Dubai Real Estate seeing flow of 'refugee capital' says Citibank

Dubai's real estate market seems to be going through a upswing in the last quarter of 2012. The mini-revival in Dubai’s real estate contracting is driven by ‘refugee capital’ from buyers facing geo-political risk and currency depreciation in their domestic markets, such as India, Iran, Pakistan and Egypt, Citibank says in an analysis.
The Dubai property market has seen something of a mini-revival recently with developers reporting robust demand in certain segments, according to the latest MENA Construction Project Tracker report of Citibank. Prices across mainly residential verticals, particularly for the villa markets have seen rising prices.
The report believes that while this lends some support to the market, it points out that the development activity is centred on specific buildings rather than large-scale projects. Similarly, the report feels that while Abu Dhabi has awarded some mega-projects but its pipeline lacks growth.
The bank also reports in a pickup in the new contract awards across the UAE. In the year to end September,  $21.4 billion worth of projects have been awarded. This is 83% rise over the same period in 2011. This increase in awards has been driven by a few Abu Dhabi mega project awards, including $6 billion in petrochemical projects, a $3 billion for the nuclear power project and a $2 billion  infrastructure project.
sourced from Business Benchmark Online

MENA Internet quick facts

72 million Internet users in the MENA region indicates a growth rate of 2500% over the past 10 years. The users spend an average of 2 hours online daily, search Google 100 million times per day, upload a new hour of video to YouTube every minute and play 100 million clips daily, and tweet 6.5 million times every hour. Facebook users are 58 million in the region, the number which increase by 36,000 users daily. The region also accounts for over 250 million mobile subscriptions, in which KSA leads the mobile growth sector, among other interesting stats.

Top Ten US Mobile Marketing agencies list by Ad Age for 2012

Advertising Age from New York have released their rankings for agencies who did best in their mobile marketing efforts in the US market... Two of the agencies are from IPG. Although mobile hasn't quite taken off as we all expected from a revenue share point of view, it occupiues a huge space in the mind of today's consumer. 

The smartphone, now carried by nearly half of all Americans who own a mobile phone, is a computer, a camera, a map, a compass and, for a small-but-growing number, a wallet.

According to Ad Age it all points to the possibilities of Mobile e-commerce. "While widespread use of the mobile phone to pay for things seems a way off, the phone is now dictating buying decisions as much as any devices before it. Consumers are using phones to comparison shop in stores; they are using them to consult reviews on products, services, hotels and restaurants; they are using phones to tell their friends where they are and what they'd like to do. Oh, and they also buy things. Even more than the PC, the phone is a transaction device, so it should surprise no one that search advertisers dominate in mobile."

And, it's a Two-platform world...
While smartphones boom, two platforms are becoming dominant: Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Meanwhile, the once-huge BlackBerry is declining precipitously from more than 23% market share in June of last year to about 10% today with nothing in the pipeline that promises to slow down its decline.

What's changing on the digital marketing scene

Advancements in digital technology, increasing demands of the consumer and the client, and changing habits of media consumption are all creating a new landscape in the ad world.

What is emerging is scalable, adaptable, lean, multi-dextrous and nimble. And collaborative. Smart. The new ice age is dawning and the cold wave is technology.

We’re seeing different trends like ‘snacking’, ‘time-shifting’, ‘place-shifting’ in media consumption. Consumers aren’t doing what it tells them to do on TV Guide. They’re not taking orders from brands, but ‘liking’, ‘viralizing’, and commenting/sharing what they like, what they feel in control of. Social media is enabling that. And Search is helping them find the truth. Separating the Well Told from the Real Truth. All of this is catalyzing change. Agency sizes are adapting to what’s needed. Talent is quickly learning to be multi-talented. And revenue streams are increasing every day – yet overall revenue is tightening. The zeroes and ones. They’re affecting us all.

1. Media consumption habits are changing – forcing agencies to think different.

While here in the Middle East, tv is still king, there’s no denying that media consumption is evolving. In Egypt, the revolution and Tahrir Square was not driven on tv, it was written on the wall via facebook. With better connectivity, higher speed, more bandwidth, and the proliferation of mobile – specially the smartphone – it’s now a digital world. And in that world the consumer is choosing when, where and how. Not media moguls and agency planners.

