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Digital Digest Special: Social Media in the MENA - 2012 Review
Digital Digest Special:
Social Media in the MENA
- 2012 Review
Issue 6: January 2013
1. Social Media Summary
2. Putting MENA usage in a global context
• A 21-nation survey conducted by the
Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes
Project demonstrated the popularity of
social networks across the globe and the
increasingly important role of
smartphones in accessing them.
• The research also demonstrated often
unique – or pronounced cultural
sensibilities reflected on social networks.
‘Users of social networking in Tunisia (63%),
Egypt (63%) and Jordan (62%) are also
more likely than those in other countries
to say they have posted on religion.
In fact, in no other nation surveyed has a
majority of users of these sites shared views
about religion. In 14 countries, only about a
third or less have posted on this topic.’
3. Sharing view on politics and community
issues also more prevalent in MENA
Sports, is a less common topic, with half or
more of users of social networking sites in only
seven countries – India, Jordan, Tunisia,
Turkey, Egypt, Brazil and China – saying they
have shared their opinions about it.
In the summer, the Dubai School of Government published data about social media
usage in the region. LinkedIn was included for the first time: http://bit.ly/OMWu3H
On Digital Qatar, ictQATAR’s blog for technology enthusiasts, I outlined 10 key points for
Qatar from the report. Read them here: http://bit.ly/OJbZZM
4. Social media penetration in the Middle East
5. 2012 saw Facebook grow by nearly a third
• Facebook grew by 29% in
the MENA region during
2012, adding over 10M new
• Membership is growing fastest
in Qatar, Libya and Iraq, with
more than 115%, 86% and
81% new users respectively.
• Egypt has 17M online
Facebook users. The highest
of any country in the region.
• 2.5M new people in Egypt
joined Facebook since January
2012, the highest absolute
user growth of any country in
6. Usage continues to skew male… and young
But usage is still low when
mapped against the wider
7. This continues themes identified in 2011
“Youth (between the ages of 15 and 29) still make up around 70% of Facebook users
in the Arab region, a number that has been holding steady since April 2011. Moreover,
the UAE is still the most balanced in terms of adult and youthful Facebook users,
while countries such as Palestine, Yemen and Morocco persist in having a
predominantly youthful Facebook user population.”
Demographic Breakdown of Facebook Users in the Arab Region* (Oct 2011)
Source: Arab Social Media Report, Dubai School of Government:
8. Much of Facebook’s growth is via Arabic usage
By May, data suggested Facebook had 45 million users in the region, with Arabic
overtaking English as the most popular language on Facebook in the MENA.
• Facebook’s Arabic interface has
outstripped the site’s overall
growth in the region by nearly
double, reaching 160% year-on-
year growth by May 2011
• This is compared with overall
subscriber growth of 87%.
• As a result, there are now more
Facebook Arabic users in the
MENA today than there were total
Facebook users in the region two
9. But usage, by language, varies substantially
Perhaps as a reflection of this, Facebook opened
its first office in the Middle East (in Dubai) during 2012.
Even in countries where Arabic FB usage is
secondary, growth remains substantial e.g. UAE saw
a 47% growth in Facebook Arabic users last year.
• Arabic dominates Facebook usage in
Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
• 60% of Iraq’s 1.6 million Facebook
subscribers now use the Arabic interface,
74% in Libya, 75% in Palestine and 82%
• French is the majority FB language in
Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
• In Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar,
Oman and the UAE, English is the most
popular language used.
10. It was also a busy year for Twitter
• By the end of 2012 there are now 17 million tweets every day
in Arabic. That is 1 billion tweets every two months.
• 1 out of 4 tweets are written in Arabizi – (Arabizi is slang/an alphabet used to
communicate in the Arabic language over the Internet)
Source: Kaveh Gharib, localization project manager, Twitter via http://bit.ly/12hwCX3
• 40% of all Arabic tweets, half of Wikipedia’s
Arabic content and 35% of all Arabic content on the
web comes from Saudi Arabia: http://bit.ly/12peESt
• Twitter now offers its mobile Web site in Arabic
and Farsi. This was made possible through the
support of their community of translators.
• The main Twitter site has been available in these
two languages, as well as Hebrew and Urdu, since
March (the first time Twitter was available in right-
NB: Data from Digital Arabia from June 2012
This community of translators were part of the 13,000 volunteers who helped translate
Twitter into four new languages. See: Twitter Now Available in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu
Map by Venture Beat to illustrate
Twitter’s new geographic reach
11. Volunteers played a key role in making it happen
Arabic is now the 6th
language on the
for 2.8% of all tweets.
Taghreedat, who worked on
these efforts is also working
to introduce the first Arabic
Tech/Web 2.0 Dictionary.
The Next Web reported that
2,500 volunteers from 28
countries are producing a
dictionary of technological and
social media-related terminology.
12. And in providing an Arabic context
“The glossary will break a big barrier because
many users resort to combining English
terminology with the Arabic text, so we want to
change that and introduce the first Arabic
technology and social media glossary.”
Co-founder of Taghreedat Sami Mubarak speaking to Gulf News
13. The Middle East’s “most connected’ Twitter users
• Communications consultancy Portland analyzed three months of data to determine
the region’s 50 “most connected” Twitter users.
