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How to Master Content Marketing in the Middle East

Khalipha Ntloko

Dec 14, 2020

At the heart of any marketing strategy lies content, and any marketer knows that in order to build a relationship with their target audience and potential customers, they need to effectively use content to capture their attention first before engaging with them to build a long lasting relationship that yields customer loyalty. But before this can all happen, step one of creating a strong content marketing strategy is getting to know your customers - their likes, dislikes, sentiment around certain topics and their behaviours. 

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When it comes to the Middle East, knowing your customers is particularly vital if you want to see success with your content marketing efforts. The region is rich in diversity and is constantly on top of a number of tech trends. In the past, brands have tried using generic forms of communication to get their message across the whole region, with the results of their campaign strategies showing how they missed reaching full potential. So, if you want to learn how to master content marketing for the Middle East, here are some quick tips to remember: 

Content marketing matters in the Middle East

According to a survey done by back in 2015, 60% of marketers in the Middle East planned on increasing their content marketing budgets over the next year. The survey revealed how marketers within the region were rapidly turning towards content marketing as a key focus of their overall digital marketing efforts. To add onto this, the survey found that 69% of marketers interviewed viewed content marketing as ‘very important’ to their marketing efforts. So, if marketers find content marketing important, so should you. 

arabic women

Content marketing has a lot to do with answering your audience’s questions. You want to be able to build trust between your brand and your audience, and content is a great way of achieving this by addressing the very questions they have. What are the tourist attractions in Dubai that they can visit? What are some of the fashion trends that your audience in the region needs to be aware of? If these are just some of the questions that your audience is asking, create content that will answer them. You not only give yourself the opportunity to be top of mind for these topics, but you connect with your customers and, with consistent content, can improve conversions and generate leads. 

In 2020, "content marketing" was mentioned 1208 times on social media in the UAE, with the term engaging over 100 000 users and garnering a social reach of over 2 Million. Looking at the trending themes for "content marketing" in the region, the data highlights how social media users are interested in the topic, and marketers need to be too.

meltwater media monitoring dashboard for content marketing in the UAE

But, you don't want to produce the same old, recycled content. Catching the attention of your audience in the Middle East means producing quality content that doesn't just inform but is entertaining and generates enough interest that your audience wants to share it with others. As the region continues to invest in technology, digital marketing and e-commerce, marketers who are considering content marketing for their strategies in the future should invest time and resources into optimising their content; think SEO and the right copy, if you want to start standing out from the rest. 

Community is everything

If you want to guarantee a successful digital marketing campaign, the focus of the content you create needs to be geared towards community. This simple rule has proven to be successful for some of the biggest brand names, such as Nissan. Below are two pictures of an advert for the Nissan Pathfinder. The first image is an ad for the Saudi Arabian market and second image is for the U.S. market. Notice how a key difference between the two images is that the ad for the Saudi Arabian market depicts the car as a ‘family car’ whilst the U.S. one simply highlights the specs and details of the car. This is because family and a sense of community is crucial when marketing in the Middle East. 

nissan pathfinder advert in the middle east
nissan pathfinder advert for the USA

Personalise, localise and optimise

The content you create should also be written in a language that your consumers and target audience will understand - both literally and figuratively. Arabic is one of the main languages for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even other GCC countries like Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. This means that for your content, you should incorporate both Arabic and English. This will give you some of the best results when it comes to audience outreach, so make sure that you include these languages into your content. 

hand on mobile phone

If you also are creating content that is at the top of the marketing funnel, make sure that these content pieces are easy to follow and linguistically make sense collectively. Additionally, the images you use also need to make sense so avoid anything that may confuse your audience.

With an increase in mobile usage in the Middle East, remember that when creating content for the Arabic market, ensure that it is optimised for mobile consumption. Most Arabs use their smart phones to use the internet, with Saudi Arabia ranking 3rd globally for smartphone usage. Make sure that your website is not just language friendly, but mobile friendly too. 

Incorporate influencer marketing

The shift in the Middle East's ability to adapt to technology has seen the users in the region continue to increase usage of social media platforms. This provides marketers with the opportunity to use social media as effective channels for their content marketing campaigns, and in turn, reach a wider audience and increase engagement. 

Influencer marketing is also quite popular in the Middle East, where the most popular influencers now have millions of followers on social media. In 2020, the term 'influencer marketing' has been mentioned 266 times in news articles and 751 times on social media in the UAE, based on Meltwater's Media Monitoring data. This is an increase of 57%, compared to last year, indicating that more people in the region are talking about influencers and the potential they have. Additionally, while there are still neutral feelings towards influencer marketing within the region, 17% of social media mentions on influencer marketing are positive as both users and brands begin to see the value and effectiveness that influencer marketing has.

meltwater sentiment analysis on influencer marketing in the middle east

By incorporating influencers into your content marketing approach, you'll soon realise how great of a fit influencers can be within the cultural and market tendencies. People prefer peer recommendations over impersonal brand campaigns, and the same is true for the Middle Eastern market. 

Remain culturally sensitive

Whether you are a global brand or a local business, being culturally sensitive is important when coming up with marketing campaigns and strategies for the Middle East. Marketers need to learn and understand the Middle East’s cultural diversity, and how that can actually be an advantage. 

In September 2017, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a decree that allowed women to drive for the first time. Ford Middle East celebrated the news by sharing a striking ad on Twitter that was positively received by a number of social media users in the region.

What can you take away from this? If you're in marketing, make sure that you study the cultural and consumer landscape before you create a marketing campaign strategy. A great example of being culturally aware with your content marketing strategy is to use the month of Ramadan to plan a marketing campaign that is creative but embraces and respects the importance of religion in the daily lives of Middle Eastern audiences.

Creating a content marketing strategy is one of the most important steps you can take for your marketing efforts in the Middle East. Try to audit your current content and see what has been working for your brand and where you might want to improve using the above tips. If you need a guide on what it takes to create an effective content marketing strategy, see our 9 Keys to an Effective Content Marketing post.