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Three Digital Trends You Can Capitalize On For Your Small Business Get a boost in your business with these digital marketing strategies.

By Manar Al Hinai

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When Emirati sisters Afra and Mouza Al Mheiri established their Abu Dhabi-based events designing company Stars & Bananas in 2013, social media platforms Instagram and Snapchat were not as popular as they are today. Their pre-launch marketing campaign involved sending a cookie shaped as a banana and a star, and their business card in a confetti-filled bag to potential customers and suppliers, and hosting events for their friends who would then share the photos of the place's setting. Soon enough, those photos taken went viral on Instagram, and customers flooded onto their page to view their portfolio. Today, the business page on Instagram has over 27,000 followers, with over 98% of their business generated through it. The business has also expanded to include a gift-wrapping service, and a beautiful pink caravan that is available for rent.

If your business has an online presence, you can almost rest assured that many customers will come to you through an internet connected device, be it a mobile phone, a computer, or a tablet. Last year, internet penetration in the Middle East jumped by over 17%, with more than 21 million new users on the Web. Saudi Arabia, for instance, enjoys the highest Twitter and YouTube penetration in the world. 2016 was a year filled change and achievement in the digital space with innovations like livestreaming, changes in Google Ad words, and the trend of more and more customers looking for creative content marketing tactics to drive customers to their online pages.

As you work on your marketing plan for the year, digital marketing should be on top of your list. Here's a look at three trends in this space that you should consider investing in:

1. Livestreaming

Facebook recently launched Facebook Live, a feature that allows users to live stream last year. We saw that with Twitter as well, and it came to relevance during the Democratic and Republican Conventions in the United States. When it comes to your business, there are multiple uses for this feature. If you have a product, you could consider a how to use a product video, livestreaming an event, or to share a backstage video of a fashion event, such as in the case of Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows, that are livestreamed on Snapchat. For the business ladies behind Stars & Bananas, they have found that their customers enjoy it when they upload live videos on their Snapchat account, and it has become an interactive way for them to engage directly with their customers.

2. Ephemeral content

Ephemeral content provides a huge opportunity for marketers to reach young users who are tuned into popular social media platforms that are ephemeral content-based, such as Snapchat and Instagram video. Ephemeral content is content that has a short life span and disappears after a few hours, usually 24 hours. A marketer's goal is of course for their business offering to be there for as long as possible, and that is why many of my clients do not favor newspaper advertisements, for instance.

Related: Seven Digital Marketing Mistakes UAE Brands Make (And How To Fix Them)

However, those ephemeral content-based platforms are where a lot of the target audience is, especially if we are talking about the young demographics in the GCC region, and if your business is targeting them, who comprise the majority of the GCC's population, then this is where you should be too. The upside of this content is that it does not need a lot of investments to create. It also does not require for it be heavily edited. Think of it as a sort of reality TV, where it is more real, unfiltered, showing the humans behind the brand. If you own a fashion for instance, you could share snippets of your day in the atelier, the making of a dress, or sneak peeks of a new collection.

3. Influencer marketing

Retailer Old Navy and watch brand Daniel Willington, are two popular brands that are marketing with influencers- thought leaders, trendsetters, who usually have a large following on social media platforms, which means exposure of the brand to that following list. According to Bloomberg, US$255 million is spent by businesses on influencer marketing every month last year. Though Dr. V. Rocco Arzoumanian, founder of Dr. Rocco's Specialized Dental Center in Abu Dhabi, has an established business for over 12 years, with clients comprising royalties, international and local celebrities, he too could not overlook the importance of digital marketing, especially social influencers, and jumped the wagon.

To him, it is the most effective form of marketing, which introduces him to new clientele, especially those in the entertainment and media sector. He ensured to include collaborating more with social influencers as part of his digital marketing objectives for this year. And just how it should be the way done with your business, Dr. Arzoumanian, handpicks the influencers he works with, to ensure they are aligned with his brand's vision and represent his business best. Avoid choosing social influencers solely based on their number of followers. They have to be compatible and aligned with your business, as they will be its brand ambassadors. From experience, sometimes those with say 6000 followers turn out to be more effective in their reach than those with a million.

There is, of course, much more to look forward to in 2017- these are just a sampling of the features and trends that have added cost-efficient and effective options for businesses to reach their target markets. Don't miss out on getting a boost for your business with the aforementioned digital marketing tools- all the best!

Related: Boosting Online Retail In The Middle East With Video Marketing

Manar Al Hinai

Co-founder and Storyteller-in-Chief, Sekka

Manar Alhinai is an Emirati journalist, author, and brand storyteller. She is the co-founder and Storyteller-in-Chief of Sekka and the director of the Khaleeji Art Museum. For the past 10 years, Manar worked with global and regional brands, to help them narrate their stories, and connect with their audience, using the art of storytelling. 

She holds a master’s degree in Diversity Management from the University of Leeds, England. She pursued further degrees and certifications from SOAS London, University of Pennsylvania, Yale School of Management, and NorthWestern University. 

Manar is the recipient of the Arab Woman Award in 2011 and 2020. 


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