According to an infographic published by ICT Qatar social media usage in MENA region is on the rise. There are 56 million Facebook users in the region, with 14 million coming from Egypt alone. Usage is not limited to Facebook. They note that the region is home to more than 3.7 million Twitter users who produce 10 million tweets every day of which 73% are in Arabic.

Recently, Google surveyed 1,500 privately-owned businesses in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt in order to gain insights on the small and medium enterprises in the regionThe results were staggering: Only 18% of SMEs have an online presence in the U.A.E., 15% in Saudi and 7% in Egypt. As a point of reference, 40% counterparts in the U.S., France and Turkey reported rates of 40%, 60% and 37%, respectively. In this case, an online presence refers to both commercial websites and social media.

Overall, it’s clear that Facebook is becoming an inherent part of lives, business and people in MENA countries. Based on statistics that show a high number of social interactions between the top brands and their customers, it is evident that marketers are increasingly becoming aware of Facebook’s role in driving business growth. — Social Bakers

Some enterprises may justify delaying investments in an enterprise website, because they believe their businesses rely on word-of-mouth and other mediums. One thing is for sure: Growing businesses in MENA have much to lose and everything to gain from their engagement of social media (or lack thereof).

After all, UAE’s smartphone usage is among the highest in the world and MENA tops most emerging markets for internet penetration. In the MENA region, internet users are not a niche demographic- they number over 135 million people, across all customer segments.

For SMEs, this is an untapped (and initially free) way to add value to one’s business.

Online platforms are essential in any market but they are increasingly vital to reaching audiences in MENA. Based on a survey of over 4000 individuals across the region, the Arab Social Media Outlook found that nearly 30% use social media as a primary news source.

According to a recent poll [by Social Bakers], 9 in 10 respondents said they would participate in brands’ social media activities, if given the chance. -Social Bakers

The first and most high-impact social media channel for MENA SMEs to connect is Facebook. With Facebook, information flows in both directions, allowing businesses to increase visibility among target audiences while also gathering information about their customer segments. As per its recently published figures, the site now has 45 million monthly active users and 20 million mobile monthly active users in the region. 65% of users visit the site more than once daily (at least in UAE and Saudi Arabia), which gives plenty of opportunities to interact.

While Facebook is a first step, MENA SMEs may find a whole new world as they begin to engage social media. Twitter, for example, allows for more bite-sized informational exchange and thus, is of particular interest to B2B service providers in MENA. Instagram is potent for sharing images so has untapped potential to showcase MENA’s designers, manufacturers and producers. LinkedIn, YouTube and the infinite social media platforms each offer unique benefits and audiences, which are critical tools for building a business.

Social media’s role in market access seems likely to strengthen with time, based on the predominance of Facebook and similar platforms among adolescents and young adults.

With 30% of the region’s population between 15 and 30 and the largest youth population in its history, social media engagement is a fundamental for growing SMEs in MENA markets.

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