Social media use in the Middle East is expected to ramp up by about 30 percent during Ramadan, according to an extensive analysis of online activity in 2012.
The report by The Online Project (TOP), a leading social media agency in the Middle East, also shows social media users change the time of day they are active on sites such as Facebook and Twitter during Ramadan.
In most of the Middle East, online activity peaks during the night or early hours of the morning.
In the UAE and Qatar, for example, social media users during Ramadan last year were most active leading up to sunset, while in Saudi Arabia Facebook was most popular around 10pm and Twitter was busy between 4-6am, during Suhoor.
“Having discovered that social media consumption and user habits significantly change during the Holy month, we set out to study the outlying variable of this change to isolate the driving forces,” TOP CEO Zafer Younis said.
“Instead of looking at their social media platforms first thing in the morning when they wake up or get into work, our results show that during Ramadan, people are most active on Twitter early evening at approximately 7pm, just before they break their fast.”
The study also found social media users were far more positive during Ramadan than before, while negative comments declined.
Engagement with brands also “hugely” increased during Ramadan, providing businesses with greater opportunity to communicate with customers, the report says.
Middle East consumer spending spikes during Ramadan and, according to the report, companies boost spending on traditional advertising such as newspapers and television by 20 percent.
For example, the four largest telecoms companies spend about $200m during the month.
Younis said firms could better optimise their social media usage to reach a wider audience that is more open to engagement than at other times of the year.
“... if brands wish to take advantage of this spike in audience, they should also consider posts that include content tailored to specific audiences that is entertaining or value-adding,” he said.
Ramadan is the Holy Month in the Islamic calendar.
This year Ramadan will start on Wednesday.