DUBAI: Dubai Lynx, the leading creativity festival in the Middle East and North Africa, has launched a series of podcasts discussing topics ranging from experiential marketing to diversity in the advertising industry.
The latest podcast, “Social Media & Consumer Behavior in the KSA Market,” brings together Shivani Kulshrestha, strategist at Socialize Agency, and Osama Taher, projects director at Create Media Group, Riyadh.
Arab News spoke to Kulshrestha and Taher to discuss the growth of digital and social media in Saudi Arabia and the subsequent changes in marketers’ approaches.
The Kingdom is the biggest market in the GCC. What can you tell us about the nuances of this market?
Taher: “The Saudi market is quite special because of the age group that is actually consuming digital content. More than 70 percent of the nation is below 35 years old, and this gives marketers a huge opportunity to focus on this age group.
“The second thing is how Saudis, especially the younger generation, have good exposure. More than 1.2 million Saudis have traveled abroad to continue their studies — this is a huge number. These people have been exposed to different cultures and languages. So, all of that combined with Vision 2030 has helped build a very unique market.”
Kulshrestha: “We saw 8 percent year-on-year growth in social media usage, which means that 80 percent of the country is using social networks and messenger services. So, social is really where you want to be if you want to target the Saudi audience.
“The other thing to bear in mind is that this audience is ‘hyperconnected’ at a level that is ahead of the rest of the world. On average, people around the world spend about two hours and 25 minutes every day on social media, whereas Saudis spend three hours and six minutes. They also have way more accounts than the average person at 10.4 social accounts per person, which is twice the global average.
“The one distinction to make is that even though they’re spending a lot of their time on their favorite platforms, they’re just not as engaged with the content. The level at which they’re engaging is the lowest in the world with an average engagement rate of 0.03 percent versus 0.11 percent globally.”
How did the use of social and digital media change during the pandemic?
Kulshrestha: “Usage on all social platforms increased and the Kingdom was no exception to this. We saw YouTube growing by 14.5 percent, Twitter by 13 percent and TikTok by 12.8 percent when you compare year on year. But what’s more interesting is that the need for entertainment and videos has grown by almost 10 percent.
“The data shows that 83 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 64 now regularly use entertainment video apps compared to 75 percent in 2020. And it’s not just down to YouTube; TikTok is giving all social media platforms a run for their money.”
With the emphasis on content and entertainment, how has storytelling evolved in the digital age?
Taher: “Storytelling is still the same; it’s just the tools that we’re using to tell the stories are quite different. Earlier, before the pandemic, we had the freedom to get in our car and go and experience a product or service in one place. Now, brands have understood that they have to bring the experience to audiences in a creative way.
“Online shopping has been around since forever, but there were some brand categories, like automotive and real estate, which could not offer it. However, during the pandemic, there was one automotive brand that used augmented reality content to provide a full online experience, resulting in a 32 percent increase in sales compared to the previous year.”
Kulshrestha: “When it comes to social media, you only have a few seconds to capture your audience’s attention. And so you have to make your time with them effective by communicating your brand message in the first three seconds. That is the more traditional way of looking at storytelling.
“The other way to really ensure your storytelling is effective is lengthening the time you have with your audience, and the way you can do that is through ‘collaborative storytelling.’ Specifically in the Kingdom, there are two key ways you can do this.
“The first is to change the way or the place you have been telling your story. Taher mentioned augmented reality, and another way is gaming, which is huge in the Kingdom, with about 91 percent of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 saying that they play games on any device.
“The second method is to move beyond storytelling as a form of passive communication; it’s now a technique where the audience is invited to take part.
“Either you change the way you’re speaking to people by finding them in spaces where they’re already connecting with each other like gaming, or if you are going to stick to the normal social platforms, think about the ways you can invite your audience to be part of the story.”
What are your top three takeaways for marketers in the Kingdom?
Taher: “Simplify, localize and never judge a book by its cover.”
Kulshrestha: “Don’t advertise to your audience; entertain them. Invite your audience into your storytelling experience, and get into gaming.”
The full episode of “Social Media & Consumer Behavior in the KSA Market” is now available for streaming on Anghami.