Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Moved. It's Different.

April 2012: It's different here. For many who knew and worked with me in Dubai, my blog was addressing Social Media from a Middle East perspective. This is not the case anymore. I moved. It's different in the UK. You can easily realize the existence of a PROPER virtual society. In other words, the streets of London have become facebook accounts and tweets. Oh, haven't forgotten about the corporate world, they have joined the virtual world of social media through Linked-in and what have you... Maybe all this is expected, at the end of the day, London has hub-bed this new communication revolution. Yet, to me, I never saw how social media can play a vital role that goes beyond the 'entertainment' bit. Here, it does.




So what?!

I've decided to continue engaging with the Middle East audience, chit chat about social media, digital communication and bla bla bla. This time, it's gonna be different. I am the guy from the Middle East who will experience living in the virtual world of London and will write, brag and sing about it.

What's in it for you?

Entertainment, new perspectives and ideas that you might never have thought of simply because you've not gone through a similar experience. Let's not forget, since I am physically living in the UK, it's clear that I can realize the influence of social media on the offline society. And that, you can't do from living out of this Island. I only wish it rained less.

It's jolly good and fantastic.

Keep well,

Cheers


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

please don't use facebook to tell me about the 'new collection'

It’s been a while since I last wrote about Social Media in the Middle East mainly due to the lack of resources (information and research from the region and not international)and the continuous hesitation amongst those who are supposed to be really concerned i.e: marketers. Most of what needs to be said about who, why and when… of social media has been mentioned on this blog and I don’t want to repeat myself not to bore you and not to present shallow content. Below are my comments on what I’ve witnessed since my last posting last month as I was monitoring the SM scene closely in an attempt to learn some insights about SM in the Middle East. I ended up frustrated but more willing to continue the effort to help SM grow and flourish.
Many FMCG, beauty and lifestyle brands are on social media and mainly facebook. This comes as an attempt to utilize this ‘NEW’ hot thing that makes you ‘liked’ and popular… I chose to comment on that as a communication professional and I do hope that marketers out there commissioning the SM jobs actually read this and consider it before going any further towards ‘Nowhere’.
1-      Social Media is not media: simply, social media is what experts in this field name ‘naked conversations’. It is not a billboard online or an expansive digital banner. It is a platform that invites people to share opinions and thoughts and most importantly, get entertained and educated. Till this moment, I don’t see how announcing your ‘sale, new collection..’ on facebook can educate or entertain or help people share ideas and thoughts. For god’s sake, stop doing that. So What should you post instead?
2-      Well I talked about this extensively, do the ‘listening’ first, learn about your audience and competitors and then decide on what you need to post. Most importantly, always remember that social media requires a specially customized content. The content that is good enough to make me wonna share it. This content needs to consider many elements such as effects, size, cultural sensitivities, and quality, cast… Social Media is really global and hence, you need to really think of that before posting your content.
3-      Keep your family out of it, seriously, when you open a facebook page to promote your product/company, better you ask your family/tribe members to stay out of it. Once, a client of mine wanted to brag about their facebook achievements and how their brand has ‘made it’ on social media, as I went online to check it, I felt like I am entering a village habituated by the same family, anyone else outside the family looks like a stranger who’s only visiting. Please guys, stop asking your friends and family members to habituate your facebook page, its clear that they’re there to satisfy you and not learn/interact with the brand.
4-      The elephant is all over the room. If you’re a marketer, communication ‘consultant’, PR or advertising professional in the Middle East, or anywhere else, it is about time you start learning what social media is about. A CEO in a small AD agency in Dubai still thinks that comments readers post below an article are ‘blogs’. The same CEO wants to become a leading agency in the market and his team are working on it, yet, none from his 30+ profs have a clue on how to create a blog or tweet. For this CEO, I say, all the best going down, the elephant is growing by the day and will wipe out anything in the room that is not made to last this enlargement.
I apologize if my blog’s content about social media in the Middle East is still primitive but so is the whole industry and I do hope that this will change soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What type of content for corporate Social Media?