Consumers are clearly defining consumption trends because, with their adoption of newer technologies and channels, and a proliferation of devices, everything changes quickly. They’re watching tv programs downloaded on to their iPads. They’re using coupons built into apps. Catching a brand message built into a MMORG (massive multi player online role playing game).

Entertainment at home has gone full circle. It’s done the lean-back-to-forward-and-now to-back-again.We used to consume media at home leaning back on our sofas. Then, with online, and hulu and YouTube and facebook, and Video on Demand, we looked towards our computer screens for our entertainment – leaning forward. Now, with tv manufacturers building internet right on to the massive LED 3D sets, we’re leaning back again. Except that out attention is now divided.

How many of us watch tv today, with our iPads in our hands? It’s a fragmented attention society we’re in. We’re driving but talking on our mobile. We’re watching tv, but the computer is on, the skype is beeping, the phone is ringing and the washer dryer LED screen is playing an YouTube How-to video. As agencies we want to help our client’s brands cut through this clutter?

We’ll have to think different. Successful campaigns kick start with integration and 360° thinking built in. Not facebook added on in the end, or a sms broadcast done with a leftover few dollars. And genuine, media neutral strategy needs to drive communications and engagement – which may or may not result in every possible media channel being used. Some campaigns work great on tv. For others a simple Search campaign on google combined with a good SEO strategy maybe enough. Or a twitter drive. What needs to happen is a for agencies to start taking a honest look at need and then deliver on that. Unchained to the what they learn in ad school or what their CFO’s bully them to do.

2. Technology is calling for multi talented people – single armed dinosaurs are at risk

The specialist today is the great generalist. The genuinely multi-talented guy who can develop strategy, create and design content, delve in and direct conversation in social media and lead the whole agency effort is the much sought after. What is emerging is that increasingly clients are asking their mainstream agencies to do digital, and vice versa. And in both these situations, the client is winning. What we are seeing is that digital agencies are usually staffed and led by people who are digital/analog at the same time – they’re part of a new breed who switched to digital specialization having started off their careers and their training in mainstream advertising, media and PR. Usually, these ‘digital’ focused agencies are far more 360° capable than the bigger mainstreams who are trying to do a late game-saver at digital.

An ad agency used to have Client Servicing and Creative. A media agency had Planners and Buyers. And PR had ‘PR folks’. Life was simple. Today you have Social Media Strategists, Community Managers, User Interface Designers, Search Copywriters, Outsource Management Directors, and YouTube Videoographers. YouTube Videographers are the ones with the iPhones. Who also are Social Media Content Creators, SEM Feedback Specialists, Mobile Game Surveyors and iOS Version Specialists. One device. Ten talents. That’s technology for you.

All this means that the talent gene pool is getting smaller with fewer people needed. The highly specialized is being replaced by the highly skilled and multi talented. The fact of the matter is that technical skills are becoming easier, and thanks to online, an incredible bank of resources are at hand. Instant help is a click away, as is a lesson in video editing or HTML5 bug fixing. And, finally, collaboration and outsourcing is making a lot of sense. Smaller agencies are often working with each other, often under white label and producing cheaper, better, faster, and then some. And beating the big ones. The piranhas vs the whales.

3. Social media is changing the control room. As is Search.

Let’s face it. The consumer is in control. It’s theirs vs ours. The facebook wall post, the tweet vs the brand tv spot. The unedited vs the edited. Free vs paid. That’s the consumer manning the control room. And Search is providing even more tools, more information, more reviews, insights and help for the increasingly wary and aware consumer. If the brand message as drafted by the creative agency, as placed by the media agency and as advocated by PR does not resonate with the consumer, it not only doesn’t reach, it self destructs.

