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Social Media Tips and Trends in the Arab World from the MediaME Forum

The online advertising market in the MENA region is around $180 million, with 70 million of that being spent on Google AdWorks.
Khaled El Ahmad | 04.12.2011
One of the memorable Social Media Forums I attended in 2010 was the MediaME Forum. Back then, I had just started my current job as a Digital Media Director at the Prime Ministry of Jordan.

Last year’s event was a great opportunity to meet some of the top media people in Jordan and the MENA region. So this year, I got so excited when I heard the forum was happening again, especially since I heard there would be an emphasis placed on social media, and I would get a chance to hear new statistics on the use of social media in the Arab region. I marked my calendar and requested a day off for the two-day event.

One great thing about the MediaME Forum is that MediaME founder Zeid Nasser knows how to host a great forum; he’s also funny, well respected and knows his stuff.

So naturally, the first day was filled with interesting presentations and informative panels. At first, Joud Nawar from market research company Ipsos presented several interesting statistics on both traditional and new media in the region. One advantage to using new media, he pointed out, is that it’s a lot easier to quantify than traditional media.

Here are some statistical highlights of his talk:

* If the Arab region was one country, it would be the 3rd most populous country, after China & India.

* 25% of the population in the MENA region owns a smart phone.

* 11% of people in MENA region watch videos online.

* The online advertising market in the MENA region is around $180 million, with 70 million of that being spent on Google AdWorks.

* UAE has the highest internet penetration among the MENA countries at 69%, with Jordan having 35% internet penetration.

* The most-visited website in the MENA region is Facebook, followed by Google, and then Youtube, which has 85% reach.

* The most-visited website in Jordan is Al Rai, followed by Koora, AlMadina, Khaberni then AlDustoor.

* 63% of MENA online audience is male, 37% are female.


In a later session, Ahmad Humeid, the CEO of Amman-based design company Syntax, who discussed branding (he's known as a branding guru in Jordan). He began by showing us a huge photo of knafeh, and spoke about how the best knafeh shop in Jordan, which we all know is Habibeh, sadly has no online presence.

Humeid then presented the top 25 websites in Jordan. Saraya, at #9, and Jordan Weather, at #25, are both websites are run by a couple of people, not companies; yet they receive high traffic while competing with big brands. So running a good business today boils down to good brand innovation.

Humeid also highlighted cases where social media may outperform a website, giving the example of Toyota Jordan, who has a terrible website with outdated data, but a useful Facebook page. The Arab Bank website is another example of one that is not user friendly, as it takes over five clicks to get to the eBanking section. After demonstrating the poor websites of the top telecom websites in Jordan as well, Humeid asked the crowd if sometimes a Facebook page alone is a good alternative.

It appears companies were listening as well; during the presentation, @toyotaJordan & @ArabBankGroup tweeted that they are working on new websites which should be up soon.


In a session on Arabic online communities, Omar Koudsi, the co-Founder of social review site and community Jeeran, spoke about content in the Arab world. He began by saying the MENA region represents 5% of the world’s population, yet contributes less than 1% of online content (a gap that is perhaps now on the mend). To increase the amount of Arabic content online, Jeeran decided to go local, very local. So local that in fact, 80% of businesses listed on @Jeeran had zero online presence before joining the site.

@MENA Trends

On a panel about achieving and measuring social media success, RachaMourtada from the Dubai School of Government added some interesting statistics, demonstrating that GCC countries are generally more active on Twitter than the rest of the region, while Egypt is the most active country in the region on Facebook.

When it comes to YouTube, Fayez Abu Awad, the CEO of Boost Communications, confirmed that the region loves online video, mentioning that Saudi Arabia ranks 3rd among countries watching Youtube, with 50% of that traffic coming via mobile, according to Google.

The next day, Mourtada revealed more statistics from the soon to-be-published December 2011 MENA Report from the Dubai School of Government. Here are some highlights:

* There are 8,791,800 Egyptians & 1,923,780 Jordanians on Facebook.

* Arab youth 15-29 years old dominate 70% of Arab users on Facebook.

* There are 650,000 Arab users on Twitter, generating 37 Million Tweets, 56 Tweets per person, and 14 tweets per second.

* An active Twitter user is someone who tweets at least once a month, and there are 16,886 Active twitter users in Jordan. while total users are around 65,000.

* Sample Twitter volumes in the region include Jordan at 630,000, the UAE at 3,900,000, and Kuwait at 11,100,000 tweets.

* Kuwait generates 1/3 of all Tweet volume in Arab countries.

* Arab women are 1/3 of Social Media users in MENA region.

Finally, Elias Dabbas, the owner of The Media Supermarket, gave a very interesting presentation on online search trends, sharing the following:

* Hguhf gets searched 386,000 timers per month in the MENA region, and it is the same keyboard letters used as ?.??????

* Zamalek (673,000) has more Google queries than Ahli (165,000), because Egyptians write ahli in Arabic this way: ????? ? instead of ?.?????

* There are 6.5 Million Twitter users in the MENA region with a 2000% increase in Arabic tweets lately.

It is always refreshing to be updated with the latest information in your field of specialization, and the amount of information, knowledge and insight I got during the two days at the MediaME Forum were days enlightening. Not to mention that conferences like this allow you to see the real faces behind the twitter handles you’re used to interacting with on a daily basis. Meeting so many of the players in social media space made me realize the speed and the size of social media growth in Jordan. Until MediaMEForum 2012, we have these findings and statistics to mull over as social media use accelerates in the Arab World.
About the author: Khaled El Ahmad