Social Listening in Dubai and the UAE: A Wealth of Opportunity for Marketing, PR & Comms

social listening in dubai
social listening in dubai

Every minute of every day, millions of pieces of content are uploaded online. In fact, YouTube reports that a staggering 500 hours of video is uploaded onto their platform every 60 seconds, which is only the tip of the social and editorial iceberg. This information overload can make it time-consuming and challenging to sift through content and find what is relevant to your brand. 

Of course, this bombardment of news, entertainment and information means brands are competing heavily for attention, and it can feel nearly impossible to stand out among the crowd. Over and above this, brands don’t typically have the time or resources to actively engage on social, and tend to use these platforms for shouting rather than listening. This is where an important opportunity exists to start gaining the competitive edge.  

Of course, each region varies in terms of activity and behaviour. And, consumer engagement with brands is heavily influenced by culture, capacity, access, legislation and relevance. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dubai is a particularly exciting environment to explore when it comes to understanding social listening in the context of brand promotion, given the widespread adoption of social technology, in a landscape of censorship and regulation. 

“Given the high internet penetration in the market, it doesn't come as a surprise that social media plays a stellar role in reaching the end user, be it through targeted social media ads or through geo and demographic targeted programmatic ads. Over the years, social media channels in the UAE have become niche to specific audiences, like snapchat for teens, Facebook and IG towards earning population and  now TikTok for entertainment focused audience”, says Saleem Sharma, Head of Social Media for Zoom Property in Dubai. 

And, when it comes to our current media landscape and the kinds of challenges marketers face every day, Sharma summarises it well: “Targeted brand-specific content aimed at different sections of the population according to various niches (nationality, gender, age, area of living, etc.) remains the biggest challenge”. 

So, with this in mind, how do we expand our consumer research, break through the noise and ultimately identify new opportunities for brand growth and lead conversion? The short answer: Through social listening. 

Social Listening: The smart marketer’s way to break the mould

Social media listening tools allow companies to track, manage and analyse billions of ever-changing data points, to learn from and, ultimately, form better strategic decision making processes. Let’s tuck into the basics of social media listening and how you can use it to benefit your business and brand.

What is Social Media Listening and how does it benefit you?

Social media listening generally refers to a deep analysis of your brand on platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. With Meltwater, there are over 15 primary social platforms to track, over and above podcasts, broadcasts and even print media (but that is a post for another day). 

The point of “listening” is to make sure you never miss a mention, you’re able to see where people are speaking about your brand online and you can join the conversation. But there are a range of ways to creatively and logically use this practice to entirely elevate your marketing efforts.

With an AI-driven social media listening tool, businesses can:

  • Track, manage and analyse evolving data that impacts strategic decision making
  • Protect and manage brand reputation
  • Collate the summarised data needed to draw relevant insights
  • Analyse trends and take part in relevant hashtags and movements
  • Benchmark performance in relation to their competitors
  • Identify opportunities to start conversations
  • Gain a high-level and detailed understanding of how people perceive your brand online

With the incorporation of AI and machine learning into social media monitoring tools, data is automated and analysis is presented in a user-friendly way in real-time; making it simpler to draw insights from massive amounts of data.

Why social listening is particularly relevant in the United Arab Emirates

With social media platforms constantly increasing in usage, there is an ever-growing trail of digital breadcrumbs, which companies can use to best analyse their audience and understand their needs. With their own, specific audience, content and purpose, companies can tweak and hone marketing strategies that fulfil consumer needs and showcase their brand.

But beyond that, we know that our market is heavily influenced by, well, influencers and this is one of the key functions of a social media listening tool. You can identify and partner with loyal brand followers or influential figures.

“Influencer marketing is a critical weapon in a marketer's arsenal, especially in the UAE. You have a limited audience to target, and you want to do it in the best manner possible. Influencers bring with themselves content which has a watermark of their own personality and which has a loyal dedicated following. With the advent of tools which can help you engage with influencers, it has become quintessential for social media marketers to explore these avenues even more” says Sharma.