Dubai July, 2011:If you’re hoping that you’re content will make it on social media, then you should have already considered the basic essentials that can make such content ‘ social media friendly’ content. Corporates in Dubai and the Middle East in general are still not getting it, ‘social media content’ is not your tvc posted on youtube, and it’s not your press ad posted on facebook….It’s simply media created by the people. What is your role as a company who is seeking publicity via that content? You prepare the environment for the people to produce such content.
Before I share with you an amazing video that shows a great advancement of how agencies are thinking about social media in Dubai now, I need to list the basics of social media content:
1.      Entertaining: Social media is about entertainment, entertainment and then entertainment. Don’t outsmart the system, its never gonna be a unipole or a newspaper for your press ad.
2.      Problem solving: simply introduce a solution to a common problem.
3.      Casual: Not Hollywood level production, good enough but not sophisticated. I should feel light and easy to forward.
4.      Short: Don’t abuse social media free space. The consumer is not willing to spend with you more than seconds or minutes even though you’re entertaining and enriching. This is the new consumer, smart and exposed. So make your point fast and easy.
5.      Telling: don’t sell on social media. Just inform the people of what you do. Imagine that you’re attending some dinner party and you meet this person and the first thing you talk about is “how can I make money by selling you what I have”….
Now that this is said, check the link and comment, irrelevant if this is an original idea or not, it’s just a good environment that features real people composing a social media corporate content…


Hameed

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Public Relations tactics on Social Media in the Middle East

Dubai, July: I’ve always considered media in the Middle East as the medium to reach the authorities and not the people. Totally convinced, I said that to transfer that conviction to my clients to apply more active communication that can reach their consumers such as sponsorship and events. Until social media showed up, public relations have become possible. The only obstacle is the fact that most of the PR professionals in Arabia are writers, former journalists or people who got lucky with a contact or two with budgets and decisions to spend them. 
In the past PR has used mainstream media as the only option and delivery channel to deliver a message. Why would they continue with that now? Anyhow, all research shows that print media readers are diminishing every minute, so the main question, how can PR continue in the new Middle East through social media?
There isn’t one answer for this question, yet there are experiences and trials that have not matured enough to create a module for others to follow. Below I’ll list a couple of examples of what I’ve been suggesting and executing for my clients in the region. Other methods are there but are still not applicable in the middle east.
1-      Blogging: corner stone of your social media PR.  We all know that the stakeholders of every company are not limited to media or press. Blogging gives companies and corporate to reach all their stakeholders efficiently. The PR agency/professional role would be to help with content and identify distribution channels to convey the message to the right online communities.
2-      Ongoing social media campaigns:  The facebook page is not another medium to advertise, it is there to interact with consumers. This is possible when companies activate their  CSR platforms, create entertaining activities that are smart and rewarding….
3-      Start corporate entertainment activities: Utilize linked in, join groups, create groups and interact.  Every group is a community, why assume reach of this same community through print media and you can be 100% sure that if done through Linked In, it is done.
4-      Social releases:  I would like to change the name of press releases to social releases. Make sure that your social release is hyperlinked where needed, add images that are linked to websites, blogs, or mini sites, add videos and certain widgets that can be of use to the receiver. Remember, your social release is not directed at media, it will be captured by your own consumer/audience who will share it in no time. So, you should make sure it is rich and attractive to be worth the SHARE.

As I said, the social media PR is still in its infancy in the region and we will keep discovering new ways every day. So if you have any experiences you need to share, please do by leaving it as a comment to this post, or leave a link to your blog/website.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

10+1 simple tactics to bring guests to your blog

Hameed Says:

Dubai, June 2011:Bringing traffic to your blog is not the easiest task you can do. I always thought of it as a shop in a market. What can I do to bring people into my shop? Do I work on the sign, decoration, window, hire smiling sales people, secure parking area… Aren’t all these tactics to bring in more shoppers? What makes that different from bringing in more guests to you blog? The parking maybe, but everything else still applies.


