The Arab Spring did offer lessons to entrenched governments unresponsive to their peoples’ needs. At a more distant level, it left a stark message for global and regional marketers that social media has well and truly arrived.
“The rapid growth in social media usage among Arab consumers means that uptake will continue strongly in 2012,” said Rishi Saha, the Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ regional director for Australia, Middle East, Africa, South and Central Asia. “The Middle East is not as far behind the US and Europe as some might suggest.”
Social media platforms open brands and businesses to a closer interaction with customers than any other marketing medium and it is important to embrace these platforms as quickly as possible to ensure brands have a voice, and can engage in the conversation. This is where newly created R+DI expects to have a role. No, it’s not an R2D2 clone, but stands for Research + Data Insights’ and is a creation of Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
“R+DI goes beyond analysing purely social media, we provide information on both emerging challenges and recurring problems — a task that blends strategy with insight about public issues and integrates myriad ideas,” Saha said. “Understanding the nuances of where the conversation is heading is part of what it does.”
R+D Insights will be based in H+K Strategies’ New York office and will consist of 12 research centres around the world. “There is enormous potential for Middle East businesses to make smarter use of social media for a range of functions,” Saha said.
This, according to him, could be through gaining customer insights by research; building a stronger relationship with consumers and other key stakeholders; handling customer service issues before they escalate into a crisis; and attracting new business by encouraging customers to share their experiences across social networks.
So, what is in it for a marketer? “There’s little value in stacking up large numbers of fans who never return to your platforms — more important is to drive engagement and ensure a high quality of interaction,” Saha said. “Although top-line numbers are clearly important, the engagement volume is even more. “That’s where a more robust analysis of what those users did rather than look at click-rates becomes a critical element of understanding the effectiveness of the platform.
“We leverage both large-scale data analytics and multi-modal opinion research to provide insights on reputation and issue management, strategic and corporate communications and public affairs. This allows them to make clear decisions on the platforms they use and the way they use them.”
Newly created Research+Data Insights is headed by Peter Zandan, global vice-chairman of Hill+Knowlton Strategies. While it will be based in New York, the office will be supported by a network of 12 research centres. “The R+D Insights organisation will be critical in helping our clients navigate their way through an increasingly challenging public environment,” said Jack Martin, global chairman and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies.