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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

MOBILE CONNECTIVITY. In this connected world, one thing is certain: youth’s tendency to use social media through smartphone devices is only going to increase, and there are several ways that mar­keters can leverage these devices to continually engage with the young “on-the-go” population. Developing relevant apps is only one of them.

“This generation is addicted to their mobile device, which offers ‘always on’ and ‘always with you’ access to social networks and is aspired to as the primary tool for all digital activities,” says JWT’s Ibrahim. “Mobile provides ‘immediacy,’ resulting in consumer utility and provides this generation of digital consumers with a new way to talk about brands. With smartphone penetration among MENA youth at 28 percent (according to the TRU MENA study 2011), consumers will demand better experiences that follow the three S’s – simple, secure and seamless.”

Goel says, “When it comes to connecting with youth, you have to give them more of a functionality than just a marketing tactic… For example, because we know they are engaging with mobile, they’re checking into places like Foursquare, they’re sharing things with mobile, the tactic is not to have a mobile application, but to make sure that your brand is friendly to the type of application they use such as Instagram or Foursquare. It’s even something as small as mak­ing sure your brand offers geo-location-specific marketing offers or that you create hashtags on Instagram that they can follow. [You] have to try and make sure that whatever you are doing online has to have fun elements, because most of these youngsters are online to have fun.”

Mneinmeh expects to see an aggressive take-up of social media by brands in the near future. “As of now, only 51 percent of brands use social media in the region,” he says. But “brands are [becoming] very interested in social media as it helps in terms of client servicing, marketing, advertising, and it helps to humanize the brand.”

And as social media proves to be a fruitful touch point for youth, the interest in it will only get deeper.

“[In terms of] how well we tune into the potential of social networks against these youth’s needs, the possibilities are endless because it’s not only platforms, it’s devices. We’ve actually been provided with a plethora of tools, devices, gadgets and platforms to work with. It’s really up to us [as marketers] to listen and understand what these youth are talking about, what is it they want, so we can perhaps define what the world is going to look like in future and accord­ingly how brands and marketers should react and respond,” says Ibrahim, who adds that, at the end of the day, the challenge for brands is – as always – to earn the youth’s advocacy.

By Sidra Tariq

*First published on Communicate

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