Naturally, social media today has become an integral part of how agencies function. Creative mainstream agencies, media agencies and PR agencies are all fighting to create offerings in the space and gain largest share of the pie. The bigger ‘advertising’ agencies are discovering that while they are still ad agencies, their business model (with or without them) has evolved from advertising into engagement. From one way into two way, or as they say, with social media, into a freeway of multi point conversations.

With Social Media, one cannot guess what works and what doesn’t. One soon finds out – there’s plenty of ways to measure that, but it’s in the here and now, and it’s meandering, changing, adapting. With Search thrown in, you’ll have to realize that there are no more start and end dates to campaigns. Say hello to the long tail. Today, once you’ve started a dialogue, the show must go on. It’s a never ending spot.

Finally, the wall between the media agency and the creative agency is now being pulled down, as social media is marrying the two. The contact point is just as relevant as what you say on it.

4. Revenue streams are increasing. Revenue is decreasing. Huh?

Yes. Revenue streams are increasing. A few years ago, no client would call us and say “we need six YouTube videos shot for our launch”. There was no facebook page. No in-banner game. No SEM. With the advent of technology, social media and online and mobile media we are seeing a huge widening of the revenue stream spectrum. Every day there’s something new that consumers are playing with, and brands want to be in that space. Our world is becoming idea driven media-neutral. Once we know what to say, there are several ways we can communicate that to our target audiences and that all put together for those in this industry mean more revenue streams – more channels, more creativity, more executions, more billings.

But not more revenue, necessarily. More and more clients are discovering that expectations of quality are getting lower, or, because of technology higher, better quality is available cheaper and faster. Also, as mentioned earlier, talent is multi-dextrous, and is able to do five things one a project, thus making it feasible for agencies to lower their costs. And clients are demanding that agencies take a serious look at outsourced work – when outsourcing makes dollars and sense.

Take a PR agency model for example. A brand’s typical PR on a launch would usually wrap around an event, a lot of ink in the media about it, interviews in newspapers, tv about it etc. The revenue stream was about that product, that launch. Today, the PR machine works 24/7. Beyond the launch, beyond the event, way beyond the write-up. It’s maintenance on facebook, the tweeting, the responding, the YouTube Videos, the un-boxing of the product on blogs, what not. Yet, put together, as a new, emerging, tech driven digital focused revenue stream it’s small compared to traditional. It’s less revenue.

5. Medium is the new hip. Agency sizes are adapting to new demands.

As marketing communications are increasingly moving into new media, agencies are moulding, morphing into everyone can (or should) do everything models. Smaller teams are more effective, brand knowledge gets contained better, institutional memory gets sharper, and streamlining helps everyone. Large multi-floor agencies are in a position where they don’t need huge teams working on campaigns any longer. Thus they don’t need to be huge to be effective. And with collaboration, multi talented work forces, advances in technology and smart outsourcing, they can be more effective when they’re just the right size for the need. Which is usually a medium size. Which works rather well with the more-revenue-streams-but-less-revenue model.

Because new media makes new demands, today’s successful agencies are ensuring that these demands are met as standard rather than specialized, and that the workforce is as adept at working on projects or campaigns that integrate social media, blended search, media and content as one, as they are on traditional media such as ones on tv, radio and outdoor. While it is becoming the trend to try and own as much of the campaign pie as possible, agencies across PR, media and advertising are facing the reality that with technology, with advanced communications, and with a little impetus from clients, it’s possible without being big. Medium is the new hip. Or small. Who are discovering the magic of collaborative wins.

CMS 101. What every marketer should know about Content Management Systems.

