Leadership Perspectives

Snapchat Will Be The NEXT BIG THING In The Middle East

If you work in the communications and marketing industry, chances are, you have heard of Snapchat. If you’re over the age of 18, however, odds are you don’t really ‘get’ Snapchat or understand why this platform MATTERS to any marketer that wants to ensure that his/her brand remains relevant in the Gulf, in particular. 

So, what exactly is Snapchat? Essentially, it is a mobile app that allows users to send videos and pictures that self-destruct after a few seconds. Snapchat is a fun messaging application for sharing moments. You can take a photo or a video, add a caption or doodle, and send it to a friend or add it to your Story to share with some or all of your friends. Friends can view Snaps for up to 10 seconds, and then it disappears.

Snapchat is unique in that all photos and videos only last a brief amount of time before they disappear forever, making the app ephemeral in nature, though users can take a screenshot to save Snaps. As of May 2014, the app’s users were sending 700 million photos/videos per day.

Today, Snapchat is no longer a platform for embarrassing selfies or teen angst. In my opinion, the app is set to become the single most important platform for you and your teams to wrap your heads around. I’ve been singing the praises of this relatively new platform for quite a while now. Today, however, things are different. This year, 2015, has to be YOUR year of Snapchat. It is time for YOU to gain a deeper understanding of how it works, what it does, and, more importantly, what it can do for your clients. 

But is Snapchat relevant to the Middle East? 

If you read any of the data that you can obtain on Snapchat usage in the region, it clearly indicates that, just like 2014 was the ‘tipping point’ for Instagram in the region, 2015 will be Snapchat’s year of huge growth. According to Ipsos MENA, 12% of smartphone users in the UAE used Snapchat in December 2014 alone. It has grown much faster than any other platform here, including Twitter, which is only at 17% penetration in the UAE. And it’s not just the UAE, in Qatar, Ipsos MENA also noted that 14% of Qataris use Snapchat regularly. 

For people under 25, Snapchat offers a place where they can figure out their digital identities, in relative anonymity. I call this group ‘Generation A’: they are the types of individuals that believe that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are too rigid, too ‘edited’, and simply don’t help them showcase a true reflection of themselves. And that is because these channels hold a permanent record of users’ activities and behaviors. These people have ever-evolving personalities and so, the fleeting nature of Snapchat’s content is better suited to their lifestyle.

Although Facebook is still the biggest network here in the region by FAR, if a brand wants to be relevant, hip, and tap into the youth market, Snapchat has to be part of its digital ecosystem.  This delivery platform allows you to share relevant, accessible content with a millennial audience. Basically, Snapchat is the best place for you to communicate with these consumers in a meaningful way.

Why is Snapchat going to be the NEXT BIG THING? 

1.Brands Can ONLY Be Creative On Snapchat

Because of its rather clunky interface, Snapchat forces brands to be more creative in order to reach their audience. Instead of scrolling past a post on a feed, users frequently check their stories for updates. Last year, Snapchat Stories was launched, allowing brands to create re-playable narratives simply by adding snaps. The story is then accessible for 24 hours.

In May 2014, Snapchat Stories were being viewed over 500 million times a day. It’s the new way to reach certain audiences and build brand loyalty. These are strong numbers you simply can’t ignore. 

2.It’s Where Arab Girls Feel Comfortable

In a region where you are bound by strict moral codes and religious requirements, it is often difficult to fully explore your identity and express yourself. For the Middle East Snapchat remains the safest and, more importantly, ‘coolest’ place to hang out with friends. Why? Because Snapchat offers a safe haven to express themselves, connect with other people in their age group, and explore their own identities. If you want to reach young people, Snapchat is even MORE relevant/effective/powerful than Instagram – P&G, Unilever, Starbucks, Nike, McDonald’s, and Zara should all sit up and take notice. 

3.Storytelling That Puts The Narrative First 

Last month’s launch of a new feature called “Discover” connects users to news stories and other media packaged for bite size consumption in quick bursts. According to the latest usage data from the US and Europe, data consumption since this launch has quadrupled – thanks to this new way of consuming and telling stories. 


4.High Interaction & Engagement From Users

Snapchat is focused on the quality of interactions, not the quantity. Users reportedly use the app multiple times a day. The number of monthly active users is also rivaling Facebook’s. Snapchat’s clean design makes it easy to swipe through all the posted stories and updates. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, more users consistently interact with and view brand generated content.

Brands can create Snapchat accounts and post exclusive updates and inside looks for followers to see. For example, clothing company Free People sends out exclusive photos of new collections. Others have posted exclusive promotions. After 24 hours, the update is gone, giving users incentives to stay engaged and check for updates. Stories create a closer bond and keep users anticipating future posts.

5.Snapchat Forces Brands to be REALLY social

Because of its platform, Snapchat demands that brands have a personality and something really interesting to say. Knowing the audience and sharing fun, candid, and exclusive snaps will help build brand credibility.

What’s the future for Snapchat here in the MENA region? 

I think Snapchat will witness huge growth here in the MENA region. I can only see an increasing number of people under 25 spending more and more time on this platform. It will be interesting to see if Arabic media houses will tap into the power of Snapchat’s Discover feature and see it as a new revenue opportunity, and a strong way to stay relevant to an audience – especially one that they’re struggling to reach. 

And finally, when it’s available here, I can also see Snapcash gaining traction with many users. Snapchat partnered with Square to launch Snapcash in 2014; the service lets you use your debit card to pay for goods or simply send money to friends. It works by entering your debit card, then swipe into chat, and type a dollar sign with an amount (like $11.50). Once you’re done, hit the green button. It’s seamless and easy to use. 

So, to summarize, Snapchat is where it’s at people. It is a great way for you to target youth, be more social, create cutting-edge content, and drive engagement. 

And finally, if after reading this you’re still not convinced about Snapchat, watch this video! 

Authored by: Ema Linaker, Regional Director, Holler/Leo Burnett


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