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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

In February Al Hakim and fellow social media enthusiasts organized a Twestival – an event where people on Twitter met in the flesh – in Dubai at the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi hotel (which also tweets). Since then he and other social media insiders have seen use of Twitter explode in the region, and particularly in the UAE.

“The adoption rate of Twitter in the UAE went through the roof in February,” says Carrington Malin, managing director of Spot On Public Relations. “It was about a 150 percent increase in users, going from around 500 users to around 1200. That includes brands, employees, and people who represent brands.”

Virgin Middle East recently turned to Spot On PR for strategic help in branching out into social networks, and plans to expand its social media initiative. “We started using social media about six months ago, by creating fan pages on Facebook,” says Elie El Massih, head of marketing at Virgin in the UAE, who sponsored the Twestival. “We have the Virgin Club, where we promote activities or our latest products. We’ve got about 90,000 fans on there.”

“We started using Twitter about two months ago,” continues El Massish. “We tweet about promotions, competitions, giveaways, and concerts. It’s picking up really fast, but membership numbers are not like the fan pages on Facebook. We have a dedicated person in our store, a marketing executive, who dedicates one hour a day to Twitter to reply to everything. We’re going to change her title to Tweet manager.”

With all the hype and excitement surrounding social networks, companies must be aware of the pitfalls of being connected so extensively all of the time. Malin says companies must remember they still need a marketing plan. “Everybody’s seen how easy it is to create Facebook pages and MySpace profiles, or go online with virals,” he says. “But at the end of the day, if you’ve got a marketing program online, the same principles apply as with marketing programs in other mediums in terms of planning and strategy. So we’re involved with clients on that level to ensure that they have a solid plan before they start.”

First seen on Communicate magazine.

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