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Facehooked, Part I

Facehooked, Part I

How and why marketers in the Middle East are joining the rush to social networking, Part I.

April 21, 2009 9:42 by

Richard Branson and Demi Moore do it everyday. Britney Spears is addicted to it. Coldplay like doing it as a group. And even Barack Obama is at it in the Oval Office. OK, no need to snigger at the back – like everyone else right now, we’re talking about Twitter.

The marketing campaign of the President of the United States has been widely applauded as one of the most successful ever, partly thanks to its brilliant use of social media. “Obama created an official blog for the White House and a YouTube account, and he is broadcasting on both of them,” says Baher Al Hakim of Cloud Appers, a Dubai-based social media agency.

From Twitter to Facebook to YouTube to blogs, social media has never been easier to use as a marketing tool. Major companies across North America and Europe are using one form of social media or the other to engage consumers and interact with them, and to make their brands a part of their target audiences’ lives. Hi-tech companies like Apple, Dell and Microsoft have led the way in using social networks to become more approachable.

Recently, Skittles combined Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and widgets to create a new corporate website, helping to draw widespread attention to the rainbow candy. The site may be visually overwhelming at first sight, but the company’s message is clear: customer feedback and opinion is what matters most. By putting its followers at the forefront of corporate strategy, Skittles is in perfect step with the social media trend.

On this side of the world, the region watched and waited whilst the financial crisis played out, and now that its force has been felt here companies are turning to more frugal marketing ways. Facebook and the like were well established for personal purposes, but marketers are only now truly jumping onto the online networking bandwagon.

Al Hakim appears on Twitter under the name DrBaher, and credits his business’ success to the site. “I tweet about what I’m doing, what I’m passionate about, I post links, I discuss social media. That has got me some sort of regional reputation, and I’d say 80 percent of my current business I got through Twitter,” he says.

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