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Facehooked, Part II
How and why marketers in the Middle East are joining the rush to social networking, Part II.
April 22, 2009 7:29 by Rania Habib
Smaller companies could benefit the most from social networks. With costs kept at a minimum and widespread reach, the medium proves beneficial for up and coming businesses such as Wild Peeta, a Dubai-based restaurant owned by Mohamed Parham and his brother, Rashed. Long before the restaurant even opens its doors, the siblings are using social media to publicise their venture.
“Funny enough, by being on Facebook, Twitter, BlipFM and MySpace and others, we’ve been getting a lot of opportunities on mainstream media, such as this interview and an upcoming radio interview on Dubai 92,” says Parham. “The opportunities that have come up just from us interacting with our audience have been amazing. “
“Basically, Twitter is on pretty much all day,” he continues. “I ask a lot of questions, I get feedback. Getting that perspective from our consumers, you can’t put a price on that. Our menu today is different than it was at the beginning of our project because people have written in with suggestions. I also got some advice from a fellow Tweep about my site, and I eventually found out he was an award-winning restaurant consultant from Texas. So it’s not just people from this city, country or region giving advice, it’s people all over the world.”
Engagement is the name of the social networking game, with marketers venturing into that world under high pressure to listen, interact, and innovate at a rapid pace. Jassim Ali, digital director at PHD iQ, the interactive media arm of PHD, says it isn’t enough to just put up an online advertisement and wait for business to come knocking. “That’s not exactly the most effective way of using that media,” he says. “An interesting example is a campaign that ran on Jeeran.com for a brand of instant coffee where they asked people to take pictures of their coffee mugs and put it online, and then the best looking one would win some sort of award. So that’s a pretty good example of how you can utilize a community to engage your brand.”
At Virgin, El Massih says the instant feedback provided by social networks is a great way to stay relevant and reply to customer comments right away. “But it’s not easy, because it’s instant,” he says. “You’ve made that commitment, so you have to be online all the time. Customers demand that you reply to them within hours, and we would be fooling ourselves if we said all the feedback is positive. We have to deal with complaints very quickly and get back to customers. So we’ve taken that as a challenge, because we want to be involved in social media.”
Strategists agree that while a social media plan is valuable, this fast-moving medium is high maintenance and needs regular upkeep. “It’s very easy to set up a Facebook page and begin communicating online, but if you look through fan pages of brands and retail organisations and companies in the UAE, there’s an awful lot of stagnant pages just sitting there with nothing on them,” says Malin. “No new content, no new users; they’re effectively dead pages.”
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