Client wins can often make interesting reading, especially when the brand is a household name. Last week was no exception, with the Dubai-based House of Comms winning a brief to represent Instagram in the UAE.
The news caught my attention for a couple of reasons. Firstly, House of Comms is enjoying remarkable success; the agency, which was founded in 2012, has expanded rapidly, picked up a host of big name clients and won numerous awards for its work. The agency’s growth reminds me of the rapid rise enjoyed by Dabo & Co (which was eventually bought by Edelman).
What struck me was Instagram’s choice of market to enter into. While the UAE is the regional public relations hub of the wider Middle East region, I would have thought that the company would have taken a more regional approach to public outreach. For instance, the first market to embrace paid influencer marketing, particularly on Instagram, was Kuwait. In terms of numbers on the platform, Saudi is the largest country in the region by far, with a greater number of users than the UAE. Egypt is another key market for the picture and video service. If you’re looking for details on Instagram usage, have a look at the stats below from the second quarter of 2015 from an earlier blog.
In terms of the Gulf, it’s no surprise that Saudi leads the way – there are 10.7 million monthly active users in the Kingdom (just over a third of the population). The UAE follows with 2.2 million monthly users. And, to the West, Egypt has 3.2 million monthly active users. What’s even more impressive is daily active users – a whopping 6.1 million for Saudi, 1.2 million for the UAE, and 1.1 million for Egypt.
In addition, there’s the parent brand to think of. Instagram is owned by Facebook, which has its own PR agency in the region (which is regional). Up until recently, that agency was supporting Instagram. So, why the change? Would having two agencies for the two brands help or hinder media outreach, especially when Instagram is known as a Facebook product?
And then there’s the issue of Dubai. Ever since I’ve been working in the region, I’ve heard of the role that Dubai plays as a hub for the PR industry. But, over time media in other regions have pushed back against the practice of engaging with agencies which are only in Dubai. Many journalists have told me that they want to deal with agencies locally, in their own city. In this region, media relations is based on relationships, and the closer you are to the journalist, the better the relationship will be. And it’s an argument that is even more relevant when we talk about social media and understanding what is impacting local communities.
While the agreement is only for the UAE, I hope that Instagram, one of the most popular social platforms in the Middle East, expands its regional approach to engagement. The Instagram team should have oodles of data to look at when it comes to usage in each and every different country, and they’d be smart to look at Twitter’s model of engaging with influencers to get them onto the platform. Let’s hope that as a digital business, Instagram takes a data-based approach to engagement in an emerging market and work in key markets, rather than follow the much traveled path of using a hub to work remotely instead of actually doing the hard work and going in-country., This is a StepFeed Community post, written by a guest contributor. Alex Malouf originally posted this article on his blog, , Alex of Arabia, . If you’re interested in contributing to the StepFeed Community, please contact [email protected]