- Real-Time sharing of multimedia (particularly through mobile)
- How Social Media has created further intellectual disparity between generations and social classes. The old regimes vs. the youth. Those with access vs. the poor.
What does this mean for the growth of social media in the region?
The last point is a fairly natural occurrence. As older generations cling to ideals and power obtained in their youth, new generations often will challenge this through self expression on new mediums. Think about Elvis and his funny little pelvic dance in the 60's. From here on in, older generations who chose or cannot understand social media will be left out of the conversation and won't be able to have much impact. However, the same is true for the unfortunate people who have little money and/or education. Social media has become more accessable and being adopted by more people outside the upper and middle class, however, this will cause further alienation of those people who cannot participate in the online revolution.
These recent political activities have built a lot of credibility for the medium in the eyes of the engaged youth. For most, the internet, social media and related digital communications was seen as something only enjoyed by middle class youth with good educations. Now it is beginning to be adopted by a larger population and has moved into the mainstream.
Will it affect the commercial evolution of the internet in the Middle East?
- Mostly Social Media still remains a platform to share and voice political and/or personal opinions. Commercially, social media is still very young in this region. Only the last 6 months have we begun seeing online shopping and group buying in the Middle East, for example, but these are in the UAE and Lebanon, which have a much higher digital literacy rate.
- Also, it’s been only recently that we’ve seen very hip, young brands engage directly with their customers and influencers. Brands in general are seen differently in this part of the world and there is not a lot of openness for direct engagement with large corporations. People are skeptical about the true intentions of companies and issues such as privacy are always a concern.
- Lifestyle brands that target subculture for youth are starting to be more daring though and we will see this year a lot more interaction with brands through digital platforms in the Middle East.
- Small businesses run by young entrepreneurs also do well, particularly because they understand how to approach SM in a way that doesn’t put people off. For large multinationals, there is an opportunity to provide expertise and resources to help rebuild these countries and social media is an effective way to reach out to the population.
What is next?
I predict a few things will happen before we see more commercialization of Social Media.
- First, young politically savvy youth will begin to vie for representation in the new governments. The most successful ones will take advantage of the recently expanded online population to drive public sentiment.
- The ones who understand how to engage and use social media will be successful in building popularity. Similar to how Obama did, this will help grow adoption further in order for citizens to stay up to speed and participate in the changes to their political landscape.
- Because it has become more mainstream and understood by a larger majority of the population, when the political situation calms, social media will begin to become more of a commercial platform as people start to use it to research then buy through online channels.People will be recommending which TV to buy instead of which corrupt government official to overthrow. At least we can hope.