Back to the subject and about the simple tactics, yet, couple of things a blogger should remember before adapting these tactics:
1-      Does the intended blog address a popular subject/interest? To know that, simply register with Google alert and learn how popular the subject is from the alerts you will receive. Go through them and check the level of comments, number of active bloggers, variety of subjects…
2-      Have you prepared enough content to last you for a minimum of 6 months?
3-      Depending on the audience mindset you’re trying to reach, have you identified the best social media platform? To learn more about facebook and linked in go to “Why facebook and Linked In and why not" post http://bit.ly/j6LW1V
4-      The last preparation step and most important question, did you identify the first group of objectives you want to achieve?
Assuming the above is done, refer to the steps below to learn how you can attract your first visitors:
1-      Increase quality connections and friends on facebook and linked in to create your contacts baskets
2-      Interact with your contacts through likes and valid comments and gain visibility and respect
3-      Enter groups on linked in and facebook. Say hi as you enter and introduce yourself.
4-      Attend to your contacts as if they’re sitting in your own living rooms. Make them feel that they’re special. Turn them into advocates.
5-      Select a list of trusted friends and contacts and share with them your blog topic, design elements, blog name… offer ownership.
6-      Choose a subject that will attract the attention of your contacts who are familiar with your photo/s and name.
7-      Write your first post, and share it on linked in and/or facebook , twibe, twitter…
8-      Insert relevant images as they appear as thumbnails and get your contacts intrigued and curious.
9-      Make the posts short, casual and informative. Stay away from books language, remember that your contacts are aware of who you are and have set certain expectations.
10-  Look for groups that are interested to know more about the subject you’re addressing. Try enter these groups, interact with the members, especially the most active ones. Share your blog posts on all the groups you have subscribed to on linked in and facebook.
11-  Monitor the stats carefully and off you go.
For sure, these are general guidelines, for further details, I’ve decided to conduct a free workshop on the subject for the first 20 applicants. The first workshop will take place in Dubai whilst the second will be in London. See you soon.

Why Linked in and Facebook and why not?

This brief post is a description of why and when you should use selected social media platforms such as Linked in and Facebook.

Linked in is the more talk and less looks platform that is directed at users who are looking for the best way to increase their income through grasping knowledge and information that is relevant to their business and can help them perform better, on the other side, facebook is a platform that is directed at users who prefer tabloid magazines and visually led messages that aim at keeping them entertained. It’s more looks and less talk. Now that you know this, which audience you want to reach? Note: the same user might be signed up on both (Linked in and Facebook), but it’s the usage time that defines the mindset of the user, as a smart blogger, you need to learn your audience mindset and try reach it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are Companies in GCC ready for Social Media?

Thanks for checking my post, if you don't prefer reading, check the prezi http://bit.ly/le8rD9

Dubai, June 2011:NO! They’re definitely not. Not because they don’t want to engage in social media, the simple fact is they’re not aware of what social media is, and that will never get them ready.
Debating the matter with the client, I thought I need to blog this as it’s not something that is limited to a small bunch of people (marketers) as it turn out it is the norm. To many, taking a company to social media is a simple exercise that begins with signing up to facebook and starting a twitter account.  More than 90% of the marketers I spoke to who work for companies in the UAE, have no clue on why THEY selected facebook for their companies and what messages or content they will feed it with.

A list of questions came to my mind as I was debating with the client who sees social media as a ‘time bomb in the shape of candy’ and I found myself sharing these questions with him and turning the meeting into a workshop.
 Q:How long does it take you to build and launch a website?”
A:4-8 weeks depending on the content and functionality.

 Q:How much time you need to generate, finalize and approve this content?
A:More than 80% of the period needed to do the website.

Reaching that point in the debate, he realized what I was trying to say.
If content for a static website requires 6 weeks, then going on social media that requires fresh content on hourly basis will surely require much more quality time to prepare and dispatch. I’ve always seen websites as corporate exclusive clubs, while social media is a majlis.
In other words, social media for companies has always been a virtual version of what arabs call the Majlis and westerners call “a cocktail reception”. In both functions, you have to prepare yourself before you reach the venue by wearing the suitable attire depending on the occasion and who’s there, be ready with a subject or two, a joke or two, a story to tell, basically anything that will fill the air waves. This readiness requires 1) fact finding: you learn about the location so you’re not late, it needs 2) intelligence: so you know who’s there and 3) smart content: what might be interesting to talk about (edutaining small talk) requires and finally 4) talent when deciding what to wear and how to get there. In general, it requires TIME.  So as soon as I get to the reception, I am ready to face its challenges and enjoy its joys. Therefore, if someone asks my opinion about what’s been said, I am expected to respond instantly, otherwise, I will stand out of the group and later from the whole cocktail party.
So, using the majlis comparison, I shook hands with the client and we both decided to meet again soon, to start the ‘getting ready’ exercise, then he called his son who studies at the American University in Dubai and asked him not to create the facebook page for his company.
In short, companies going on social media should always remember that it’s not an individual approach, but a corporate one that takes lots of preparation, proper mindset and clear objectives.