Racha Mourtada: Users aged 15 to 29 are driving force of growth of Facebook and Twitter in our region



 
mediaME speaks to Racha Mourtada, Research Associate at the Dubai School of Government. Racha shares with us some key findings from the latest and still unpublished Arab Social Media Report (ASMR), with insights regarding the leading social media platforms in the Middle East today, the evolution of user demographics and much more.
 
Q. Kindly introduce yourself, and briefly tell us about the Dubai School of Government.
I am a research associate with the Dubai School of Government, which is an academic research institution that focuses on public policy in the Arab World. Specifically, I work on the Governance and Innovation Program which focuses on the policy implications of using information and communication technology for social and governmental transformation. 
 
Q. Tell us about the Arab Social Media Report, how and when it started and why it is important.
The aim of the Arab Social Media Report is to observe social media trends in the Arab World, and  to focus on what the implications are for civic engagement, social inclusion, entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.  We do that by observing penetration trends, and by observing Facebook and Twitter usage. We look at different breakdowns in terms of age, gender and language. We look at the factors that contribute to the uptake of social media use such as Internet freedom, digital access, income and the growth of the youth population. We started at the beginning of last year, and the first issue focused on general usage trends. In the second issue, we took a look at the role of social media during the revolutions. For the upcoming issue we are taking a look at gender and the use of social media. 
 
Q. Where are we seeing the greatest growth geographically, and in terms of platforms in Arab countries?
Our focus is mainly on Facebook and Twitter, so I can speak about that a little bit. If we look at the statistics, Egypt and Saudi Arabia both have the largest number of users on Facebook and Twitter. However, if we look at penetration rate or the percentage of population, the GCC countries tend to dominate.  
 
Q. How big an impact has the ‘Arab Spring’ had on boosting the numbers of social media users and on driving more interactions and ‘Arab buzz’?
The Arab Spring has had quite an impact on Facebook and Twitter usage. If we were to take a look at the first quarter of the year, when the revolutions were at their height, Facebook usage had increased by 30% when compared to the previous year. The year before, it had only grown by 18%. That is quite a significant difference. In countries that actually went through revolutions such as Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia, the growth rates have actually doubled or tripled when compared with the previous year.  We can definitely see quantitative, as well as qualitative growth. Trending topics at the time all had to do with what was going on so. The top hashtags were '#Bahrain', '#Egypt', '#Libya', '#Protest'.  That indicates that the Arab Spring affected the nature of online conversation in the region.
 
Q. By studying social media habits of Arab populations, can you tell us some specific differences between social media users in the Gulf compared to the Levant and compared to North Africa?
There are definitely some differences in the three regions. In terms of age, we notice that the GCC countries are the most balanced. There is a balance between younger users aged 15 to 29 and adults over 30. Whereas in the Levant and North Africa, there is more gender balance that does not exist in the GCC. So in the Levant and North Africa, the number of male and female users are quite close. Language is probably the most distinctive difference between these three regions. In North Africa (with the exception of Egypt), users prefer to use French on Facebook, whereas Lebanon and the GCC countries (with the exception of Saudi Arabia) prefer to use English. 
 
Q. What would you say are the key findings of the latest Arab Social Media Report? And what, in your opinion, could this mean to marketers and brand managers across the MENA region?
A main focus of the report is the increase of penetration and usage. Facebook and Twitter are growing exponentially. Throughout the year, Facbook has grown by at least 60%. The report focuses on the youth population, and the fact that they are the driving force behind the growth of Facebook and Twitter in the region. About 70% of Facebook users in the Arab World are between the ages of 15 to 29, which is sort of on-par with the global averages. The report also focuses on trends in terms of gender. About one third of Facebook users in the Arab World are women, this is in contrast with the global average of about 60%, and this is what we are looking into at the moment.
 
 
 
 
Thanks.. Mediame.com
Racha Mourtada: Users aged 15 to 29 are driving force of growth of Facebook and Twitter in our region Racha Mourtada: Users aged 15 to 29 are driving force of growth of Facebook and Twitter in our region Reviewed by Sushil Gangwar on May 03, 2012 Rating: 5

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