Middle Eastern startups are experiencing unprecedented levels of success, especially as Internet access continues to rise rapidly throughout the region. A few years ago, the Dubai School of Government conducted a study on how individuals throughout the region, but especially youth, perceived the role of social media in entrepreneurship. Perhaps not surprisingly, more than 85 percent of respondents said that they considered social media one of the most important tools for startups. In the years since, social media has only become increasingly important for entrepreneurs to find talent, advertise their products, and communicate with customers.
A more recent student conducted in the United Arab Emirates found that, on average, people spend more than three and a half hours on social media each day. Especially among young people in the region, social media is becoming a central part of life, making it more important than ever for entrepreneurs to make social media part of their PR and marketing initiatives.
Below are some tips for entrepreneurs to make the most of their social media strategies.
Understand the mobile market in the Middle East.
In the region, about 70 percent of all traffic to social media websites is from mobile devices. Entrepreneurs need to appeal to mobile users on the go by offering snippets of entertaining or useful information and capturing their attention with engrossing visuals. Some of the most popular social networks in the region include Twitter and Snapchat. With a population that is overwhelmingly under the age of 40, the Middle East is full of millennials who like to stay on the cutting edge of technology. For many startups, this might mean deprioritizing Facebook and instead turning to the newest, most creative networks. Vine and Instagram are also extremely popular, which may speak to the Middle Eastern culture of visual storytelling. Entrepreneurs need to embrace and appeal to these preferences if they hope to reach their target customers.
Listen to what customers have to say.
To secure a significant piece of the market share, individuals need to create a product that meets the needs of consumers. The best way to learn what consumers need and want is to ask and listen. Social media is an extremely powerful tool for communicating with customers and learning what they like and do not like about a certain product. By listening to opinions, entrepreneurs can create the exact product that consumers want. Entrepreneurs can also ask about how best to sell a given product. Companies that fail to listen to what their followers say put themselves at risk of failure. When people feel snubbed or ignored, they will look elsewhere for a comparable product, and in today’s competitive market, it’s usually not hard to find one.
Choose the right platform.
Deciding which platforms to focus on to connect with customers can prove difficult, especially if entrepreneurs do not yet know which networks people interested in their product prefer. However, virtually all companies should have a few central accounts. A Twitter account, for example, can be set up in minutes and is a great way to connect with industry influencers while also distributing news and advertising for in-person events. Another social media site that entrepreneurs should use is LinkedIn, which is an excellent resource for connecting with other local business owners and finding new employees to help a company expand. Entrepreneurs need to understand that social media is about more than marketing—it also plays an important role in talent recruitment.
Companies with video content should check out both Vine and YouTube. Snapchat and Instagram are great resources for sharing pictures, and both networks are extremely popular in the Middle East. An all-around network is Facebook, which combines many of the features of the other sites. However, as many young people prefer other networks, it is important not to put all the company’s eggs in one social media basket.
Participate actively with social media.
Creating accounts is not enough to build a network and a strong following. To generate excitement about their brand and to attract the best employees, entrepreneurs need to actually use their accounts by posting content. Deciding what to post and say is less important than encouraging replies and interactions—social media is a two-way conversation. Entrepreneurs should offer posts that have a clear point of view and convey information that people will care about, but the post should also include an action point. These action points can be as simple as asking people to share a post about an upcoming event, or requesting feedback on a new product. When posts explicitly ask for feedback, people feel like their opinion matters, and nearly everyone loves sharing their opinion.
Once people reply to a post, it’s important that entrepreneurs keep the conversation going by asking a follow-up question or simply saying thanks for the feedback. If posts always go unrecognized, people will stop replying. And of course, comments should always be respectful and polite, even when dealing with a rude person or someone providing harsh criticism.