The increasing popularity of social networking sites, especially in the Middle East, can be used to the advantage of businesses that wish to grow, which in turn can create economic value, a research conducted by Deloitte has revealed.
The fourth edition of the Arab Media Outlook, or AMO -- done in collaboration with Deloitte -- showed that social media has grown significantly across the Arab World, with Facebook along shooting up 80 per cent in 2011.
Furthermore, Facebook's impact on the global economy was also apparent in the Deloitte study entitled "Measuring Facebook's Economic Impact in Europe", where it was found to create economic value through enabling ecosystems.
According to the study, Facebook embodies a new generation of social media organisations that have a significant global impact.
As per Facebook's recently published figures, the Middle East and North Africa region has 45 million monthly active users and 20 million mobile monthly active users on the social network.
The AMO report showed that digital is in fact the fastest growing platform in the region and accounted for four per cent of the total advertising spend in 2011. However, it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 35 per cent from 2011 to 2015, generating approximately $580 million by 2015 across the region. It will account for an estimated 10 per cent of the total advertising spend by 2015.
"Companies and advertisers are aware of the widespread use and importance of Facebook throughout the region, and have tailored their digital strategies to target Middle Eastern users through the platform," said Santino Saguto, partner in charge for the telecommunications, media and technology industry at Deloitte Middle East. "However, it is a tool that needs to be used properly. It is not just a matter of investing in advertising on Facebook. Rather, companies need to manage a social community."
Facebook penetration across most Arab countries reached double digit figures and there is still room for growth, given that female participation is relatively low in some countries such as Egypt, the AMO report found out.
Markets such as Egypt added close to two million new Facebook users in the first quarter of 2011 alone.
The AMO further indicates that over 90 per cent of all internet users in the UAE are on social networking sites like Facebook.
In addition, the frequency of use has significantly increased in the past couple of years with over 65 per cent of these users visiting social networks more than once a day in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Unsurprisingly, the Arabic version of Facebook has captured the lion's share of audience with nearly 90 per cent of respondents in Saudi Arabia using Facebook's Arabic version.
"There is a lack of audience measurement systems in the Middle East that, as in other markets, allow advertisers to assess the reach and impact of their advertisements through traditional mediums. Digital platforms on the other hand, offer a more quantifiable return on investment," said Emmanuel Durou, telecommunications, media and technology director at Deloitte Middle East.
"The digital advertising market in the region is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years as advertising budgets follow the migration of eyeballs from traditional to digital platforms, representing a significant opportunity for regional media outlets and overall industry development" he added.
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