A content management system (CMS) is a computer system that facilitates publishing, editing, modifying and maintaining content from one centralized platform.
Essentially, any CMS should
– allow for controlled and well managed data input towards building a system
– allow multiple number of people across pre-set levels to share and make inputs
– facilitate proper storage, retrieval and managing of information
– make the process of information input simple and easy
There are several kinds of CMS – namely Enterprise (ECMS) which helps build information towards an organizational process, Component (CCMS) – which simplifies storage, retrieval and management of data and information and Web Content CMS which is an application that helps create, store, manage and upload content on to web pages.
For marketers today, Web CMS is probably the most talked about topic. Most brand managers come to digital agencies and ask for "a website that uses CMS" hoping that the CMS will give them full control of maintenance down stream. Agencies on the other hand, often dislike using CMS platforms because a lot of them are restrictive. Most good CMS packages are built towards allowing for website content managing by the "non-digital" people on "brand side". It's basically for authoring, managing and updating content without having to understand or know programming and markup languages (like HTML).
Most CMS use a database to store information that goes on web pages, to store metadata (information about the page that makes finding it on search engines easy), provides easy to use templates for formatting the content, and simplifies the whole process. It also ideally allows for version controlling, which helps updating and maintaining multiple chronological updates in sequence.
CMS usually has quite a few advantages. It's often seen as a "one-time" build cost, and a key to freedom from expensive "content update and maintenance contracts".
A lot of CMS platforms (or the core engines) are free or open source. Digital agencies then go on to customize the packages for their clients. Some of these include Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, TYPO3 etc. The agency usually creates standardized layouts – therefore developing "themes" that the end-user utilizes rather than design from fresh. CMS is built for non-techies, so simplicity of design even at the admin levels (for the brand side people) at the User Interface level is key. And best of all, a good CMS allows for managing content – with publication standards that define who, when, where content is published.
A CMS can be used for developing websites, e-commerce sites, micro sites, intranets, portals and more. Very simply, it's an online tool that helps in managing and collaborating with a team on how text, photos, music, videos, documents etc can be uploaded and maintained on a brand's website.
As a digital and interactive agency in Dubai, at Innovations Digital we are often approached by clients to discuss their needs for a CMS-driven website. We usually discuss the need-solution strategy with them to define exactly what's needed and for what reasons.

Ten family holidays for summer 2012

With two and a half months of no school looking us in the eye, it's time to plan the annual summer migration for a few weeks respite from the heat/impending cabin fever of a much quieter Dubai. When making holiday plans, you could do worse than sticking the proverbial pin on a map. You could ask friends for advice. You could go on travel and trip websites. You could borrow travel books from your local library. Bring home a brochure or two from the nearest airline agent.

Or, you could get some quick and fabulous ideas for your next getaway simply by looking at lists! We compiled the ones below by going through yet more lists put together by travel editors and writers who are in the know, saving you the time and hassle of having to do it. If you haven't booked your tickets yet, this might just provide the inspiration you need to make the most of summer and of Dubai's fantastic proximity to many wonderful destinations.
After all, one of the biggest advantages of living in Dubai is the chance to raise well-rounded, open-minded children with a world view who have the privilege of traveling to new places and trying new things,.

YouTube Home Page Now Available in MENA

Google and YouTube in the Middle East and Africa have announced the arrival of the HomePage ad on YouTube. The world's largest entertainment platform, YouTube in the MENA region will offer ad space on the home page. With over 6.2 million impressions daily in the KSA, UAE, Egypt and Morocco online and around 5.2 million impressions per day on mobile, this is going to be huge for media planning. YouTube says that viewers are 437% more likely to engage in a key brand activity as a result of the home page ad format! And, the TV vs YouTube viewership stats are astounding.
YouTube vs TV
YouTube has no prime time as on TV – or rather, any time on YouTube is Prime Time. As a digital agency in Dubai, we see this as a high impact opportunity for marketers and brands. YouTube in our region is offering embedded video content on the home page ad format – with an average interaction rate of 15% – which is huge. This will encourage high Click Through rates and drive results. YouTube says that viewers are 437% more likely to engage in a key brand activity as a result of the home page ad format!
YouTube stats released by Google assure us that users seeing the homepage ads between two to three times interacted twice as much with the brand. All home page ads come with an automatic upgrade to a brand channel as well as a mobile brand channel – helping the brand's home on all screens. The homepage ads on YouTube come in three formats: Premium, Expandable and Mobile, with a value add of brand channel and mobile brand page as well. Brand channels are also available with interactivity buttons.
Standard format homepage ads for the UAE cost around $15,000 for 800,000 estimated impressions, while KSA has an offering of 2.500,000 impressions for $43,000.
A Google study also reveals interesting daily viewing trends – with KSA peaking on Thursday, while viewership in the UAE peaked on Fridays. YouTube is everywhere in our region. Globally, YouTube has over 4 billion views per day with 600 million viewed on mobile. It is the 3rd largest site on the internet.
At Innovations_Digital, a digital and interactive full service agency in Dubai, we can help with planning content and planning your brand's YouTube media planning. Innovations_Digital is part of UM, one of the largest communications planning agencies in the MENA region. Drop us a line at for more information on how we can help you create better impact using YouTube's high-visibility ad formats on the home page.

