On January 27, 2013, Twitter announced that it would be introducing Twitter Ad Service to its increasingly popular platform in the Middle East. Recent periods of social unrest have led to a massive increase in the use of Twitter throughout the region; in fact, Arabic is now the fastest growing language on Twitter in the site’s history. Now, the popular social media site has decided to implement promotional products that are already available to many Twitter users, creating an opportunity for SEO professionals that until now did not exist.
According to Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s Vice President of International Operations, “When we decided we wanted to prioritize in the Middle East region it was principally because we had a large user base here and [it] was growing rapidly. The active user base in the Middle East has tripled in the last year. It’s one of the fastest growing regions in the world.”
Twitter’s new Middle East ad products center on the Promoted Accounts, Tweets and Trends that are a part of the promotional offerings Twitter already sells in the United States, Latin America, Japan and the United Kingdom. The website has offered a strong advertising product in most of its markets around the world, and it is used quite regularly as an advertising tool in most web and SEO marketing strategies. Statistics show rising internet penetration in the Middle East, as well as the relative infancy of digital presentation, information technologies and analytics among the general population, creating a prime market for expansion.
Since the use of social media as advertising in this area is in its youth; in some cases, it is untrusted and therefore risky. Because of the volatility of the region, and the fact that freedom of speech and advertising comes in baby steps in many parts of the Middle East, many companies are slow to become a public entity and risk becoming a public enemy. Seeing the power of social media to take down governments, some companies fear making social missteps in the new digital climate. For both local companies and international companies looking to expand to the region, appearing too progressive could create a social backlash; on the other hand, being too conservative could cost companies a significant percentage of the growth market. What cannot be denied is the fact that much of the region has adopted social media as part of its new culture. Companies who wish to do business there must sooner or later define their online identities and implement a vibrant SEO strategy. The new offerings from Twitter are a significant step forward in allowing them to do just that.
The Arab Spring protests clearly demonstrated how much a part of daily life the use of social media has become for many of the region’s people; the result is a permanent shift in both culture and politics. The Arab Social Media Report estimates that well over two million people now use Twitter across the Middle East, with many more continuing to join. Politically, social media sites like Twitter have documented roles in the sweeping governmental changes in the region. These sites allowed for rapid communication of ideas and organizational instruction for government protesters. For example, Twitter was used extensively to communicate up-to-the-minute logistical details for protesters during the ousting of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. That same power holds intriguing potential for both online and brick-and-mortar businesses looking to grow their market share in the Middle East.
The new program will be launched in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Pakistan. The company has enlisted the Egypt-based company Connect Ads to kick off the sales campaign and handle marketing its advertising products in these countries. Reuters reports that Pepsi and the well-known telecommunications provider Mobily have signed on as two of the first major clients. In time, the allure of potential profits from the region will win out, and other big fish will move into the ever-growing digital pond in the Middle East. No matter what the size of their business, however, web-savvy SEO professionals who strike while the iron is hot will likely enjoy a similar advantage to that enjoyed by early adopters of web advertising opportunities in other parts of the world.