Universal Social Media Rules as Told from the UAE

To prove social media is a global experience, the first post of 2015 is a feature interview with the wonderful Amar Majali, a digital media expert from one of the largest telecom companies in the United Arab Emirates.

The advice and insight Amar provides comes from years of experience in Arabic and English marketing. She graduated from the University of Jordan with and B.A. in Languages – English / Italian. Now she is the Digital Communications Manager at du, a massive telecom company based in Dubai.

You’ll find that even though her experience is with big corporations, Amar has a practical grasp on social media for every business owner.

First I asked Amar to give us a glimpse of her responsibilities at du.

You are currently with du. They are a telecommunications company right? Can you briefly describe your responsibilities at du?

du is one of the two telecom companies in the UAE. I manage a big part of the content that goes out to the public on our different online channels like the website, email campaigns and newsletters, YouTube videos, apps, sometimes social media content and so on.

My job is to make sure that we communicate content that is relevant to our audience yet true to our brand. Some times that’s just content policing, other times it’s creation and distribution.

What do you think is social media’s strongest benefit to business owners?

Social media connects you to thousands of people who probably would have never heard of your business before. It allows business owners to reach a very targeted audience, for example,  “Married women between 24 and 35 in my town who like a certain baby shop.” That’s only the beginning. The hard part is to keep them interested after you catch their attention.

What are the 3 biggest mistakes that most businesses make when using social media?

  • Spending too much on ads, mainly growing the fan base that way, then failing to nurture this fanbase with relevant content.
  • Spending too little on ads and promotion. It’s not a good strategy to keep your business a secret. I think it should be a 60/40 or 70/30 mix of organic growth and paid growth. The better and more consistent your content is, the less advertising you will need as you grow.
  • Bad customer service on social media (it’s documented for the world to see).

What traditional marketing principles also translate into social media?

Social media is just another medium or channel used to exchange info or ideas — except that it has user-generated content and mostly led by the people in the public eye.

You’re saying that all traditional marketing principles translate to social media because it’s really just another media channel, like display ads, direct mail, or commercials?

Not really. Social media is another media channel like TV, or Radio, or newspapers for example. It’s not all promotion. There’s content. When it comes to promotion, a lot of the traditional marketing forms are applicable, but a lot of new marketing principles exist to accommodate a new format where customers actually own the brand.

How does the user-generated nature of social media change how we should advertise?

It changes promotion so much! Businesses advertise to sell, but people are bombarded by selling messages and they are virtually blind to ads. That’s why businesses should start selling without selling. Marketing should be about creating value for the potential customer or existing one so they stay and actually see a reason why they should care about what you have to offer.

There’s no way this can be done through hard or direct selling — at least not most of the time. You’d first need a really good product to compete, then some genuinely interesting content that would capture the interest of your ideal customer and allows her to see a reason to stick around, and if you’re lucky, talk about you.

How do you determine what’s relevant to distribute on social channels?

Nowadays, everyone of us is bombarded with hundreds of sales messages online and offline. Why should a potential customer care about what you have to say? If the answer to this question and your  content are aligned, if your content fulfils a need or answers a question the customer has, then it is relevant.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced in using social media and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is to keep your followers engaged and interested. It’s so easy to talk about but so hard to do. You need to know what your goals are, plan content ahead by creating a content calendar on an Excel sheet or Google Docs, and execute, produce and publish frequently. Then you’ll have to keep things interesting by finding inspiration for original or curated content day in day out.

How do you measure and track the success of your social media efforts?

First you’ll have to define success and decide on tangible results to measure. I think it’s a mix of reach (new fans, for example) , engagement (how many likes, shares, comments, etc) and sentiment. Getting lots of comments and shares is not necessarily a good thing if your reputation is in crisis! You could also determine your success by the number of leads you generate and how many of those converted into sales.

What are your favourite social media tools (distribution, organization, discovery, or creation, etc)?

I think Kapost would be really fun to use for content marketing, social media planning and distribution (if you collaborate with a big team) — but it does come with a hefty price tag. I happily used Tweetdeck from 2009 until Twitter pulled the plug on it Last May 2014 and I have yet to find something as good.

TIP: Amar and I discussed social media tools a little after this interview. I recommended she try Bufferapp.com. Buffer is free if you’re managing social media for one business. You can post, schedule, and track engagement on multiple social networks. I use it for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can only schedule 10 posts per social network at a time, but it’s still extremely useful.

Conclusion

According to PewResearch, 78% of internet users are involved with some sort of social network. The audience potential is huge, but so is the potential to get lost in the white noise.

Use social media to listen. Stay organized, find the topics that resound with your audience, seek to serve them with every post, and you’ll keep the important people interested; the people who want and need your content.

Follow Amar on Twitter @superamar. She shares some fun and insightful content.

(Cover image derived from a photo by Mohammad Sabbouh)

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