If Social Media is becoming a news channel, brands better be careful

Globally, news today is breaking every day via social media, rather than on major tv channels or newspapers. More than 50% of those who have access to online have learnt of a major breaking news event on social first! Whitney Houston’s death, the Hudson River plane crash, the protests in Bahrain, the tragic events in Syria, the Arab Spring, and of course the grandest of them all – the death of Osama Bin Laden wre all stories that broke online first. The Royal Wedding was first announced on twitter. No, really.
These were genuine bits of news that just exploded via social. There were some bits of news that spread, that quite didn’t happen. Like the almost daily claims on social that Colonel Gaddafi had died. Had been shot. Killed himself. Been taken prisoner. Been abducted. Until of course he really was shot. And, that too was instantly on YouTube.
While tv is still the leading medium for news (specially in our region here in the Middle East), newspapers come second, but social media is ranked third. Ahead of radio or any other mediums. On social, facebook seems to be the number one sourse, twitter ranks 2nd, YouTube 3rd and Google 4th. These are the new channels of our day.
At Innovations_Digital, we work closely with major brands to help socially shape their news. Brands today have to be careful, because the mic is in the hands of the people. Socially, one tweet, one facebook post can create quite a problem for brands if they are negative. And, of course, gather up huge positive momentum to a campaign if they are positive. The trick is in monitoring what is being said about your brand in the social sphere, responding promptly and with respect, knowing and understanding public sentiment, and engaging in the right dialog on a continuum.
If you are looking for help with your brand’s social image, monitoring brand related news, or managing your social content, please drop us a mail at

First posted on the Innovations_Digital website blog. Tom Roychoudhury is the CEO of Innovations_Digital.

Facebook cover image guidelines, and Required Image Sizes

Just a quick reminder for every one managing brand pages on Facebook. Here are some things – according to Facebook – that you simply cannot do on the cover:
You should NOT have any references to Facebook User Interface elements such as “Like” or “Share”. You cannot also have any reference to any Facebook site features in there (polls, etc).
Do NOT put any price or discount related information like a coupon, or say “25% OFF FOR ALL FANS” on the cover photo.
NO CONTACT or link info is allowed on the cover photo. So, don’t put any web adresses, link info, contact info, email addresses, web addresses, etc. That stuff goes on the About Us section.
No CALL TO ACTION such as “Share This”, “Tell a Friend” or “Get it Today”.
Finally, do make sure you own the image itself, or at least have the rights to it. Size is always 851 x 315 pixels.
And here are the sizes for all images that go on Facebook brand pages:
  • Cover photo: 851 x 315
  • Profile picture: 180 x 180
  • Thumbnail image for apps: 111 x 74
  • Highlighted & milestone images: 843 x 403
  • Images within wall posts display as 404 x 404.
At Innovations_Digital, a digital marketing agency in Dubai, we work closely with our client’s brands to deliver engaging and endearing Facebook brand experiences. Please drop us a line at if you would like to know more about how we can work together.
First posted on the Innovations blog page.

Make us a viral video. The tough brief.

