Friday, February 26, 2010

Death of Social Media in Middle East - Part 1

Social Networking in the Middle East is a completely different living thing, that has some how slithered into our life. The approach to social media from a commercial point of view needs to be fundamentally different from the global trends, which may not work here.

Past few years marketers have been trying to convince the Senior Management of their respective companies to allocate more budgets for Online Marketing, in which they have partially succeeded. The sudden buzz about Social Media has definitely helped the cause but most of the companies in Middle East still feel that sheer presence of their brand on Twitter and Facebook completes the cycle.

Social media" implies a broad range of topics and has several different connotations. Social media may refer to a combination of various elements on the Internet, for example, blogs, forums, vlogs, video sharing sites, dating sites, picture sharing sites etc. Some of the many forms that Social Media can take include instant messengers, blogging, music sharing, wikis, podcasts etc.

Marketers may have actively engaged in one of the above Social Media form at least once. The lack of engagement with the customer in these online forms can lead to severe issues, which is currently a major hurdle for the brands in Middle East. Majority of them manage to create a Facebook group or a Twitter profile, but they don’t have a clue on what to do with them.

Do you listen to your customers online? How many companies have a team monitoring their brand on the internet? Once you are online you need to be there forever; this is a continuous engagement process.

If a customer writes a letter to a newspaper editor, most of the companies in Middle East have a corporate communication department to address the customer complains. If the same customer posts an issue on an internet forum the issue is never seen escalated to the company, but the brand damage stakes are much more higher due to the viral nature of internet. If you need to research on the market trends, monitor the local forums. Customers are giving their feed back on these forums at no cost and there is a huge opportunity to get insights. Most of the companies are busy extracting email of users and then bombarding their accounts with their latest offers. I hate some of the Twitter accounts who fill my twitstream with their latest product offers. Remember once you are online you may fetch compliments but be open to criticism.

I would like to commend @DubaiMallNews on handling the Aquarium Leakage issue yesterday. They were honest enough to post a note on the twitter about the leakage and then inform the customers that the situation has been contained. This was just an example of how can you communicate with your customers on social media.

Continuous threat to shut down some of the popular Social Networking sites in the region can lead to sudden death of this medium. This is a highly discussed issue in Middle East which can have serious business impact and will be covered in Part 2 of this series.

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