Ever since the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, there has been considerable interest in the role that social media plays in the Middle East, and how this enabling technology can act as a tool for discourse and information sharing. Although the role of social media as an agent for cultural and political change in the region is probably overstated, there is no doubt that this remains a vibrant and fast moving environment.
Here are ten key data points from last year:
1. Facebook remains the most popular social network in the region, with 74 million users. It has nearly twice as many internet users as Twitter, its nearest rival, according to a study by Northwestern University in Qatar and the Doha Film Institute. 42 million MENA users visit Facebook each day, 65% via mobile devices.
2. Saudi Arabia continues to dominate MENA’s Twitter market. It is home to 40% of MENA tweeps. Tweets in Arabic represent 6% of the global total.
3. Instagram is the leading generator of social networking traffic across the region, Etisalat announced at GITEX Technology Week in October. On some mobile networks the photo sharing channel consumes nearly twice the bandwidth of Facebook.
4. Although 59% discover the majority of their news via social, TV nonetheless remains the primary channel for breaking news, in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, according to AP and Deloitte.
5. However, among Internet users in Qatar, a third of Qatari Nationals use WhatsApp to find out the latest news. This is compared to 21% of online expats. WhatsApp is the top social news source for Qatari Nationals, whereas 52% of expat Internet users in Qatar find the news on Facebook, versus just 12% of Qataris.
6. Facebook is MENA’s leading second screen activity. A study by Ipsos covering Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE (and commissioned by Facebook) found that people are 7 times more likely to second screen on Facebook than YouTube and 3.3 times more than Twitter. 43% of people in those countries “second screen” when watching TV.36% use their phone, 13% use laptops and 5% use tablets.
7. Turkey and UAE are in the Top 10 global markets for Vine, with UAE teens being the third most likely to use the six-second video clip service.
8. Arab Youth may increasingly trust social media as a source for news, but TV remains the most popular news source actually consumed. The annual Arab Youth Study also found that they more likely to use online channels and newspapers – ahead of social media – for general news consumption.
9. Tensions continue to exist between users, social networks and some Government authorities. The Turkish government, for example, took Twitter offline on March 20th, a move which a Turkish court later deemed unconstitutional. Efforts were also made by the Turkish Government to block YouTube at this time.
10. Different countries dominate YouTube in terms of content generation. Data analysed by Startappz found that most news content on YouTube comes from Qatar and Syria, whilst Saudi Arabia leads the contribution for comedy, with UAE dominating Entertainment content.
This is a specially adapted extract from Damian’s third annual round-up of developments in the Middle East’s fast moving social media scene. You can download a copy of his full 2014 report from his personal website, as well as Scribd, SlideShare and Academia.edu.