If you follow this site, or content that I publish on SlideShare, Twitter or elsewhere, then you’ll know that I write a lot about social media in the Middle East. It is a space which is changing and evolving very fast. So fast in fact that finding accurate information about these developments can be a challenge.
Earlier in the year the Dubai School of Government published the 5th edition of their Arab Social Media Report. These regular publications offer an opportunity to understand how social media is growing across the region. In particular, they provide the latest adoption figures for the key social network platforms – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – as well as wider demographic and gender breakdowns. They are probably the most consistently comprehensive source for social media developments in the region.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the report yet then you can do so here. Ages ago I pulled out some of the key regional data from the report, and then realised I forgot to publish it. So here it is!
Given my base in Qatar I’ve added a particular focus on how the experience of social media usage in Qatar compares with other countries in the region.
School Education and Technology
One discernible difference about this year’s report was the inclusion of new research into the role of technology in education across the region. It is worth noting that the findings from this research are dominated by survey respondents from Egypt and KSA, who made up 44% of the sample size. Nonetheless, it is does offer some interesting insights.
Generally speaking there was low satisfaction (below 50%) with all aspects of schooling which were explored, including teacher quality, the availability of resources and the incorporation of technology into the classroom. More than half of the parents surveys reported that their children’s schools did not have any technologies available in their classroom and just under a quarter reported that their children had access to school provided desktops and laptops.
Not surprisingly, the report delved deeper into this and also explored the role of social media to support learning. Anecdotally, for example, we know that YouTube can play a huge role in educating young people about the world (usually at home). So it was interesting to see if some of these domestic behaviors were also manifesting themselves in the classroom. Interestingly 55% of teachers reported using social media in the classroom, but Facebook and Google+ groups led the way as the most popular tools, followed by video sharing sites and collaborative web tools such as Wikis or Google Docs.
Respondents noted a range of benefits which could be derived from using social media including developing technological and research skills, creativity and collaboration. But there was also a recognition that whilst social media could help better engage students in the classroom, it can also be a distraction too. It’s going to be interesting to see how his balancing act develops.
Social Media Adoption and Usage
Arguably the most interesting part of this report lies in the section which maps social media across the Arab World. There has been huge interest in the growth and usage of these networks over the past couple of years and this report shows that adoption of these platforms is, in many cases continuing to grow at a rapid rate.
“In the Arab world, growth of social media usage has been equally strong with countries like Egypt more than doubling in Facebook user numbers; and Saudi Arabia and the UAE users growing over 50% according to our research.”
Here are my key data points from the report:
- There are now 54.5m users in the region. Up from 45.1m last year.
- UAE has the highest Facebook penetration, but Egypt has over one quarter of all of the region’s Facebook users, including 1.5m new users since January 2013.
- There has been a slight dip in users in GCC, -1.5% in Qatar but as high as -16.7% in Oman. In Saudi Arabia this % is lower, but due to its bigger market size it’s striking to see that KSA has seen more than 500,000 people drop off the network this year.
- Qatar joins the list of countries with over 1/3 Facebook penetration, joining Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan and UAE.
- Qatar has the fourth largest gender imbalance (44%) on the network, with 72% of users being male. However, the age distribution is less pronounced. 46% of Facebook users in Qatar are over 30. In Morocco and Palestine, for example, this figure is much lower at 21% – with 79% of Facebook users being aged 15-29.
- KSA continues to dominate with 1.9m of the regions 3.7m users.
- In contrast there are 74,000 active twitter users in Qatar.
- There are 10.8m tweets produced in the region every day. 47% of these are from KSA. Egypt produced 12% and UAE 11%.
- The volume of tweets in Arabic continues to rapidly increase. 73.6% of all tweets now, up from 61.1% last year.
- In Qatar the % of Arabic tweets has increased from 56% to 70%. This is ahead of Egypt and UAE, but behind Kuwait (83%) and Saudi Arabia (90%).
- There’s also interesting analysis of Foreign Affairs and Health Ministries on Twitter and the languages they use. For example, the SEC tweets 100% in Arabic. Whilst 63% of the SCH’s tweets are in Arabic, the lowest Arabic percentage in the region amongst health ministries.
- The penetration of this network is growing.
- But take up is much lower than Facebook and Twitter. Across the region users are up from 4.3m to 4.7m. Qatar has the second highest penetration level (12.88%) behind UAE (16.45%). This is some way ahead of Bahrain (8.92%) and other Arab World countries.
- 60% of MENA users are aged 18-35. But in Oman over 69% of users are over 35.
Finally the report concludes with some insights relating to YouTube, a highly popular service in the region. The authors note that:
“YouTube is growing worldwide, with 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute and over 4 billion hours watched every month. In the Arab region, 285 million videos are viewed every day and more than two hours of video are uploaded every minute, putting it in the number 2 spot for video views in the world.”
Across the region, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and UAE lead the number of playbacks and interestingly 50% of all views in KSA are via mobile. In UAE this figure is 40%. As smartphone penetration continue to grow, perhaps this percentage will increase further still as users take advantage of 3G and 4G networks as well as the opportunities afforded by Wi-Fi networks to offload content to wireless devices.
As this report shows, the diversity of the Middle East is reflected in differing adoption and usage of social media channels.
It is going to be fascinating to see how this evolves and changes over time.