A new report from Spot On Public Relations has confirmed that there are more subscribers to social media service Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) than there are copies of newspapers circulated in the region. The report, ‘Middle East and Africa Facebook Demographics’, shows Facebook has over 15 million users in the region, while the total regional Arabic, English and French newspaper circulation stands at just under 14 million copies.
“Facebook and other social media platforms are now beginning to define how people discover and share information, shape opinion and interact. Facebook doesn’t write the news, but the new figures show that Facebook’s reach now rivals that of the news press,” said Carrington Malin, managing director of Spot On Public Relations. “The growth in Arabic language users has been very strong indeed: some 3.5 million Arabic language users began using Facebook during the past year, since the introduction of Arabic support and we can expect millions more Arabic language users to join the platform.” Five country markets in MENA now account for some 70% of Facebook users; Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with a gender bias towards male users that flies in the face of international figures – only 37% of Facebook users in the Middle East are female compared with 56% in the USA and 52% in the UK. Despite the strong growth in the number of Arabic language users, the report also shows that some 50% of MENA Facebook users select English as their primary language, with 25% selecting French and just 23% Arabic.
Egypt’s 3.5 million Facebook subscribers help to make North Africa the largest Facebook community in MENA accounting for 7.7 million out of a total of 15 million MENA users. 98% of MENA’s French language users are from North Africa. The GCC states today account for some 5 million Facebook users.
The two key markets of the Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been quick to embrace Facebook – some 33% of the UAE’s population uses Facebook and it also now stands as the country’s second most visited website after google.ae (according to websites ranked by Alexa.com). Interestingly, some 68% of Facebook users in the Emirates are over 25 years old, flying in the face of perceptions that social media is a ‘generation Y’ phenomenon. However, much of Facebook’s growth across the rest of the region has been driven by the under twenty-fives. Over 48% of Facebook subscribers in Saudi Arabia are under 25 years old, with an equal split between English and Arabic users. However, about three times the number of Arabic users have joined Facebook in Saudi over the past year, compared with the number of English language users. 67% of Saudis on Facebook are male.
“For users, Facebook is becoming a richer and larger component of their daily lives, but for advertisers and communications professionals it’s starting to look like an essential part of the MENA marketing mix. In this region, if you’re going to go where your customers are going, then the answer’s clearly online,” said Alexander McNabb, director, Spot On PR. “However, the key challenge here is the nature of interactions over platforms like Facebook and other social media tools are totally different to traditional media – and it’s important to get these interactions right.”