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Snapchat in the Middle East: Marketers HAVE to Get It

Posted on October 10, 2016 10:00 am;

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By John Alexander Adam


Snapchat is taking the Middle East by storm, and to some extent at the expense of other social media such as Facebook and Twitter. While marketers may not see the photo sharing social media as an immediately natural business opportunity, most initially thought the same thing about first Facebook and then Twitter. However, with so many people now using Snapchat in the Middle East, it would be foolish to ignore it as a new marketing channel. So who exactly is using Snapchat, what are they doing with it and what are the business opportunities?

Snapchat allows users to send photo and video content that has a limited lifespan before it disappears. Users can view a ‘Snap’ for 10 seconds before it self-destructs. The general idea is that it shares ‘moments’. Snapchat first came to public attention as a platform predominantly used for the exchange of ‘selfies’, mainly by teenagers and often of a questionable nature. However, with over 100 million active daily users worldwide, it is now a mainstream social media and has, unexpectedly for many, grown far beyond those inauspicious beginnings.

In the Gulf region and the wider Middle East, Snapchat is growing more quickly than any social media platform before it. Statistics from market research company Ipsos Mena put the percentage of active smartphone users in the UAE who had used Snapchat over the course of December 2014 at 12%. That’s even higher in Qatar, where 14% of active smartphone users use Snapchat regularly. While official 2015 figures are still unavailable, they are certain to be much higher with 2015 widely considered as having been the ‘tipping point’ year for the social media platform. While it is still most popular amongst the Under 25s, Snapchat is quickly gaining market penetration with the 25-40 age bracket also. As a marketer, both demographics are likely to be crucial targets and Snapchat is now a very effective way to reach them in the Middle East market. So what are the opportunities Snapchat affords to marketers and how can you make the most of this new social media platform?



Snapchat allows companies to tell the story of their brand, product or service in a creative, visual way. Snapchat Stories is a function that companies can use to create re-playable narratives built from photographs or snippets of video, accessible by ‘Snappers’ for 24 hours. It forces creativity and can be very effective. And audiences seem to like the end result with Snapchat Stories created by brands being viewed 500 million times a day even back when the service was launched 2 years ago.

Another new feature ‘Discover’, packages news and other media stories for ‘bite sized’ consumption, appealing to those who consume content at regular intervals throughout the day but do not want to spend time reading long articles or watching in depth video footage. From the end of 2014 to early 2016 data consumption via ‘Discover’ quadrupled.


Reach a Generation in their Own Environment

All over the world young people under the age of 30 are using Snapchat to find their voice and express their identity in communication with their peers. It is the ‘cool’ and ‘current’ social media destination. Especially in a region such as the Middle East, with its conservative values, Generation A are finding in Snapchat an environment where they can grow as individuals without fear of repercussion and an online history coming back to haunt them. As such, brands seeking to be relevant to the younger generation, though increasingly not only, will fail to engage actively with Snapchat at their peril.


Fantastic Levels of Engagement

Statistics show that ‘Snappers’ consistently view and interact with brand-created content to a higher degree than comparable users do on either Facebook or Twitter. Exclusive time-limited promotions, photo and video collections of products and brand narratives all prove popular for Snapchat users. The fact that they only stay visible for 24 hours means that users are incentivized to check regularly for updates and new material from content providers they like.

This is just a quick ‘Snap’ of the business opportunities Snapchat is opening up. As penetration grows amongst users from older generations also marketers should understand that this is a social media platform they have to get their heads around and begin making the most of. That is relevant in the Middle East perhaps more than in any other geography.

If you want to take your content marketing skills to the next level, Morgan International offers a number of different digital marketing diplomas at locations across the Middle East.


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