Through social listening, you can search for top posts about specific topics, which will lead you to the influential figures taking part.

social listening in dubai

Above: Influencer Zahra Abdallah (@cookingwithZahra) has over 187,000 followers on Instagram.

Social insights that work for you

Although the word “Insight” has an ambiguous meaning, marketing and communications professionals understand it to mean consumer-focused interpretations of data. The range of benefits that can be extracted from interpreting data to gain meaningful insights is almost immeasurable, but seeing as we’re in the business of measurement: 

  • Extract the most relevant data from millions of touchpoints, from any location
  • Avoid response bias as online conversations welcome a multitude of opinions that are not necessarily brand or product specific, so you’re minimising the subjectivity from your research
  • Data is automated so monitoring and analysis is quickly processed, in real-time 
  • You’re spending resources wisely with a social listening tool that far outperforms the process of manually collating data

Social media monitoring tools combined with market studies workwell in unison, with marketing studies providing quantitative data on emerging trends from social insights, and social media listening tools providing more qualitative analyses of target audience sentiment. Essentially, this means a well-rounded research and implementation strategy that factors in everything your numbers’ people and high-level strategists need. 

What Types of Data Can Be Measured on Social Media Networks?

Quantitative data offers numbers to prove general research, while qualitative data provides the details and depth to understand their implications. To fully comprehend the data and offer the most useful road maps, both of these complementary components play a role.

1. Quantitative Data tells us what is going on

  • Mentions: the amount of times specific products, brands, hashtags or expressions are used on social media
  • The scope of the mentions: this is calculated according to the audience of people and others they have shared content with and the number of Internet users potentially exposed to a message
  • The number of engagements: the number of interactions between users and content

Quantitative data can be divided into two categories:

  • Descriptive data, which gives you key figures, such as the number of new subscribers, engagements, trends, impressions or clicks.
  • Actionable data deepens the analysis by contextualising this information and by deepening the analysis. It answers questions such as when is the best time to post? What content is popular? and where are new subscribers coming from?

2. Qualitative Data helps us understand why this is happening

Qualitative data is gathered by listening to online consumer exchanges and conversations, which helps companies better understand the numbers. 

In a marketing context, the most useful types of qualitative data are arguably sentiment and trend analysis.

  • Sentiment analysis: Here, we’re referring to the development of semantic analysis and perception. How do consumers feel about your brand? What do they think about it? It might seem strange to think we can measure these abstract things but the data has shown us that you can draw a neutral positive or negative sentiment from the types of words and phrases that people use in conjunction with each other, blurring the lines between the abstract and the facts.  Technology allows us to open a door to this world of understanding when it comes to analysing our place in the market.
  • Trend analysis: Is ideal for companies that want to tap into relevance. Automated analysis has the ability to extract conversation tendencies and exchanges to find correlations between the two but beyond that, you can view trending topics in relation to your mentions, top posts associated with important social or cultural movements and even predict upcoming trends by analysing the data and finding inclinations.
Two men in deep thought looking at a computer screen.

Recovering data on social media: Become an expert in consumer behaviour

On networks: Most social media networks have their own statistics and analysis tool, which users can access through their business profile. This data is a good way to gauge the performance of your profile and posts for a high-level overview but of course, more in-depth analysis will give you the competitive edge and new use cases you didn’t even know existed, with basic listening. 

With engagement management tools: These tools provide an automated, more advanced analysis for a deeper understanding of the data, which can be implemented - usually from one platform - and posts can be scheduled for targeted audiences. The data can also be used to measure the impact of media strategies and as a benchmark against competitors.

With listening tools: These give insight into your current community but also competitors and wider industry audiences. They allow you comprehensive functionality to actively seek out content that’s relevant to your brand and to understand how, why, when and where it is consumed and the effects of this consumption. 

Social listening in practice

“The brands which are breaking new grounds on social media aren't doing it just by promoting their products or services in a unique manner, but by listening to what's happening in the online space as well in the real world and creating content which resonates sentiments around these occurrences. When customers realize this, they want to engage, they want to discuss among themselves a lasting impact that such a content has. THIS is what brands should aim for” says Sharma.

