Social Media in the Middle East: Snapchat Expands its MENA Operation and User Base 

 This is the fifth in a series of ten short extracts from my sixth annual round-up of social media trends from the Middle East and North Africa (written with University of Oregon student Amanda Lam). Social Media in the Middle East: The Story of 2017 is available for download from the University of Oregon Scholars’ Bank and on Scribd, SlideShare and
  • Snapchat has 33 million users, according to Snapchat’s own data, as reported by Wallaroo Media, a Social Advertising & Digital Marketing Agency.

Snapchat Users (Breakdown by Country)
Saudi Arabia — 13,425,000
Qatar — 525,000
UAE — 1,950,000
Egypt — 2,650,000
Israel — 1,375,000
Turkey — 8,500,000
Oman — 675,000
Lebanon — 725,000
Jordan — 1,400,000
Bahrain — 500,000

  • The app is especially popular in Saudi Arabia with anywhere between 7 million and 8.2 million daily users.

    • The Kingdom is home to c.33 million people, meaning between 21%-25% of the Saudi population use the ephemeral messaging service each day.
  • It’s therefore no surprise, that in February 2017, Snapchat opened its first Middle East office in Dubai.

    • The company expanded in the region so it can work more closely with advertisers and partners in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
  • The network’s “Discover” service has been expanded to include content from regional providers like MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center, a free-to-air satellite broadcasting company) and Al Arabiya (a Saudi-owned pan-Arab television news channel).
Image: Snapchat Discover. Source: Al Arabiya
  • Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on internet calls, which had restricted use of some functionality services like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Skype, on September 20th 2017. The ban, set by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, had stood since 2013.
    • Elsewhere, in the region, relationships with these types of video calling services — which are often integrated into messenger and social media services — remains complicated.
Image: Screenshot of tweet from Saudi telecoms regulator CITC. 
  • However, the network provoked some concerns36 among a number of users with the introduction of their new location-sharing feature “Snap Map” feature. The feature launched globally in summer 2017.
Image: Screenshot of Snap Map feature.

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