Here in the Middle East, more and more clients are asking for it. Every digital agency is now claiming expertise in creating "viral videos". But honestly, it's every media or creative agency's nightmare. The so called viral video. When the client briefs in a "viral video", you've got a big problem. Because to start with, you can't "make" a viral video. You can make a nice, catchy video and hope it goes viral, but there are no  guarantees. The"viral video" category is a happy accident. It's not by plan.
A video that goes viral is usually one that has at least 10,000+ views on YouTube, about 1000+  shares in a 24-hour period, has repeating interest of the viewer, has content that inspires "unaided" sharing, and of course a potentially wide bandwidth of audience interest. And they're usually short (Kony 2012 being an exception).
A video that one hopes will go viral is solid on content to start with. The concept has to be instantly attention grabbing, fresh, relevant. With today's trend becoming yesterday's "404 Page Not Found" in this ever changing digital savvy world, one needs to focus hard on being up to date. You can keep track of what's hot, what's not by checking out the trend charts on this site. And you can watch some of the top ones from 2011 here.
Most videos that go viral are short. The first 30 seconds are crucial. It's like a tv spot. The attention has to be grabbed in 30. Short, sweet, shareable. Brands that come to  agency with "viral video" briefs need to realize that content needs to be less on brand and more on emotion and relevance. With a video intended to go  viral, it's important to use the right title, easy and memorable keywords, and of course a blockbuster thumbnail.
From a brand standpoint, working closely with the agency (both content and media), towards driving the sharing momentum is key. Optimizing the video for sharing is a good starting point, but beyond that it's identifying the first batch of targets (either accidental and hopeful or planned and orchestrated). It's important to define channels of first contact – these should be relevant to both the topic and to the target audience. Tweets and re-tweets, blog posts, email sharing and facebook wall posting all work better in the early stages than say, a "watch our video" tagline at the bottom of a print ad i a magazine or outdoor.
If you look at some of the videos that went massively viral, there are some unique hallmarks that stand out. The title of the video is important – short, interesting, attention grabbing. So is the thumbnail. The thumbnail isn't the first frame of the video – it should be the single most attention grabbing, share inspiring single frame from the video. And, in many cases, it depends on the "viral sneezer" – the viewers who propagate the sharing – trusted friends, celebrities, news channels covering it, etc. There is a herd mentality in every successful "viral video" that's notched up the charts. Viewers like to watch (and share) what many, many others are watching.

Social Media vs Website. Why Facebook shouldn't replace your dotcom

As a leading digital agency here in Dubai, we’re increasingly being asked to help our clients decide between facebook and their website. Here in the Middle East, with the huge popularity and reach of facebook, brand managers and marketers are often convinced they need to move their “online communications” to social media. They ask us to build a facebook page, an youtube channel and a regular twitter feed. “Forget the old website – it’s traditional” we hear. Huh?
Ye, social media is a powerful tool for consumer dialog and for building online reach for a business, but it does not really substitute a corporate website.It’s like the news on tv or radio. Sure it’s a one way communication, and it’s more fun to talk about the news, to share the highlights of a game over a beer, or discuss an event at the office (social networks), but you still need the news.
With a website that you own, you control the communications – the why, when, how, what and more. You can gather data, send emails, add sections, choose design formats, choose build platforms, what you say and the web design. With social or earned media, it’s WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get.
Your website gives you the power of inbound marketing. Most social media platforms offer very limited or no data – although facebook is trying to change that now. In contrast, website analytic tools(easy one is Google Analytics) can provide a bank of marketing data and insights on your communications. Analytics allow you, as a brand manager, to improve your online marketing and, ultimately, grow your business.
On any social media platform you have absolutely no control of your content in any way. Your message becomes their message. They can believe it, change it, share it, control it even. Thousands of dollars worth of campaigns have been waylaid because they have ben burnt in social media. And, often because the reason people turned against the campaign oir the brand had nothing to do with marketing at all.
A website is the grand central of your online marketing initiative. In fact, with an ever increasing digitally savvy society, it is the hub of ALL your marketing efforts – from tv, radio and print, down to your business card. It is the one single destination (which you can totally control) to which you drive your target audience, your business partners, your stakeholders and your customers to. Yes, today it’s important to be on facebook, to have video content that’s sharable, to tweet. But you still need a grand central, a hub – and that should be a rock solid website. Your dotcom.
Also published on the Innovations_Digital blog page...

