For marketers wishing to expand their business’ reach in the Middle East, a strong social media presence is critical.

There are notable differences when comparing the region to the West, which should not be overlooked when planning your social strategy in order to take advantage of the countries’ rapidly growing digital landscape.

Be Fast

Statistically, the largest activity of internet users in the Middle East is spending time on social media*. What sets them apart from the West, is their consideration of Social Media as direct commercial channels. Customers naturally tend to buy directly on social channels, straight after a positive interaction with the brand, whereas in the West internet users use social channels as more of an inspiration phase, but mostly make their purchase on the dedicated websites of the brands or in-store, sometimes only much later*.

The new and most efficient way to get attention and visibility among end-users is to collaborate with opinion leaders. The impact of influencers’ opinions can be tremendous, as their recommendations can promote conversation about specific brands and drive significant sales. Social media in the Middle East is the playground for many influencers with large followings, with their tips about beauty, fashion, and travel – to name only a few – are highly considered among their average of 20 million fans.

Be Smart

It’s not as easy as it sounds of course. There are several questions marketers need to have considered before rushing to collaborate with influencers: what is the best social channel for a specific industry? How do I get the greatest return for my brand?

It appears that Twitter and Facebook have lost some of their past glory, and that Instagram is the new digital black. Indeed, in order for companies to effectively reach out to their audiences, Instagram currently seems to be the best tool to create customer loyalty and winning new followers. Insta’s last bold move was to release “biddable advertising formats” that brands can use to increase their online reach. Forward3D, one of the first agencies to have tested the platform’s Story ads, experienced prodigious impact and performance: the outcomes weren’t only measured in popularity increase but also website visits and direct sales.

Be Strategic

The last, but not least, key component to take into consideration before ceasing the opportunity offered by social media is the matter of ‘Performance linguistics’. Marketers will have to test and experiment different linguist variants and measure their performances on the various online platforms in order to be able to fully take advantage of the region’s online opportunities.

It is important to be aware that the Middle East presents a variety of dialects and local languages, which should be carefully identified in order to get the best out a digital campaign. Businesses therefore have to understand how messages in classical Arabic versus English or local dialect performs.

Social media is a key communication channel for commercial operations, but strategic adjustment and adaptation of campaigns to the distinct online cultures of customers are the major challenges that companies will face when planning on expanding their operations in the Middle East region.

Authored by Alexandra Mezhonova and Hind Hassan