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LIVING SOCIAL: Why brands cannot afford to miss the social media boat

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Arab youth have a heavy social media consumption and usage. Social media is where brands have to be.

July 13, 2012 3:00 by

No wonder connecting with youth is a key priority for many brands in a region where a majority of the population is under 25. Even if they may not be the brand’s current target audi­ence, youngsters are the consumers of tomorrow.

In their pursuit to be where the young consum­ers are, brands have long identified social media as a crucial place to establish a presence. Where else will you find huge numbers of youngsters highly active and engaged?

Results from market research company TNS indicate that 68 percent of MENA youth spend 12 hours per  week on social networking websites, says Mennah Ibrahim, head of brand intelligence at com­munications agency JWT MENA, while, according to digital media company Yahoo! Maktoob’s “MENA Digital Consumption” study, around 37 percent of youth spend three hours or more on social media every day. This study also shows that youth use social media everywhere: in bed (55 percent), at a restaurant or café (47 percent), while watching a movie (38 percent), and on the go (36 percent). An interesting 26 percent even use it while in the bathroom. There really isn’t any particular time or place for social networking, as many youngsters are constantly logged on to their social media profiles via their smart phones or laptops. Smart phones in particular are becoming the primary way youth connect to social media, their convenience on the go being almost unrivaled. “Growing into and grow­ing up with a range of electronic gadgets at hand, Gen Zs [those born after 1995] of the region are extremely connected; mobile devices being their ultimate social – if not ‘everything’ enabler,” says JWT’s Ibrahim.

BRAND CONNECTION. Apart from being a place where they can unwind, stay in touch with friends and share, social media is also a doorway for youth to know the brands around them better.

Although the Yahoo! Maktoob research reveals that a majority would rather rely on the brand’s website, search engines, friends and family, and price comparison websites to get information about a brand, product or service, it also shows that more than 35 percent of youth place so­cial media websites among the top three online services they would use for such information.

Moreover, according to a social media study conducted by media agency Omnicom Media Group (OMG) MENA, a majority of the UAE and KSA youth agree that social media spreads awareness of new products or brands and cre­ates brand familiarity in terms of understanding the features and benefits: more than 80 percent in the UAE and more than 70 percent in KSA agree that social media helps in developing an interest in a brand, builds brands’ credibility and generates positive word of mouth. “[The] young audience in both the UAE and KSA actively seeks engagement with brands on social media, giving brands the golden opportunity to target them,” says Qadeer Ahmed, manager for market insights at OMG’s media engagement platform, Integral, who adds, “Social media has become a daily part of their life and they are always keen to see the benefit they can get from the brands.”

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