• 78% mainly discussed politics
• 67% shared national news
• About one third tweeted about their personal lives
• 38% are commentators and activists
• 36% were journalists
• About one fifth of the top-50 were
government officials or politicians
Top 10 most connected Twitter users in the Middle East
1- Sultan Al Qassemi (UAE) @SultanAlQassemi
2- Dima Khatib (Qatar) @Dima_Khatib
3- Wael Ghonim (Egypt) @Ghonim
4- Mohamed El Baradei (Egypt) @ElBaradei
5- Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid (UAE) @HHShkMohd
6- Nabeel Rajab (Bahrain) @NABEELRAJAB
7- Rania Al Abdullah (Jordan) @QueenRania
8- Khalid Al Khalifa (Bahrain) @Khalidalkhalifa
9- Maryam Al Khawaja (Bahrain) @MARYAMALKHAWAJA
10- Turki Al Dakhil (Saudi Arabia) @TurkiAldakhil
14. The 100 Most Influential Arabs on Twitter
Earlier in the year Wamda, identified the Top 100
Most Influential Arabs on Twitter based on their
Klout score. Of this:
• 38% of the Top Tweeps are from KSA.
• Egypt comes in second with 30%.
• The media sector is the dominant profession with 62%.
Politics is secondat 16%.
• The majority of Top Tweeps are male, while only 14% of
the total list of 100 were female.
With thanks to @shusmo for highlighting this.
The Top 10 is below or grab a pdf of the full list.
15. Corporate Usage of social media is also on the rise
Images taken from:
16. As is use of LinkedIn
NB: Revisit Slide 6 for country specific figures
LinkedIn, opened its first MENA office on October 1st. The network, which now more
than 175 million members worldwide, has over five million members in the Middle East
and North Africa, one million of which are based in the UAE. Their offices are in Dubai’s
Internet City: http://press.linkedin.com/node/1230
17. Like Facebook it too now has a MENA office
18. 2013, a new social network?
Salamworld – a ‘halal’ social network was originally slated to launch during Ramadan.
Then in November 2012. It seems to have gone quiet, but may launch in 2013…
• Based upon Islamic ideals, and ‘, it ‘hopes to bridge cultural, traditional and sectarian
barriers and bring Muslims together in one online community’.
• They will aim to ensure halal content through filters, moderators and user-based moderation.
• The site will be available in eight languages including English, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, and
Russian. Plans to attract 5-15 million users by the end of 2012.
• Target audience includes: Young generation of Muslims and non-Muslims, International
network of contemporary Muslim Scholars, Muslim communities in Islamic and non-Islamic
regions and Non-Muslims seeking information on Islam.
“The content that is being used on other social networks is not very secure and full of haram...
We don’t want our young people to absorb all these ideas that are not familiar to them.”
One of Salamworld’s owners, Abdulvahed Niyazo, via Hürriyet Daily News
• Omar Chatriwala, an online journalist in Qatar, described the site as:
“…people trying to uphold the traditional values or the values of the religion who are saying ‘we don’t want our youth
exposed to this, and this is a better alternative… Its not necessarily the young people saying ‘we don’t want to be exposed to it.’”
• Saudi Arabia is Twitter’s fastest-growing market percentage-wise month on
• Young Emirati women started a twitter campaign called #UAEDressCode,
urging foreigners to cover up in public places: http://bbc.in/NaETEH
Image and Story: http://bit.ly/Pe9B3K
19. Some other stories you may have missed
• Club Penguin, Disney's virtual world for children
spoke of plans to launch an internet safety
campaign targeting 100m children and parents.
Disney will support the campaigns on its TV
channels, websites and magazines across the
EMEA region, as well as the site itself.
Ask.fm CEO Ilja Terebin told Techcrunch that their Q&A service
is “most prevalent in Turkey, Argentina, Russia, Saudi Arabia,
Germany, and Spain”. It’s also seeing fast growth in most of
South America and the Middle East.
MENA users sign-up to Ask.fm via Facebook or Twitter, posting and
sharing questions and answers across their social networks.
http://tcrn.ch/KMjjaGImage and Story:
• The BBC reported that the Bahrain human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been
sentenced to three months in jail after prosecutors received complaints that he had
libeled residents of the town of Muharraq on Twitter: http://bbc.in/LYoUdB
Time Magazine reported on the impact of social media in Saudi Arabia, noting that
KSA has more Twitter users than any other country in the MENA, at c.400,000 as well
as 4m people on Facebook, second only to Egypt.
Mohammed al-Qahtani, a human-rights activist in Riyadh and co-founder of the Saudi
Civil & Political Rights Organization told them:
“Can you imagine going to the street corner and speaking to 10 people?
The government would round you up immediately, but now we are speaking out to thousands.”
-, an openCryptocathas launchedKobeissiLebanese born Nadim
source encrypted web chat client. The service “aims to offer strongly
: “It’s …a webWired notedencrypted, private Instant Messaging.”
app that can save lives, subvert governments and frustrate
marketers. But as little as two years ago such a site was considered
https://project.crypto.cat/See:to be likely impossible to code.”
20. … and a few more…
Thank you for reading.
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Disclaimer: all content in these slides is in the public domain and referenced so that you can read the original sources.
Any omissions, errors or mistakes are mine, and mine alone.