The mobile revolution is truly underway. We are firmly in the era of mobile devices, with these pocket-size screens serving as an extension of people’s lives today.
The ever-evolving Middle East and North Africa region is a perfect example of the increasing shift to mobile, with 71% of consumers using their smartphone to consume content.
Facebook has witnessed this evolution first-hand since our launch in the region five years ago, with 95% (156 million) of our 164 million MENA users now active on mobile every month.
The speed and ease mobile technology brings not only enables users to always be connected, but also serves as a dynamic platform for content, ideas and brands.
There is a growing demand for immediate, expressive and immersive communication from brands to generate impact and engagement with audiences.
Brands are now also expected to continually innovate, act fast and respond to consumers in real-time. This has led to the emergence of mobile-first content and technology, driven by creativity and brought to life on apps and in feeds.
Mobile devices are also changing the purchase journey, and companies are catching up with the trend. According to the Global Media Intelligence Report by eMarketer, mobile marketing spend in the region has increased from $50 million in 2013 to $340 million in 2017.
We have also seen the likes of ride-sharing app Careem, which optimised their campaigns, and used multiple tools across Facebook and Instagram to successfully scale their campaign across the Middle East. Mobile-first content is only going to increase in quantity and quality, with brands incorporating more immersive formats such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
Regional entrepreneurs have already begun riding this wave, particularly in countries such as Egypt, with 52% of exporting Egyptian SMEs (52%) reporting that over 75% of their international sales depend on platforms like Facebook according to our Future of Business Survey.
A young mobile population is also key to growing home grown startups in the region, with social platforms like Facebook and Instagram helping them reach, analyse and effectively target a wider audience. There is still room for growth, and we hope to see more businesses effectively leverage this borderless access in 2018 and the years to come.
As mobile becomes a more central part of the communications mix, brands in our region are increasingly embracing video for storytelling and creatively engaging their audiences – whether that is 360-degree videos on Facebook, or Instagram stories.
Video continues to gain massive real-time engagement with mobile audiences, not just with small-length videos and ads, but also with formats such as television. We also expect to witness more live video content broadcasts on our news feeds across the region in 2018.
Communities and the role they play in our lives have always been central to Facebook. Here in the MENA region, we are seeing people come together based on similar interests, as well as the emergence of home grown content creators.
Arab content creators are enhancing the quality of their content, and building communities around their passion - ranging from comedy sketches, to interactive video games, and even knitting sweaters. With the increasing amount of high-quality content produced in the region, MENA consumers will gravitate towards content with strong local relevance that tie into the creation of a stronger sense of community.
In 2017, Facebook changed its mission to building communities to bring the world closer together. And that is a large part of our roadmap for the next few years – going beyond passively consuming content to enabling meaningful social interaction.
At Facebook, we will continue to learn and create products that feed into the mobile-first lifestyle of the region, working with partners to attract audiences and help them stay engaged.
However, whether you are a brand, developer or content creator, the ability to adapt to a rapidly-evolving system of communication is paramount to appeal to consumers in the region. 2018 will be the year of opportunities and unparalleled creative experiences for both consumers and content creators.
Ari Kesisoglu is Facebook regional director, Africa, Middle East & Turkey
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