Steven Bond spoke to Scott Hicks, Client Partner at Facebook Mena, about Facebook’s work with large companies in the region, and the reality that people trust other people more than brands.
SB: Could you speak about how Facebook is tweaking what it does in order to provide a better platform for brand engagement?
SH: We’ve been in the Middle East since June of last year – a smaller office where we focus in on the top brands, the top Fortune 500 if you will, and other local brands here in the Middle East. What we do, in essence, is really more a consulting job.
We work with the P&Gs and the Pepsis of this world to help them fine tune their social strategy, introduce new products and work with their agencies quite closely as a partnership – all to drive this social, consumer engagement on Facebook, as well as on other social platforms.
SB: So there’s certainly a shift now to being social by design, and intentionally using social media platforms – Facebook obviously being very key – to engage in new ways with clients. Perhaps you could give some figures about your user base in the region and the opportunities for businesses to engage with their audience in new ways?
SH: We have, at the last count, 53 million across the Gulf and North Africa. The average age is upper-20s, which really mirrors the demographic of the region. On average they would have around 180 friends, they ‘Like’ 80 pages – which is actually higher than the normal average – and people are using the platform on a daily basis. It’s becoming a daily habit to go in, to connect with your friends and family and the things that they love. Brands are a key part of that today as well.
SB: In terms of people trusting brands, as opposed to what their friends or peers are talking about or engaging with, could you explain why that’s so key to what you do?
SH: People asking their friends and family’s opinions of buying cars and jewellery and going to movies and restaurants is nothing new. Facebook has just basically scaled it, creating the ability for you to reach millions of people through that interaction.
The difference really is that in general – this is Nielsen talking, the big research company – peoples’ trust of brands has gone down, almost to the low 40s, while trust in friends and family has increased. That’s the opportunity for brands, to put themselves in the conversation and to show where that interaction is happening.
SB: So finally then Scott, is this something you would see as a new normal, in terms of how consumers are engaging with brands and how brands are making the most of being social by design – or is it just another passing fad?
SH: No, from what we see it is the new normal. People are spending more time on the platform. They are engaging, talking and listening to their friends, and more importantly with brands. The number of average Likes is growing exponentially – out here in the region an average of 80, but you can see it go up to 500.
Those aren’t, of course, all brands but there are a lot of brands in that mix and brands are listening and creating content for their consumers to engage with. Everybody keeps talking about the 30 second spot being dead. I don’t know if it’s dead, but it’s certainly not as active as it used to be and people are looking for new ways to engage with brands and to buy products.