A new study undertaken by the Rassed research program at the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) has explored for the first time in Qatar the usage of emerging social media channels like WhatsApp and Snapchat.
Covering eight different social media services – ranging from older more established networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to newer entrants like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Path – the Ministry’s research offers an up to date analysis of the attitudes and behaviors of social media users in Qatar.
“Most studies of social media in Qatar typically only focus on the take-up of services,” explained Damian Radcliffe, Digital Impact and Emerging Technologies Section Head at ictQATAR, “whereas this research also explores how and why people are using these channels.”
“This is important because social media is such a fast-moving space, so understanding current trends is essential for anyone who uses these channels as part of their communications and outreach work.”
Of the eight services that were studied, the Ministry found that WhatsApp was Qatar’s leading social media service, used by 87% of the population and 97% of Qataris. Their research also revealed that Qataris are more aware of newer networks like Snapchat (77% vs. 39%) and Instagram (97% vs. 65%); and that they tend to be amongst the earliest adopters of these emerging social media services.
In contrast, Facebook is the fifth most popular social network for Qataris, but second for non‐Qataris. Although 90% of Qataris are aware of Facebook, only 44% use it, the Ministry discovered; a finding in line with other recent studies. Conversely, awareness of Facebook among non-Qataris stood at 94% with an 84% adoption level.
The Rassed team also identified differences in usage of networks like BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) – which is used by 44% of 15-29 year olds, versus 20% of those aged over 30 – the sharing of photos on social networks and in the growing practice of using social media as a source for news.
A third of Qataris use WhatsApp to find out the latest news, the study found, compared to 21% of expats. Meanwhile, 52% of expats use Facebook for this purpose, versus just 12% of Qataris.
Similarly, just 12% of Qatari men and 6% of Qatari women post pictures on Facebook, compared to 46% of non-Qatari men and 49% of non-Qatari women.
“What this shows is that social media usage in Qatar is far from homogenous, with different groups often using the same social networks in very different ways,” Radcliffe said.
“These findings provide actionable insights which all sectors in Qatar can benefit from,” he added, “and understanding these substantial variances will be of value to everyone from advertising and marketing agencies, through to start-ups, industry and government bodies.”
Other important findings from the research showed that:
- Awareness of social networks is highest amongst Qataris and non‐Qatari females.
- “Boredom” is potentially the top trigger for women to stop using a particular social channel.
- “Mobile friendly” is a key driver for usage for over 50% of users and 70% of Qataris.
- 20% of users would consider leaving a network “if it is not mobile friendly.”
- 85% of the sample felt that social media is “helping to spread rumors and false information.”
ictQATAR launched some of the key conclusions from the study last week at a briefing session attended by over 75 stakeholders from across Academia, Industry and Government.
Attendees included research experts from the Brookings Institute, Qatar University, Qatar Computing Research Institute, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Northwestern University in Qatar and Georgetown University, as well as Industry professionals from a wide range of organizations including Ooredoo, Blue Rubicon, Ogilvy and Mada (Qatar’s Assistive Technology Center).
Fieldwork was conducted between September 1st – October 16th 2014, on behalf of ictQATAR, by Ipsos Qatar. 1,000 adult Internet users participated in a 15 minute Computer Assisted Telephonic Interviews (CATI) where they answered questions on a wide range of topics related to social media, including what social channels they used and why. The sample comprised 500 Qataris and 500 non-Qataris.
“We know that there is a huge interest in what social media people use in Qatar,” Radcliffe commented, “as well as how and why they use it. This research explores many of these questions for the first time, and we look forward to sharing further insights in the coming weeks and months.”
A more detailed summary of the study findings, including a presentation given by the Rassed team on some of the key conclusions, can be found here.