By Dima Hamadeh www.business24-7.ae
The Arab World’s ‘tweeps’ might have a potential influence on brands in the future, although awareness of the social network as an interactive communication tool is still not widely acknowledged in the region, said the participants and sponsors of Dubai Twestival Local 2009.
The Dubai Twestival Local is a version of the worldwide campaign held from September 10 until yesterday with local Twitter communities getting together to raise awareness about a cause, the case being Dubai Autism Center.
The sponsorships were excellent, said PK Gulati, one of the organisers of the event. But brands are still not in full command of the social network, said Yousef Tuqan, CEO of Flip Media.
Held last night at the Jam Jar to raise charity for Dubai Autism Center, the event was organised across Twitter, said Gulati. “This shows our Twitter community is extremely powerful. Recent events, such as the building collapse in Deira, were tweeted before any other medium reported them,” he said.
Similarly, the Dubai Twestival Local 2009 got its Dubai Metro Golden Pass by tweeting directly with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said Gulati. The pass was purchased for Dh1,000 by a fan, the money dedicated to charity, and he got his Metro ride on the opening day.
“RTA is on Twitter and we used this channel to facilitate our correspondence with the authority. We got a very quick response. This is the second time we have held this event, and we have received exceptional response,” he said.
The event is estimated to have cost Dh150,000, according to Gulati, and sponsored by brands such as Nokia, Aramex’s ShopandShip and Nahel.com, an upcoming e-commerce site.
The event attracted more than 200 people to bid at auctions for various items and vouchers, including the Metro Golden Pass. Currently, the UAE Twitter community has about 5,770 members, according to a recent survey by SpotOn PR titled ‘Middle East and North Africa Twitter Users Demographics Survey’. The UAE forms 40 per cent of the total Twitter population in the Mena region. In that sense, the Twestival was more likely a dipstick feel of what the tweeters of Dubai can do, said one user of Twitter.
Currently, most of the Twitter community in the UAE is related to media and technology, said Tuqan. This statement is backed by the results of the SpotOn PR survey, with 23 per cent in advertising, marketing and public relations and 17 per cent in media, media production and publishing. Another 12.5 per cent are in the information technology sector.
This gives a better chance to Twitter of becoming a source for exchanging information, and perhaps brand awareness, said Tuqan.
“Why media people? Because it is a very easy channel to build communication, and they like to talk. This made topics, such as the opening of the Metro, number one on Twitter worldwide for a few hours on September 9 and that is a good sign,” he said.
“It makes good business sense to us as a consultancy to be on Twitter and support events such as the Dubai Twestival. However, there are challenges.
“As a digital consultancy, we aim to grow the industry. We see this event as a tool to raise awareness and help people know more about social media. Yet, while we see potential for promotion of brands through social media, the main challenge remains in culture. We do not like free speech or negativity, which is contradictory to the nature of social media where people interact and give their personal feedback on different brand experiences.
“This will make Twitter in the region an interesting case to study, but the direct result of this reality is that brands are still not engaging. Brands are yet to embrace the concept and understand the human element rather than treating social media from a corporate perspective. It is true that a lot of companies have come on Twitter, but for many of them, pages haven’t been updated for three months.”
Recently, a few UAE consumer brands have started designing Twitter-special promotions that target users.
Tuqan said such promotions do not only need to be posted for Twitter users, but also conducted within a small period of time to create the proper hype underlining the real time impact of social media. Speaking of brands such as Nokia, he said: “The sponsors of this event are early adopters. They are absolutely right in targeting the Twitter community, because in the UAE that is where the IT and media people are.”
Meanwhile, Aramex sent a pre-written comment in response to an inquiry regarding view of the influence of the UAE Twitter community, and the speed at which this influence is expected to grow.
Hassan Mikail, Regional Marketing Manager for Aramex’s ShopandShip service, who was reached through Twitter, said: “The Dubai Twestival was the ideal opportunity and event to connect with online fans. ShopandShip has a dynamic culture, always thirsty for new technology – a great fit with new media. We’ve been keen to explore the social media arena and the event will serve as a great venue to build up on this. Our quest for innovative solutions, to serve our customers better, is something we always aspire to and push.”
Mikail said the Twitter page of Aramex’s ShopandShip service – @shopnship – started a month ago. “This dynamic communication channel is being used as another customer support contact point for our members. We are venturing into unchartered territory, but we’re learning from this very ‘live’ one-on-one social channel. We are using Twitter to inform our followers about interesting sites that could be of relevance to them,” he said.
A recently conducted survey by SpotOn PR revealed that 61 per cent of its respondents said Twitter has affected their perception of a brand or company either positively or negatively.
However, only 31 per cent ranked companies or brands among those they interacted with most often. The survey concluded that Twitter can arguably play a significant role in shaping perceptions about brands or companies and that the interactions involved in shaping brand perceptions are more personal networking interactions than interactions directly with brands represented on Twitter.