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Hardly a week goes by without a news story or research report into the growing use of social media across the Middle East. However, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject was released just last week, authored by the Dubai School of Government’s Governance and Innovation Program.

The “Arab Social Media Report” (ASMR) provides some welcome quantitative analysis in a field often dominated by anecdote and hypothesis, and delivers a host of illuminating insights – for example, that Kuwaitis are the most active tweeters in the region.

I don’t want to go into much detail but highly recommend taking a closer look at the report.

But what does all this analysis mean for us, as we look to add value and wisdom to our clients in government and business?

Let’s have a quick look at the numbers…

The youth (15-29) are embracing social media most, which is unsurprising given that over half the population falls into this category. As stated in the report, “social media now infiltrates almost every aspect of the daily lives of millions of Arabs, affecting the way they interact socially, do business, deal with government, or engage in civil society movements.

However, one of the common mistakes that brands make as they move into social communications is to treat the discipline as a broadcast medium, rather than an interactive experience. This usually stems from a failure to listen to their audience, before wading in and talking at consumers.

This is where “Smart Listening” comes in – a practice that emphasizes a tailored approach to help understand chatter in the digital sphere and filter noise in the social realm. The ultimate objective of “smart listening” is to extract the relevant signals from online conversations and build business intelligence that supports outreach and engagement. This means that social media monitoring must be customised beyond simple keyword tracking. Keywords and hash tags must be tested and spam filtered, and topics must be drilled into to uncover subtopics and conversation drivers.

Another aspect of “Smart Listening” is to identify opinion drivers, or so called “influencers” and understand the ways they participate in, and shape, online conversations about brands, products or companies.

Simply counting mentions about your company or products provides you with that – numbers without context. At the very least these should be benchmarked against competitors and tracked over time. Numbers with no context will not provide any insight which is required to build a strategy – and this is where “Smart Listening” starts. By breaking down conversations and extracting detailed product and customer feedback, feedback on your company’s corporate social responsibility activities (CSR), how people perceive your company’s (reputation) and how your messages resonate with consumers, journalists, bloggers and analysts; is an approach which doesn’t neglect quantitative data but goes beyond it by adding qualitative analyses.

By identifying relevant topics, key drivers and influencers within the online conversation prior to starting your journey into the space of social media will help avoid any pitfalls, and the continuation of a sophisticated monitoring program will provide a company with valuable insights and allow for higher levels of audience engagement and business goals to be achieved.

Sebastian Troch, digital consultant, Hill+Knowlton AMEASCA

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The latest issue of Middle East Media Educator is out today, and a great read for those in the industry looking to get under the skin of local markets, media and communications trends.

This is the second annual issue under the MEME banner, published by Alma Kadragic (@Almakad) at the University of Wollongong in Dubai, and lives up to the expectations set by the first.

Katy Branson, Head of Technology for H+K Strategies in the UAE, has contributed an article exploring ‘Technology in Media and Communications: Catalyst, Enabler, or Driver of Change?’.

Here’s a snapshot of the article…

In today’s world of always-on connectivity, convergent communications and media  pervasiveness, it would be difficult to deny the pivotal role of technology in changing the shape of society in general and communications specifically. The ‘art’ of communication is unrecognizable in comparison to what our predecessors  had to go to in order to speak with relatives, friends and business contacts. And by predecessors, we do not need to search back far– just through one generation to the world in which our parents were raised is enough to ring the changes.

The question is whether it is the technology itself that is driving evolution in our communications environment. To what extent is the rate of technological change in communications media exerting a direct influence on aspects such as the need for regulatory change in the industry, creation of new media markets and spurring quite radical social change in the region…or should we be looking at social change from a different perspective?

 

…Turn to p109 of MEME to read on!

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