By Andy Sambidge
New study says commentator on Arab affairs is most connected; Dubai ruler second
Sultan Al Qassemi, columnist and commentator on Arab affairs, is the most connected Twitter user in the UAE and the Middle East, according to a new study of social media users in the region.
The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, was ranked in second place in the UAE, closely followed by UAE-based Armenian-American journalist Lara Setrakian.
Al Qassemi has written for The Gulf News, The National Newspaper, The Financial Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, Open Democracy and The Globe and Mail.
His Twitter feed has more than 146,500 followers.
The study, launched on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi by Portland, the international strategic communications consultancy, establishes the most comprehensive map yet produced of connectivity between influencers across the region.
Portland said it has analysed the influencers in each country and then ranked them in terms of how many other key tweeters in the Middle East follow them.
The study revealed that behind Sultan Al Qassemi, second place in the region was held by Dima Khatib, a Syrian-born Palestinian journalist currently based in Qatar.
In third place was Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google executive turned political commentator who came to prominence during the uprisings in the North African country.
The study also showed that more than a quarter of the top 50 places were held by women with another quarter being government officials and members of Royal families.
One in three of the top 50 were political activists while #Bahrain, #Syria and #Lebanon were the most commonly-used hashtags among the most connected.
Politics and current affairs were the main topics, with four in five of the top users tweeting about politics more than any other issue.
Egypt's Twitter users have the most connections across the region, followed closely by those in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the survey also showed.
Mark Flanagan, Portland's partner for Digital Communications, said: "While journalists and commentators are very active in the Middle East Twittersphere, it is interesting to see more politicians and government officials on Twitter, gaining influence and engaging with citizens and the media.
"It is clear that Twitter is seen as a valuable and increasingly mainstream platform."
Using data collected between July and September 2012, Portland mapped the 500 most connected Twitter users in the Middle East and tracked their conversations.
In July, Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed said that his number of followers on Twitter had exceeded one million.