Social media has been a hot topic in the Middle East, since the events of the Arab Spring highlighted its role of the growing field. And while Twitter might have grabbed a lot of headlines for its part in Iran or Egypt, a new study (PDF) says that Facebook and WhatsApp are the preferred social media networks in MENA.
The study, polling 7,000 Arabs from 18 different countries, was announced at the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit in Dubai last week. Reportedly the first study of its kind within the region, the research was originally undertaken with the intent of understanding both the perceptions of social media and the habits of users within the region.
While the report claims to the be the first survey of Middle Eastern social media, a previous, identically titled report was released for six years and also funded by the Dubai Government.
Not very surprisingly to anyone living within the MENA region, Facebook and WhatsApp are the most popular platforms used by study participants. The primary reasons users gave for utilizing social media were for chatting and connecting with others.
Interestingly, the report also revealed that 44 percent of research participants are leery of trusting social media. Furthermore, 41 percent believe that social media has a negative impact on culture and tradition. Still, 55 percent of survey participants stated that they use social media primarily to connect with others and 50 percent said they use it for chatting.
For all the social media stalkers out there, don't worry, you are not alone. Eighteen percent of participants responded that they primarily use social media to see other people's posts. Additionally, users tend to spend short amounts of time on social media per session, with 30 percent saying that they spend less than 30 minutes per session and only 5 percent admitting to spending more than four hours during a given session. To which we say, try reading a book. #noreally
Perhaps most interesting, especially for iPhone and Samsung, is that 83 percent of users utilize social media through their smartphones while only 11 percent prefer using laptops.
"The Arab Social Media Report represents the first step towards enhancing the use of social media platforms in increasing positive communication between individuals and all segments of the society and government entities. The report also provides an overview of the future plans in the promotion of the best use of social media channels at the local, regional and global levels," said Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit, to Emirates 24/7 .
The in-depth research for the study was conducted throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the Levant region, Iraq, Yemen and North Africa. Phone interviews, discussion groups, and interviews with social media experts were all an integral part of the overall final report.