UM, Coke, Casablanca and Tagine

Casablanca in some photographs, specially the outskirts looks a lot like parts of Dubai. Beautiful Spanish style haciendas, tile roofs, pretty landscaped gardens beneath the azure sky. Minus the sand and the dust in the air.

In the main city, French architecture prevails, making its mark over a city that is half lost in time, half very much in the buzz of a modern developing metropolis. Some of the older buildings are stunning. This was my first visit to Morocco, and in two days I felt I had taken a magic carpet ride to a place quite far away. Shining happy people, content with what they have, sharing their simple pleasures, laughing, gregarious, different from the wannabe Dubai world we live in. A real city, with real people, and a soul.

I had gone to Casablanca on a special invitation from Coca Cola Morocco and UM to share with them the State of the Digital Nation. In a half day session, to my rather pleasant surprise, I found a bunch of people in our industry on both sides of the agency-client divide, extremely aware of all things digital, interested , engaged and passionate. The UM bunch were amazing. Fikria Kirani efficiently runs a good media agency there. And Imad Lyoubi, the Account Director on Coke is an asset – a best in breed, if I may say that. And, on the client side, it was a thrill meeting up with a team who were totally with it – enthusiastic, participative, ready for a future we all know is around the corner – with lots and lots of digital in it.

Fikria and Imad were just the most gracious hosts – showing me around the Corniche, the beautiful old parts of town, indulging me in the most wonderful Moroccan food, harissa, tagine, melt-in-your-mouth cookies from a famous old patisserie – this was indeed a business trip I won't forget in a hurry.

But what really left an impression was the business side of things. Their knowledge of digital – online, social, search, mobile etc were par with any one I've met over the last few years, and their thirst for knowledge was pronounced and eager. With a fairly young population, digital engagement seems to have a bright future in that country. And I'm all the more blessed to have a little glimpse of it. Thank you Casablanca.

Facebook marketing. Can I time it right, keep it tight and win?

I used to get up early morning every day and tweet/facebook post. Early morning for me is usually around 4am, when in my part of the world, where most of my followers and friends are, it's ghost town in social media. The same tweet a few hours later or on a weekend would get a lot of re-tweets and likes. I was mistiming my shot.

Day part planning for digital media has been a grey area for a while, but now, that consumers are quickly adopting media absorbtion patterns that are geared to their day cycles, adapting to the new consumption habits through the day is becoming crucial. No more 4am tweets for me. I'm going prime time.

Sure facebook (unlike traditional tv/radio) can be engaged in anytime, anyplace. But around the world, marketers are discovering patterns of on-facebook engagement. A fascinating study from Buddy Media finds that Facebook has three clear peaks – and interestingly enough, these peaks are outside normal 'workday' hours. While it's difficult to directly translate findings in the US markets to learnings for our Middle East social media scenarios, I'm guessing it's possible to draw some parallels. Facebook in the US peaks at 7am (first thing in the morning checking of posts, updates etc), after work at around 5pm (they work 9-5, yes), and one final late night burst at 11pm. Translated to our region, we could say, that's more or less the same, except the 5pm would be around 6pm-630pm.

So, here's the first catch. This means that for those of us who offer professional social media services to brands in our region, having a team that helps with facebook updates during the workday is more or less being a bit of a waste. Or at least somewhat missing the top marks. It's not that the posts don't stay, it's just that they disappear amongst the so many others competing for attention. And, when our target audience is either trawling through the facebook posts and tweets, some posts done during the day are lost in clutter.

Another interstinug aspect of the BuddyMedia study shows Thursdays and Fridays have a lot more engagement in the US. Does that translate to Wednesdays and Thursdays here in our region where we have an Islamic calendar weekend of Fridays and Saturdays? In geographies where Fridays are a holiday, mornings are usually very lazy. Most malls are still empty until past the afternoon prayers. I'm guessing Friday mornings would be a good time – a prime time on Facebook/twitter. And Thursday evenings when the facebook/twitter set are trawling the web to see what's hot, what's not, and who's going where, with whom.

The study also reveals that the length of the post on facebook (twitter is already short at 140 characters) makes a difference in engagement and impact. Posts with less than 80 characters had more impact! My new mantra then for facebook? Keep it short and sweet. Make like a tweet.

My thought for the day on social media engagement on facebook (and twitter): Time it. Keep it tight. Ask for the like. You'll see the light.

Oh, and if you like this, use either google's new +1 button to tell the world, or Like it!

Bad customer service and viral; Spring Bamboo Chinese in Dubai

I had a really bad customer service experience, and I came back immediately and looked up the pathetic restaurant and started to pour my comments into every possible review, forum, post and blog.

This is about the Spring Bamboo Chinese restaurant in Oud Metha near Lamcy Plaza, Dubai.

We went with a lot of expectations, because we saw mostly Chinese customers (busloads), but were hugely disappointed with the food, the service and the attitude. I suspect it's ok for Chinese people with a particular Beijing, mainland north chinese taste. And of course, neither the management nor staff are versant in English. Order meat, you might end up with intestines. Order crab, and hope for the best that they don't mis-spell that word...

The waiting staff DO NOT speak English well, (well, barely), and you end up ordering the wrong dishes. We ordered a beef hot pot which ended up being a stew of beef tendons – like arteries – zero meat!! And they were adamant about it – unwilling to change it, compromise or explain. We asked for them to take it away, but they charged us regardless.

The chicken was at best OK, the greens we had were mediocre and soggy. Perhaps Friday night was a bad night after all. Lang Kwai Fong next door is a hundred times more consistent, better staffed, and the food is genuinely authentic chinese. Frankly, we could have been ok with the food, but the service waitresses were so pathetic, we recommend do not ever go there!

Bad experience, and my advice? The food may be ok, but if the service is bad, avoid it. Spring Bamboo in Oud Metha Dubai #Fail!