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Social media usage in the Middle East

Damian Radcliffe, a journalism professor at the University of Oregon, issued his fourth annual report titled “The story of 2015” discussing the social media in the Middle East.

As expected, the region is scoring high penetration rates in social media. According to the report, there are more than 41 million active users in the region. Needless to say, the young, tech-savvy generation available in the region is the main reason driving these high rates of social media consumption.
Although the whole region is witnessing a boom in the new media usage, there are still some differences in the platforms’ preferences and usage across the Middle East, especially between the Gulf countries and North Africa.
For instance, the leading platform in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Lebanon is none other than the messaging service WhatsApp.
In percentage, WhatsApp is used by more than 94 percent of the social media active users in the Kingdom, while used by virtually all those active on social media in the UAE. In general, 41 percent of the social media users in the region are using WhatsApp.
However, the platform that is leading the race in the region as a whole is Facebook. Egypt constitutes the largest fan-base of the platform at 27 million active users, while there are 12 million users in Saudi Arabia, and 11 million in Iraq. In the region as a whole, 87 percent of the social media active users have a presence on Facebook, with 84 percent of them accessing the platform from their mobile devices, and 89 percent of them on a daily basis.
When it comes to Twitter, Saudi Arabia and UAE are on top with 53 percent and 51 percent active users in these countries, respectively, using the platform. The lowest usage across the region comes in Libya and Syria, with 12 percent and 14 percent respectively. Interestingly, the study states that 45 percent of those using Twitter age between 18 and 24, while 25 percent only of them are aged 45 or above. However, it is good to notice that Saudi Arabia is having the largest number of users of the platform, it is scoring low in daily usage, which could hint that Saudis are moving away from the platform toward its competitors like Instagram and Snapchat.
Snapchat has recorded the highest annual growth, jumping from 3 percent to 12 percent in the region. The live stories the platform features on Makkah, Riyadh and Dubai secured its popularity in the region and turned it into a new platform of choice for many social media influencers.
The rest of the report discusses the behavior of the region’s consumers in the field of entrainment and news consumption, shedding more light and emphasizing on the fact that social media platforms became a very important and sometimes sensitive areas of interest in any attempt to analyze and understand the region.

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