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How Social Networks Can Manipulate the Millennials in the Arab World

by Mohammed on October 19, 2013

If you are watching TV or scanning your Twitter feeds now, you are watching or reading something about the middle-east. There is no doubt that the Arab Spring has been known to many people and Arab countries that people rarely know where they geographically located are became obvious.

New study finds that social media networks played a central role in shaping political debates in the Arab Spring.

During the week before Egyptian president Hosni Mubaraks resignation, for example, the total rate of tweets from Egypt — and around the world — about political change in that country ballooned from 2,300 a day to 230,000 a day.  Videos featuring protest and political commentary went viral – the top 23 videos received nearly 5.5 million views. The amount of content produced online by opposition groups, in Facebook and political blogs, increased dramatically.

Facebook added the Arabic interface and Twitter or its 3rd-party apps are providing easy to use of Arabic characters, that open the space for everyone to jump and share their voice in countries that saying or writing what they feel in public is not considered normal free choice.

eMarketer predicated Middle-East will have the second-largest audience starting 2014.

Middle-East Social-Media Infographic

If you are looking for the people behind the Arab revolutions, you may think of some opponent parties but no? They are the Millennials (Generation Y) or I really like Brian Solis introduction of Generation C where the “C” represents connectedness. He defined it as:

Gen C is not an age group, it’s a lifestyle. While social networks are the fabric of online relationships, it is how technology affects everyday activity. What’s most important for you to understand is that Gen C is different. In some ways, they’re different from you and me. They put the “me” in social media. They’re always on. They rely on the shared experiences of strangers to guide their actions. And, they know that other Gen-C’ers rely upon their shared experiences to find resolution.

A recent study published by Nielsen brings Generation C into light. In just one image, we can begin to comprehend the disruption of digital revolution on society. Call it the social economy. Call it the mobile or the app economy. Call it the connected economy. Whatever we call it, this incredible transformation that we’re witnessing, is indeed nothing short of a digital revolution.

The role of social networks can go much better in dealing and reaching the millennial. They are in a better influence than politicians. The mindset of most Arab politicians are not in sync with the millennial needs unless they upgrade which is not within reach.

The social networks can play a big role in shaping the millennial thinking from violence to entrepreneurial, utilizing the unemployed workers, and give the timeline more than provoking comments. The companies will also have ROI in its use whether to a bigger audience and/or better contents. Many of the social networks are looking for expanding their presence in the Arab world. I come up with two strategies.

Strategy 1: Partnership with the Government

“We are adjusting and trying to get ahead of the curve of a generation of social media users who more and more see social media as a way of affecting social change,” said a spokesperson for Glen Murray, the Minister of Research and Innovation for the province of Ontario’s office. “People are engaging with social policy in a way that they haven’t before and government will either adjust or be adjusted.”

“The great thing about social media is that it gives everyone a voice. The problem with it is that it gives everyone a voice.” ~ Brian Solis

This solution includes partnership between big social network such as Facebook and the governments in the middle-east. The goal is to build a funnel for the people voices. For example, each ministry will transformed from a physical building into a Facebook page. The new age of democracy requires a lot of listening because people were silent for years, they always said YES for the one dictator and were threaten that writing NO could send them to jail.

Facebook will requires to provide a team of experts to customize the platform to fit each country’s constitution and policies. If you open every possible channel of communications for people, the government will prioritize the people needs instead of its personal interests.  Creating new media platforms will make the government more closer to millennials and they will feel more involvement. Most of the governments are afraid from openness due to the corruption and this instability will continue if they don’t change.

The question is whether the Arab governments will trust the social networks? Especially with the rise of NSA surveillance reports, it could be hard to implement.

Strategy 2: Partnership with the People

Businesses have noticed the value of social networks in our life, and they are using different techniques to promote their products. Social networks like Twitter or Linkedin can implement vocational training strategies to empower millions of unemployed Arabs with soft and hard skills.

Most of the Arab countries has vocational training centers in every city and since the Internet revolution started, these centers didn’t renovate its model to provide training in areas such as business model development, social marketing, online paid ads, etc.

vocation training baghdad iraqIn Baghdad, Iraq, I worked in a project with US Department of Labor to establish employment and vocational training centers after the war in 2003. Despite the dangerous security situation, we were able to open 19 employment centers and more than 12 vocational training centers. I supervised the IT vocational training development and I can say, it was the most demanded classes. There were always need for more computers, materials, trainers and locations.

People especially millennials after wars or violence are looking to get back on the track and adapt technology tools whenever possible to solve problems in very different ways.

Twitter can provide training in areas such as presidential election and forums, traffic control or even to fight crime. The idea is to open more business opportunities by changing the mindset of the regular use of social networks to be more entrepreneurial. I think the United States has reached very advanced stage in these areas and can be really a good model for case studies.

“The technology really helps us improve our service and makes it more convenient for the citizens,” says Sgt. Patrick Phelps, a supervisor for the Syracuse Police Department’s Technology Division.

May be you ask who is benefiting who? I said it’s mutual benefits. The increase use of the platform for the good cause and utilizing people on the right track.

There are nearly infinite ways that Arab governments can use social media networks. Help me add to the conversation by sharing your own insights in the comments below.

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