I have been invited to take part, as a panelist, at The Role of Social Media Session, held on October 22, during the World Economic Forum 2011 – Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab World, held in King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center, Deadsea, Jordan. Whereas I’ve been previously invited to participate in the full forum as a media leader, which has been an interesting experience.
Here I will highlight a summary of the points that I spoke about during the Role of SocialMedia session which had main topics to address including: Influencing policy, Catalysing corporate citizenship, and Redefining media.
Corporates creating a credible reputation and trust using Social Media:
One of the main differentiators of Social Media is Transparency, it takes almost all what you do publicly or online. One simple example is when a corporate responds to an online inquiry on any social network platform, everyone can touch how fast, helpful, and professional the response was – or not, so you can build an image or impression of that corporate. Everyone is able to see how they take the negative and positive feedback, and measure the customer satisfaction level, where users can speak their minds freely on the web. Customer Satisfaction is dangerously loud and clear, with Social Media.
That’s why I see Social Media as a two-edged-sword, it shows who you really are, what service you really provide, how well and serious are you taking your business. It takes your “old-fashion” business-to-customer communication from the offline world to the public online world, so it either brings you super up or super down. the keyword is super ;)
On the other side and from a customer point of view, I’ll tell you something… I really chose the brand that’s more reliable and active online while being confused selecting two brands. The brand I chose might be slightly of a lower quality, but in the back of my mind I knew that the guys sound more reliable and locally active online, so I knew they care more about their customers, and make sure the customer satisfaction level is high which might level things up when you think of support vs quality. So it happened to me and I suppose it might have happened to any of you too.
Protecting bloggers whose writing can put them in danger:
Well, “Everyone has his own army now, yes I repeat everyone has his own army”. Social Media made it easier to find like-minds, and easier to generate buzz, I’m not saying it’s a piece of cake yet it’s surely easier than old times. So today when a blogger goes in a controversial debate and spread his “unique” thoughts, he’ll find his like-minded, fans, and followers, which I called earlier: army, backing his case up, which for sure gives it even more weight. That’s why things are changing more dramatically and quickly these days.
Social Media influencing policy and more…
I’ll go with some statistics first, as I’m obsessed about numbers and I believe stats are resumes. I’ll take facebook as an example where twitter and other social networks might share the same percentages. In August2010, there were 1,061,000 facebook users in Jordan, today there are around 2,000,000 [1,950,000]. This is almost 30% of the total population, and 99% of the internet population in Jordan. Top age sectors are 18-24, then 25-34 (BTW if your business is not targeting this age range then social media is not the right place). Facebook has been attracting 2800 new user a day lately. And a forecast implies Google Plus will overcome twitter and linkedin in terms of members in a year.
A lot of aspects have been playing roles to attract more youth into social networks in the Arab World. In 2011, policy played a major role. Revolutions, political issues and even offline media has been focusing on the Social Media as the tool for change.
In Egypt, I believe numbers and percentages are way higher, as per their revolution moment-by-moment actions, and media trends.
For the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt Libya, and the Arab “Spring”, I don’t think it should be called a Social Media Revolution, I would have called it so if the majority of the revolutionists were social media users and it wasn’t the case, which is a good thing as it’s mostly about poor people who cannot afford a PC, smartphone or internet connection. So it wasn’t generated by Social Media, i.e. it wasn’t a spark. Yet, most importantly Social Media has been playing a major and critical role, which has been a great assist that made the revolutions actually happen. It was used by the insiders to report moment-by-moment pieces of news, which outsiders used to generate a great a buzz to the whole world to focus on one cause which gave it a greater weight and made it happen.
The Future of Social Media in the Arab World:
Leaders, ministers, managers and so will be more humble, careful and practical. Because today there is no such a thing that’s untouchable, the dictator model with huge spaces and boundaries around is gone, everyone is monitored and easily reported to the whole world today. It wouldn’t be easy for decision makers to satisfy the different and various needs, but if you’re not going with the social trends of the people then you’re gone.
A smarter a generation, hopefully. And more Social Media Based Startups.
Everyone, individual and corporate, would be going online, because today if you’re not online you don’t exist. On that I say it’s funny how in the past ten years.. if you were 24/7 online people would tell you ‘get a life’, today if you’re NOT 24/7 online and connected people would tell you ‘get a life’!
I believe Social Media is still new, and there are a lot of people who are taking it to extreme levels, but any transitional period has its by-products, so some Social Media “Experts and Gurus” will fail, other social media users will change the way they use it, hopefully related-joke: When the building is on fire, please exit the building before tweeting about it! ;)
A question was asked.. sometimes people think that if you follow someone then you agree with his points of view or mentality! I answered of course not, it’s more about the theme rather than the person, if someone is tweeting politics and I’m following him it means I’m interested in politics and somehow the way he’s taking it, but not necessarily agreeing on his views, I might agree or disagree.
Another question was asked about security and privacy issues of social networks, so I answered it depends on the social network, i.e. on twitter it’s meant to be public so in most cases it wouldn’t make sense to go on twitter and secure your tweets. It might make more sense on facebook, and on Google Plus it’s a mix of both. But still any content you post online is not totally secured even if you set your privacy settings so, there’s always a glitch, and a legal regulation for the host or network to use most of your info, so be careful and don’t upload things you don’t want the world to see anywhere online, and always read the updated terms and conditions.
There have been a lot of conversations during the session about social media as a magical tool and how is it changing and affecting a lot of people so at the end I reminded the audience that social networks are reflecting what has been going before, but more loudly now. We, people, are the ones who created social media, and it reflects our own social behaviors, so it should be going with our flow, tools affect us and we affect them, so please don’t think of it as something that fell from the sky ;)
The session has been really interesting and interactive, attended by regional political and business public figures, where we panelists were answering the audience and moderator, Mina Al-Oraibi, questions.
And here you can find my quick review of the World Economic Forum 2011.