Businesses in the Middle East are making gains in digital strategy and brand interaction based on enthusiasm, healthy investment and a sluggish European economy, according to experts, though the region has its own challenges in terms of client education.
Regarding the progress and outlook of digital strategy and monetization of social media Piero Poli -Havas Digital VP of Digital Strategy- said “Consumers are spending, that’s the simple truth. We’ve got a bounce back of consumer of spending which is a lot healthier than from within Europe. I think from a maturity level the region may be 5 years behind, but being 5 years behind in 2012 is different to what that meant in 2005”.
The supposed gap between digital strategy in Mena, compared to Europe and the US, has not just been about marketing budgets, but bandwidth.
Internet speeds have been boosted in recent years, allowing marketers to flex more creative muscle and apply online branding through even more channels, and video, in particular has become a crucial ingredient in the online campaign mix.
Poli added “Online video was unheard of in the region 12 months ago,” and he explained “but now we have six providers at least offering us powerful video products online that we’re starting to see clients move TV spending over too. We’ve also got a critical mass of consumers online so the idea of [the region] being behind is a bit of a misnomer. The world is going to be different next year – so we can expect to catch up two years in every one.”
Because Client readiness is considered a significant issue when promoting digital strategy, and with the progression in technology and the ever shifting status quo in online branding, the marketer must adapt, or could find themselves left behind, as AMEinfo stated.
However, there is also the issue of keeping the client up to speed, maintaining clear communication about the work is being done and ultimately why it is worth the cash investment.
Poli commented on the issue of educating the client, as he said “That is a commitment to having a long conversation. I’ve been in digital since ’99, in five or six countries around the world. Even with clients who I think are the smartest in the world, like Proctor and Gamble, UniLever, etc. all the way to more conservative clients, I have never been in a space where I haven’t had to re-educate, re-educate and re-educate clients. That’s part of the game in digital. You have to be prepared to do that.”
Parameters and metrics for measuring online effectiveness move and get updated constantly, as a few years ago people were concerned about page impressions before comparing click through rates, and then came fans, Likes and +1s.
Meghna Kothari -Director of McCollins Media, a digital branding solutions firm serving the Gulf- said
“I spend hours explaining to people why we have to spend money on Facebook”, and he explained
“There’s still a need to clarify that Facebook is not about Likes. I could buy the Likes and give them to you if it was about numbers – it’s not about numbers. It’s more about engagement. It’s easy for so many brands to put up 5,000 Fans, but out of those 5,000 how many are active and how many are really relevant to your brand?”
Kothari added “That’s a challenge in the region, to change the perception that it’s about numbers, that it’s also about engagement and interaction; that it’s not about Facebook but about strategy across all channels.”
Regarding the investment beyond Facebook, twitter, and YouTube, Kothari said that, Social media platforms come and go but how worthwhile is it to invest in the smaller, more peripheral channels. If it is a case of ‘wait and see’ then the issue is the competition being one step ahead, but a better way to understand the situation is to grasp the niches that users naturally fall into.
Kothari added “As of today, there might not be much interest in an up and coming platform but we know that we need to cultivate interest. Whereas, with something like Pinterest, you have a niche audience who is more focused on art and fashion. Google+ users are more likely to be interested in technology, use Android and it’s a useful platform for SEO.”