So, with this in mind - how do we effectively put social media into practice and what are the various ways in which brands can get ahead in the UAE through listening?

  • e-Reputation: Keep track of all mentions of your brand and products so that you know how your company is being perceived and the topics it’s commonly associated with.
  • Crisis Watch and prevention: When sentiment and any potentially negative keywords are monitored, crises can be anticipated and limited from going full scale, allowing companies to react as quickly as possible if something comes up.
  • Crisis damage: The scale of crisis damage and the impact of recovery by a business can be ascertained by monitoring brand sentiment in the months before and after a crisis.
  • Competitive intelligence: Communication, news and competitor reputation can be easily analysed, enabling you to stay current, predict trends and industry innovations and ahead of your competitors.
  • Trend reporting: Key topics that drive conversations in your market can be identified when you understand the relevant topics your target audience is deeply engaged with. In the UAE these are often social topics but consumers can also feel a level of fatigue around repetitive conversations.
  • Lead Generation: By monitoring different aspects of your product or business, chances are you will discover alternate opportunities with previously untapped consumers and their communities. By engaging with potential, you’re opening up that sales funnel. 

“There's no other way [social media tools] to ensure return on ad investment, quality of users for our apps, customer health and journey and content effectiveness. I shudder to think of a marketing world that simply functioned on big billboards and estimated eyeballs” says Brett Magill, Global Social Media Manager. 

How to Start Your UAE-specific Social Listening Project

Ready to get your social listening campaign off the ground? Follow our step-by-step process.

  1. Define your goals: What do you want to achieve – do you want to understand your consumer better? Tap into new areas of your industry? Stay ahead of the competition? How vast is your understanding of the different consumers in various UAE regions?
  2. Determine which channels to monitor: Are your goals achievable on the social media channels where your audiences are active? A good media monitoring tool will let you know which channels are most popular with specific audiences. If, for example, your goal is to drive people to your website, a good question to ask is “Which social media platform will help us best achieve this?
  3. Choose the right tools: Manually researching and trying to stay on top of current alerts and trends is not an efficient way to hear your consumers. Meltwater’s social listening tools give you the capability to automate these processes and create highly specific searches in real-time. Also, we know that influence is key here, so you can opt-in to use complimentary software, such as an influencer database, to support your efforts.
  4. Consider the search mode: It is imperative that you filter searches and keep them very specific. For example, Boolean searches will help you narrow down what is relevant and get to the results faster.
  5. Set up alerts: Never miss a brand or phrase or mention by setting up alerts on your phone. You also have the option of choosing when you want to be alerted by selecting specific brand, competitor or industry terms or as soon as a crisis or major trend emerges in relation to your searches.
  6. Analyse and compare your data: In a few simple steps, you can create and view a dashboard with your chosen metrics. Dashboards are custom-made to suit you specifically and include the statistics and insights you select in order to make sense of the conversation. The dashboard can analyse a range of metrics, making it invaluable to various departments within your company - not just marketing, PR and comms.
  7. Share your results: It makes sense to share the information, insights and results with colleagues, inter-organisational departments or clients and to use the data to your advantage. Plus, this allows you to get buy-in from higher ups for more investment in your department.
  8. Create an action plan: When all is said and done, you need to be able to use the information you have gained from social media listening exercises. The most effective way to do this is by creating an action plan, which is easily achieved with the right tools. In this fast-paced digital world, where accurate decision making is crucial, these tools will enable you to put a plan in place, by deadline.
  9. Elevate your campaigns and enjoy competitive reach and engagement: “Social engagement is paramount, and building our infrastructure and customer service support before campaign or brand activation is essential to maintain a strong and positive brand identity” [Magill].

At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on going above and beyond to support your social strategy in Dubai or the broader United Arab Emirates. The resources are here, the demand for quality content is here. The opportunity to observe and learn not only exists but is created by the pressing need to analyse our intricate market. A world of exciting opportunity undeniably exists for brands willing to go the extra mile.