5 Ways Social Media is changing Brand communications

The Arab Spring, the rapid growth of several social mediums across the region, and brands quickly recognizing and respecting these changes – are all together contributing to a change in the communications paradigm in the region. The one-way "shouting" model is rapidly giving way to brand-consumer communicating, dialog, experience, exchange and authentication. This is good for the Middle East, particularly when the masses are learning to believe in alternatives to status quo, believe in change and in challenge. As a digital agency in Dubai and with clients across the region, we are watching as some of the trends are re-shaping the way brands are behaving and communicating.
1. Brands are no longer the singular source of brand message. This is something brands are quick to learn here in the Middle East, because, thanks to the Arab Spring, we all learnt that the newsroom, or the palace or the government, is no longer the source of news. Similarly, brands are now recognizing that consumers – the people on the street, and in front of their PCs or with mobile in hand – are the new source of the brand message. As a brand, it's no longer just yours, it's theirs. The people are shaping the original message, re-editing it, re-writing the script, adding "likes" or just plain rejecting what they don't like.
2. The speed at which a message spreads has changed drastically. A brand's message can make or break in minutes. With the power of viral, and the awesomeness of social media, and the intense desire of the consumer to take immediate action and control – the speed at which a brand's reputation or a particular message about it can be affected is in seconds, not days or a campaign burst of months. A social campaign is measured in minutes, not months.
3. Every consumer has access. Every customer has control. Social media, the rapid influx of broadband, internet on mobile – all these are changing the concept of influencers and brand message drivers. Even a year ago we used to talk about "sneezers" and key influencers" online. Today anybody with a keyboard, a mouse, an iPad or a phone is an influencer. Anybody can initiate perception change. And everybody can empower it. We've seen this in our region in the political climate over and over – in Cairo, in Tunis, and we're now seeing it increasingly in Syria.
4. The way our target audiences react to brand messages or any message is changing. Which means there's a pattern shift in message absorption, in message interpretation and acceptance. A brand campaign about sugared cola or a hyper-energy drink is suddenly being turned on its head because consumers are questioning the damage it does. Suddenly, now in the Middle East, what is accepted as a brand message is now defined by the consumer and not the client-agency partnership alone. It's the audience, the consumer that is validating the message, viralizing it, amplifying it or burying it. Power to the audience.
5. Finally, the impact of social media can be felt both at a brand's marketing set up and at brand-agency levels. This is a new genre, powered by a new breed, a new generation, who are having to make the rules as they go along. The audience is defining what's hot, and what's not, and the mediums, the agencies, the brands are all just adjusting and adapting. Ongoing changes at facebook, google, youtube, twitter, pinterest and foursquare are all indicators of change driven by the consumer. It's changing the way marketing departments are staffed and powered, the way agencies hire (and fire), the way client-agency remuneration is agreed on, the way brands are planning their marketing calendars, and how slow, steady and stagnant is making way for the now and the instant.
At Innovations_Digital, a specialized digital agency in Dubai, we work closely with our client's brands to stay in touch with today's trends and to help our clients stay ahead of the curve.

10 Mistakes Brands make on Facebook in the Middle East

Brands are increasingly present on Facebook today, but a lot of them are getting it all wrong. It's no surprise that there is only one real brand page in the current Facebook top pages across the world. Coca Cola at No 16 is the only Facebook brand page in the Top 20. Unless you count Eminem (No 3), Rihanna (No 5), Cristiano Ronaldo (No 12) and Lady Gaga (No 6) as brands – which they are, but not in a way we know brands.
Disney, Starbucks, Red Bull, FC Barcelona, Oreo and FC Madrid are the only other brands in the Top 50! Today, brands need to understand how to get their Facebook engagement right. At Innovations_Digital we work closely with our client's brands to help them with their Facebook presence. Here's our take on what to avoid as a brand on Facebook...

