Online activity sees 30 percent increase during Ramadan

Updated 16 July 2013

Online activity sees 30 percent increase during Ramadan

According to a report by The Online Project (TOP), a leading social media agency in the Middle East, high levels of Internet activity are observed during the month of Ramadan in the Middle East. Results show that residents are active on social media by up to 30 percent more during Ramadan, posting a greater amount of religious content.
TOP studied Facebook and Twitter penetration in nine different countries across the region, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE to provide a broad outline of social media trends in the region, taking into account levels of engagement, response, insight and the timings of their interaction.
“Ramadan is a sacred month, where strengthening connections with family, friends and fellow Muslims is commendable,” says Manal Assaad, a social media strategist and marketing consultant. “Naturally, many tend to resort to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to greet people and spread a good vibe. Many also view this as an opportunity to initiate or join charitable activities and invite others to participate. Campaigns such as “Iftar Sayem” are easier to plan and organize through groups on Facebook or hashtags on Twitter.
Assad says that as fasting limits activities that can be done during the day, including going out, people have more free time to spend on social networking. “Times that would normally be spent having breakfast, lunch or snacks are being substituted for time spent on social networks in Ramadan. Given the mobility of social networking, we are able to log in any time anywhere and keep ourselves distracted with online activity until it is time to break the fast.”
“Night time is also a popular time for users to spend on social networks,” says Assad. “During Ramadan, people tend to stay up late or wake up for Sahoor (the pre-dawn meal), thus giving them extra time to check out their Facebook and Twitter feeds.”
Assad adds that another aspect not to be forgotten is the rise of TV shows and viewership during Ramadan that also plays a role in increasing engagement on social networks, as viewers resort to Facebook and Twitter to discuss shows such as Khawater and exchange opinions, images, quotes and clips.
High online penetration in several countries in the Middle East is seen during the night or early hours of the morning. In Saudi Arabia, the popular social networking site Facebook is mostly active at around 10 p.m. among residents. In addition, the number of Twitter posts appears predominantly between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“People tweet more to avoid watching TV and YouTube during Ramadan,” says Ahmed Shamim, a social media specialist (@DFundamentalist). “In my case, I share help tips for Ramadan, retweet religious quotes and share Hadiths on my Twitter account during Ramadan. I follow several muftis and scholars as well.”
Shamim says that the shorter working hours during Ramadan give people more free time to spend on social networking sites and provides a diversion from music and movies. The Online Project report also showed that social media users are inclined to post more positive content during Ramadan than before, while negative content is declining.
Brand engagement levels and consumer targeting showed a 33-percent hike in Facebook and an 11-percent hike on Twitter in Saudi Arabia during the holy month.
Company spending on traditional advertising in newspapers and on television increase at an average rate of 20 percent during the holy month, while consumer spending among Middle Eastern residents also rises. Most notably, the four largest telecom companies spend around $ 200 million during Ramadan.


China’s tech titans fight for cloud control

Updated 04 July 2020

China’s tech titans fight for cloud control

  • Tencent flexes its muscles in race with arch-rival Alibaba as pandemic opens new business frontiers

HONG KONG: For Chinese cloud services companies, the coronavirus outbreak has become a rainmaker, bringing in new business far and wide as firms shift work online, and authorities develop apps and systems to help contain outbreaks and manage social restrictions.

For Tencent Holdings, in particular, it has also become the perfect time to flex new muscles as it seeks to catch up with Alibaba Group Holding, its arch-rival and the dominant player in the country’s cloud market by far.

Tencent began to display a new level of aggressiveness after positioning its cloud business as a major area of growth in September 2018, and that has only amped up amid the pandemic, employees say.

“The competition with Alibaba is so fierce right now, the sales teams are fighting them for every deal,” said a source in Tencent’s cloud division who was not authorized to speak on the matter and declined to be identified.

This year alone, Tencent has hired more than 3,000 employees for its cloud division. And as China went into lockdown and demand for corporate video bandwidth surged in February, it added 100,000 cloud servers in eight days to support a two-month old product, Tencent Conference — a feat the company says is unprecedented in Chinese cloud computing history.

It has expanded use of cloud servers designed in-house, pledged to speed up construction of a digital industry center in Wuhan to handle cloud and smart city projects in central China and joined a central government initiative to support pandemic-hit small businesses with free cloud services.

The social media and gaming behemoth also announced in May it will invest 500 billion yuan ($70 billion) over five years in technology infrastructure including cloud computing — just weeks after Alibaba said it would invest 200 billion yuan in its cloud infrastructure over three years.

Poshu Yeung, vice president of Tencent’s international business group, notes huge interest in shifting further into the cloud from businesses and for online education.

“We actually see more demands, requests coming in,” he said in an interview in April. “It’s a good wakening call for a lot of businesses.”

During the first quarter, China’s cloud infrastructure services market grew an impressive 67 percent from a year earlier to $3.9 billion, data from research firm Canalys shows.

Alibaba commanded 44.5 percent of the market while Tencent, which started its cloud business in 2013, four years after Alibaba, had just 14 percent. Huawei Technologies also had 14 percent.

“Although Tencent came to the space later than Alibaba, I believe the company is willing to endure a relatively long period of investment cycle for this business, hoping to catch up or one day becoming the No. 1 player in this field,” said Alex Liu, tech analyst at China Renaissance.

Tencent’s cloud division accounted for more than 4.5 percent of its annual revenue last year while Alibaba’s cloud computing division accounted for 8 percent of its overall revenue.

Tencent employees have told Reuters the company is working hard to become more adept in business-to-business sales where products are often designed from the ground up for one client, as well as in government relations.

 Those are areas where Alibaba excels while Tencent’s strength lies more with consumer-centric products and design.

“Tencent has great genes in business-to-consumer, but in business-to-business, we either didn’t have product managers or we just hired folks with a business-to-consumer background so it took a bit of time to convert their thinking,” said a second Tencent source in the company’s cloud business.

Tencent declined to comment on staff observations.

One area where Tencent has gained ground in recent years is government contracts — a relatively small part of the market in revenue terms but one that brings prestige and helps attract private-sector clients.

Underscoring its determination to win tenders, Tencent in 2017 offered to complete a Fujian province government information platform project for 0.01 yuan.

From 2016 to 2017, Alibaba scored 28 cloud-related contracts for government entities, state-owned enterprises, and academic institutions, while Tencent landed just seven, government procurement records show.

But in 2018, they secured 28 each before Alibaba took the lead again last year with 49 compared with Tencent’s 46.