in planning
  2.  Identify your target – demographic segments
  3.  Tighten your segments, it’s better to target a 100 qualified prospects than 10,000 random visitors
  4. Clearly define your goal – what should your segments see or do? Always have something measurable
  5. Define several routes – Try different channels, always have a contingency
  6. Monitor and analyze – See what works and focus on it, if it doesn’t work try a different route
  7. Optimize: tweak, monitor and repeat the cycle.

Few tips on how to use social media best:

  1. Use automation tools – make use of some of the third party applications that can help in managing your social media presence more efficiently
  2. You don’t have to be everywhere – you just have to be where your clients are

When it comes to Twitter; followers might be a good performance indicator but it is not necessarily the best metric to measure your success. In addition you can observe:

  1. The number of re-tweets
  2. The number of the quality messages you get
  3. The mentions for your brand

and for Facebook:

  1. Measure the speed of engagement from your users
  2. Measure the type of engagement, commenting, liking, etc…

“Ultimately your goal is to have users read your messages and engage with you, therefore you have to keep it useful and simple for people. Content has been always King and that will never change! What changed is how people are consuming their daily dose of content” explained Hosam.

Then we moved on to discuss what he believes works best in the region and he said without a doubt “People in the Middle East love giveaways and incentives, they appreciate the feeling of accomplishment. Whether it is a virtual trophy or a trendy phone/tablet, it will for sure attract the crowd your way”.

So I asked him if he had ran any campaigns recently and if he could provide us with any details or advice that companies should consider when running contests or competitions, Hosam replied “You have to look for smart ways to give incentives” because these campaigns have an immediate return.  He also gave the following pointers:

  1.   Be an activist: promote the competition among your circle and point out the incentive winners will get
  2. Define your target and dig deeper to better understand your segments and to find where they hang out online
  3. Make the competition mechanism and give-aways relevant to your targeted segment
  4. Encourage users to do something more than just like you on facebook or follow you on twitter (why not let them upload photos of them showing your products? You can even use those in the offline channels you aren’t planning to quit soon )

Hosam then concluded “It’s inevitable when running such a campaign your traffic will dip after the event is completed” that is why it is important to have a good plan to ensure that the goals of the campaign have been met and that you can capitalize on the results that you have gained from running such a campaign.

Finally We’d like to thank Hosam for his time and his views on this matter.

If you have any comments from previous experiences or would like to get in touch with us, let us know below.

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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.