1. Not responding.
Facebook is a social engagement channel, not a broadcast medium. It's about a conversation not a one way communication. If someone says "hello" or "that's good", the least you can do is respond. Facebook is all about connecting and engaging in a dialog with your fans, your consumers, your followers.
2. Respond, don't fight.
Responding is important, but a tactful response goes a long way in building a brand's social reputation. There's absolutely no point in arguing with an irate customer or a disgruntled fan. Brands should have a pre-set policy on how (and who) to handle negative remarks posted on Facebook.
3. Deleting negative comments
This is actually worse that getting into a FB fight! Deleting a negative comment does not make it go away, it only escalates the matter. Perhaps a direct message to the person posting a negative comment is better. Nestle Kitkat got into a meltdown over deleting negative comments – which became a social PR disaster. Again, having a plan helps. Rather than deleting or arguing and trying to prove a point, have a brand policy. After all, it's about Customer Service.
4. Posting too much.
Brands that are new to Facebook often feel they have to post every day – ten times a day! Wrong. Brands that post too many times a day will get 'unliked' before they know it. People do not want their pages inundated with a brand's posts.
Let's not forget that posting too many times is like sending through too many text messages to your fans on their phones. It's spamming! The average number of posts for a brand should be once a day. Once. If there's a special promotion or limited engagement offer etc, a brand could get away with 2 - 3 posts a day. Anything more, and we have overload.
5. Posting too often, too close
Another big mistake. Social media is media after all, and you can ruin it by posting too many times, and close to each other. Even if you are posting two or three posts, posting them together within minutes of each other is called "clumping" and that's a #fail. Social engagement  is about ongoing – meaning nicely spread across, not all in one go.
6. Repeating and re-using published content.
Been there, done that! Reposting the same content is a no-no. Unless you have a new spin on it, or have a new reason to repeat a post,  don't repeat content. Here in the Middle East, we have seen brands use the same lame lines week in, week out – asking about weekends, activity plans and more of the same boring by-the-book repeats. Brands need to avoid making this mistake over and over again. That's a repeat offense!
7. Responding too slowly.
While a slow response is better than none at all, brands need to remember that their Facebook presence is in may ways all about Customer Service. And when you set up a Customer Care hotline, it's a hotline, not a slowline. Brands need to respond as soon as possible. The recommended average response rate should be 6 hours or less. A lot of brands get paranoid and have a "respond-within-minutes" policy, but one needs to remember, that yes, while the facebook fan or customer expects a response, and does so as soon as possible, about a 6-hour window is ok. Becuase people have lives outside facebook as well.
8. No descriptions, no signposts
Brands often post their tv spots, photos of events, their print ads without even a hint of what the post is about in the status update. That post is meaningless to anyone else, because unlike the brand's social managers or brand managers, no one really knows what that photo, that link, that video is all about. Always post a description.
9. Repeating everything in English and Arabic. A Middle East problem
Here in the Middle East brands are very conscious of the need to be "socially, politically and linguistically correct". They take this further by making sure every outbound post is there both in English and Arabic. They even go so far as to translate responses into both languages and ensure that everything exists on their page in both languages. That's overkill, that's boring, That's a turn off. Fans posting in Arabic may expect a response in Arabic, but it's not that they can't read English. And unless an Arabic query and response thread makes  a huge amount of sense for the brand, there's no real point in translating it and re-posting it. Or vice versa.
10. One way Facebook. No Fan posts allowed.
Here in the Middle East, brands often feel the need for 'moderated content' and their way of 'moderating' is shutting down the fan's ability to post on the Wall. That's removing the half of a dialog, canceling the engagement, the very reason for being on Facebook. Some brands feel that negative PR on their page will damage their reputation, so they shut down the channel. That's totally counter productive to the principles of social marketing.
Ultimately it's about creating an engagement platform that's interesting and friendly. It's about having a regular, conversation with your friends. Brands need to understand the difference between conversations (social media engagement) and communications (advertising and marketing). It's about building a community.
At Innovatoins_Digital, a digital agency in Dubai, we help brands innovate, inspire and energize their experiences and engagements across online, mobile, outdoor, search and social mediums. And, yes, we do get people to "Like" brands on Facebook. By doing it right.
First posted on the Innovations_Digital blog page on the website.