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Interview: Social media is not the antithesis of traditional media
The excitement over the potential of social media is similar to kids wanting to be the next Messi. There are very few Messi’s out there. The possibility exists, but very few people make it through the clutter and crowd.
August 14, 2012 11:15 by Muhammad Aldalou
Fair enough, so blaming the tool or pinning all hopes on it is not the way to go but what about investigating the platforms themselves? After all, it was recently revealed, to the horror of advertisers around the world, that Facebook has over 80 million ‘fake’ users. Well, perhaps not ‘fake’ in the technical sense but certainly redundant in the eyes of an advertiser. Not only has this announcement highlighted the need for giant social platforms like Twitter and Facebook to become more transparent with their clients but also poked the bubble of misconception that ‘if you can advertise to or engage with such a large group of people so easily’ then it is bound to be effective.
Conclusively, if social networks want to remain on top and continue to reel in the big revenue numbers that they do then they must build a stronger communication bridge or risk losing their spot in the game, because as we see, figures don’t mean everything.
“It is a challenge for any social network to balance between protecting its user base and sharing enough information with their business clients. Twitter, for instance, has been overprotective for a very long time about its users and their demographics. It would not release tools to take a peak under the hood and also made it very difficult for 3rd party companies to mine for such information. Nevertheless, people found a way around it with varying degrees of success.”
“Facebook on the other hand has been a lot more open (and occasionally to the detriment of their users’ privacy). Quantifying the number of active users or identifying behavioral patterns among users is not a question of transparency, but rather, insight. The more insight the happier advertisers are.”
Lastly, many companies worry that the Middle East’s social media sector, despite its linguistic enhancement and user based growth, is lagging years behind Western continents with a lot of catching up to do. Furthermore, the discussion of social versus traditional media has been a ‘broken record’ of the industry since it began gaining popularity in the early 2000’s. SMEs, more often than not, are faced with tight budgets and so they continue to sweat over where the money should be allocated and over which medium will bring about the strongest ripple effect to their advantage.
“This depends on where you are in the globe. In Subsaharan Africa, social media is hardly relevant. In our region here, print is still the most trusted source of news and information. Is it catching up? Maybe. Or maybe we are comparing apples and oranges. Social media is not the antithesis of traditional media. Perhaps the sooner we come to terms with that the better positioned we are in taking advantage of the full scale of opportunities it presents.”
“As for the Middle East, the region is on a 5-10 year lag behind its Western counterparts. I don’t see this as a bad thing because it gives us ‘hindsight’ vision ahead of everyone else. Of course that doesn’t mean we always see it (like many have seen the financial crisis of 2008 coming but still thought they were immune to it). Nevertheless, I think being behind helps us make better informed decisions on what may work and what may not.”
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