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Marketing Your Brand In The Arab World: Facebook May Not Be The Best Option There are other digital marketing weapons that are social in nature and that can provide any business with much better results, reach, engagement, conversion and ROI than Facebook and Twitter.

By Gaith Saqer

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In the Arab world, most companies and entrepreneurs, especially those who are not tech-focused, tend to concentrate their digital marketing efforts on Facebook, given that the social media platform enjoys over 114 million monthly users from the region.

But the problem with Facebook nowadays is that with the algorithm for its News Feed changing, the reach for a Facebook page's status update is around 0.5% of the page's fans- this is the same rate Twitter provides as well. Even worse, organic reach of the content brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero," says Marshall Manson, Managing Director of Social at Ogilvy, one of the world's largest ad agencies. "It's only a matter of time." What this means is that all the effort and money you have put into advertising your Facebook page to collect fans is not providing a justified return on investment (ROI)- the reason for this is because Facebook essentially now wants page admins to advertise further. Marketers cannot now reach a sizable percentage of their Facebook page fans unless they advertise on each update they publish. This implies that the good old days of needing only interesting content to market your brand on Facebook are gone!

But it is important here to remember that there are other digital marketing weapons that are social in nature and that can provide any business with much better results, reach, engagement, conversion and ROI than Facebook and Twitter- these are what are called content marketing, email marketing, mobile messenger marketing, and SMS marketing.

Related: Six Growth Hacking Tips For Content Marketers

Consider email marketing for instance. According to Radicati Group, Inc., the number of email users in the world is around 2.6 billion, which is much more than that Facebook's 1.6 billion. Also, email open rate is around 20%, according to MailChimp, a figure that is much higher than Facebook or Twitter- when you send an email to your list, everyone receives that email in their inbox, and around 20% open it, if you used a trusted email marketing service provider. On Facebook and Twitter, this reach is less than 0.5%. A survey by McKinsey & Company finds that email is nearly 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter.

In a similar vein, mobile messengers like WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook Messenger are effective marketing weapons for business to use, especially with the aid of bots. WhatsApp has around 1 billion users, with Facebook Messenger also sharing a similar user count, and Telegram has more than 100 million users. These numbers are only set to grow in this region, as smartphone penetration in the Arab world is growing, with the UAE now having 83% penetration, and Saudi Arabia having 58% in Q2 2015.

But it is SMS has the highest reach among people in the Arab world. Mobile penetration in many Arab countries exceeds the number of people living in these countries, as everyone who has a mobile has SMS enabled by default. It's also worth noting that SMS messages have an open rate is 98%, with 90% of all text messages read within three minutes of being received. But when looking at all of three above options, one must remember that email, mobile messenger and SMS marketing should be opt-in, and not mass-scale spam.

Content marketing, which consists of mainly blogging, on the other hand, is a different game altogether. Its reach depends on the type and quality of content you publish, and the marketing you perform to gain readers to each post and to the blog as a whole as well. The goal of your content marketing effort is to build regular readership- every effort you make to bring new users to your blog helps in turning them to become loyal readers, who would come back to read interesting articles on your blog or become an email subscriber, a social media follower or even an SMS subscriber, which makes them more likely to buy from you than from your competitor.

Blogging is also the best way to drive traffic from organic search engine optimization (SEO) reach. You can then use social media, email marketing and SMS marketing to drive traffic to your blog, and from your blog, you can drive more users who follow all these channels, and thus convert blog readers into paying customers and turn many of them into becoming your brand advocates, and further position your brand as a leader in your category. After all, a user who follows you on Twitter or Facebook will rarely type the URL of your page or account and visit it, but with your blog, many will do just that, and many will come back to visit as well, if you have a regularly updated blog with interesting posts. At the same time, your brand success ratio from blogging in the Arab world would be much higher than other regions of the world, since few brands in the Arab world use blogging in their marketing- and Arab users are hungry for quality content in Arabic.

To conclude, businesses and entrepreneurs who invest only on social media are missing a lot and not utilizing the hard earned currency they have, taking into account what was mentioned above regarding reach and open rate. Businesses that wish to utilize digital marketing the best way to reach the maximum possible amount of customers (and have the highest conversion rates in the most cost-effective way) should start with content marketing as the center of all their other digital marketing tools. This should be followed by marketing via SMS and mobile messengers, then email, and finally, social media.

Related: Five Data-Driven Improvements To Your Content Marketing Strategy

Gaith Saqer

Content Marketing and Digital Marketing consultant

Gaith Saqer is a content marketing, growth hacking, digital marketing and product management consultant.

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