During a dedicated event in The Atlantis in Dubai today, Twitter launched its advertising services in the Middle East. The social media company seeks to monetize recent tripling of its regional subscriber base following its use during the Arab Spring protests in North Africa.
Digital advertising, data measurement and analytics are still relatively undeveloped segments of the media industry in the region, although a big hope for many web companies. Some industry insiders bet on young, tech-savvy population and rising Internet penetration that points to significant potential for growth.
Twitter does not provide a regional breakdown of its more than 200 million users worldwide, but it claims MENA subscriber base had tripled in the past 12 months. It is not possible to estimate how many people use Twitter in Dubai and the UAE, but judging from the numbers of followers of the most prominent regional online news sources, we estimate that the number may be in the range between 20,000 and 50,000.
Twitter has recruited Egypt’s Connect Ads, which is ultimately owned by Cairo-listed Orascom Telecom Media and Technology. The company’s plan is to launch advertising initially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Connect Ads is a new entrant into the Gulf markets in particular.
Twitter says the products it promotes typically have an audience response rate of 1 to 3 percent. This rate is higher than traditional advertising rate of 0.1 to 0.5 percent. According to our 7-years long experience in social media in the region, this is an accurate figure.
Social media advertising is still in infancy stage in the region. It is very different from other advertising models, because it relies on what individuals say, on emotional engagement and on building momentum. The majority of local large corporate companies is very skeptical and many do not even have social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook, while others do not know how to operate and use it to their advantage. This actually may be the right decision at present, as social media can be also viewed as risky environment. Read further here: Social Media now seen as high risk.