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Top Online Marketing Channels in the Middle East



When Zeentree ran the latest Middle East Content Marketing survey, one of the questions we asked entrepreneurs and start-ups attending the 2016 STEP Conference for Entrepreneurship in Dubai was: Which channels do you use to market your content on?

Their overwhelming response echoes that of the rest of the world: Social Media.

This could be in part due to a lack of Arabic-language websites across the region, which largely drives consumers to social media channels – Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram – where they learn about new products from their peers.

But it’s equally due to the predominantly young, tech savvy generation that makes up a large part of the population in the region.

Research by WeAreSocial has shown that the number of reported internet users grew a whopping 17%, up more than 21 million users in just the last twelve months.

Top social media sites in the MENA region. Source: Northwestern University in Qatar and the Doha Film Institute.

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WhatsApp offers huge, untapped potential

Although they did not include the messaging app WhatsApp in this study, ArabNews Tech reports that it is the number one platform in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Lebanon.

The report titled: The story of 2015 by Damian Radcliffe, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon, discussed the social media landscape in the Middle East and shows that, by percentages, WhatsApp is used by more than 94 percent of active social media users in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, while it is used by virtually all those active on social media in the UAE.

In general, 41 percent of the social media users in the region were using WhatsApp.app in 2015.

That said, Facebook is still overall the most popular. Egypt constitutes the largest fan-base of the platform at 27 million active users, while there are 12 million users in Saudi Arabia, and 11 million in Iraq.

Other Channels Middle East Marketers Use

SEO – through applying the technical and keyword principles of good SEO to content

Email marketing – still one of the most valuable conversations any product owner can have with his or her audience

Content marketing – now only if they did that in Arabic, they’d reach a much larger audience

Pay per click – a proven digital marketing tool and essential part of any content marketing campaign

Other channels marketers are considering but have not yet reached maturity in the region are mobile marketing, display advertising, video advertising and native advertising.

Mobile and video advertising present the greatest opportunities. Mobile marketing will receive great impetus from the newly formed Mobile Marketing Association whose mission is to accelerate innovation of marketing through mobile. With the popularity of WhatsApp, there are huge opportunities here.

Video, and video on mobile, offers another great platform for marketers

Did you know that many Arab countries have local versions of Youtube, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Morocco?

In their YouTube Series: The Rise of YouTube in MENA, ThinkWithGoogle says YouTube’s growth in the region is down to one important factor: there are over 100 million Arab youth today, the highest proportion of youth to adults in the region’s history.

What’s particularly interesting is how these millennials are consuming online video: more and more are tuning in to YouTube on their cell phones.

Mobile watch time in the MENA region is one of the fastest growing in the world, rising by 90 percent year on year (2014-2015). The United Arab Emirates stands out for its 120 percent growth of mobile watch time during this period, faster than the global average, according to ThinkWithGoodle.

Mobile is seeing a 90% growth per year in the region, and Google says they want to see more Arabic content.

They’re not only watching what the rest of the world is uploading, they are actively creating Arabic audiences through their own participation – there’s been a 40 percent increase in hours per day of uploaded videos year on year.

YouTube is also providing an ideal platform for Saudi women for creative expression. The top four female-led channels in Saudi Arabia saw a 200 percent increase in the number of subscribers over the last year.

And, as reported three yeas ago on CBC:

“Saudis account for an astounding 190 million YouTube views each day — that’s a rough average of more than six views per citizen per day. YouTube offers Saudi’s young population entertainment choices not available on mainstream television, including locally produced content made by young Saudis who know how to speak to that audience.”

Sa7i (2.7 mil subscribers) is a hugely popular Saudi Arabia-based group of comedians who broadcast comedy shows about Arab society. They have partnered with a number of global brands operating in Saudi Arabia, among them Toyota, Doritos and Sprite.

Get your free copy of the Middle East Content Marketing Report 2016

Our annual study of Content Marketing in the Middle East region provides a detailed look at the landscape in the Middle East and provides an indication of the regions’ appetite for content, looking at many aspects of online marketing including use of digital channels, languages used, outsourcing, budgets available, along with unearthing the challenges it brings. We highly recommend you to download your free copy of the Zeentree Middle East Content Marketing Report 2016.

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