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Tue 14 Jan 2020 03:01 PM

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Benjamin Ampen, MD Middle East, Twitter: Who are the real social media power players?

Predictions For 2020: Recent research has shown the surge in popularity of video content and a growing scepticism of influencers in the region.

Benjamin Ampen, MD Middle East, Twitter: Who are the real social media power players?

Benjamin Ampen, Managing Director, Middle East and North Africa, Twitter

Digital marketing has become synonymous with some of today’s most successful brands and cultural campaigns. Social media is no longer being seen as a separate media channel, and is being integrated into campaign planning under the guidance of Chief Marketing Officers or Data and Marketing Leads. No longer a box to tick as a publishing platform, marketers are seeing fewer and fewer channel barriers within the digital approach.

However, consumer expectations and habits continue to change, and what would once capture attention may not work any longer, making it important to look to where the industry is going. As we move into 2020, we are exploring the trends that will shape the digital landscape.

Growth of video

A big macro trend towards video will continue to exist, whether in the form of custom productions, short-form highlights or live content. A recent study by Cisco predicted that, by 2022, 82 percent of all online content will be video, and we are witnessing the virality of the growing taste for video consumption in all its forms.


Vital element Social media is no longer being seen as a separate media channel, and is being integrated into campaign planning

Globally, video views on Twitter nearly doubled last year. With exposure to video content often being discovered as opposed to proactively sought on digital platforms, this gives brands a great opportunity to launch new campaigns. A recent study that we conducted in MENA by Toluna demonstrated that 73 percent of people on Twitter stumbled upon video content on their Twitter timelines.

As for live streaming, we expect to see content genres extend beyond news in the region, such as gaming. The same Toluna study revealed that 64 percent of people on Twitter in the region have previously watched live streamed content on the platform. New product features such as the ability to go live with guests; where people can host a live video and invite guests to hear their reactions in real-time, are strong building blocks towards strengthening our offerings in line with this trend. Moving forward, we are also thinking about ways we can add video for guests too.

Cultural relevance

We expect to see a rise in cultural relevance in brand communication in the near future. Brands are increasingly realising that they need to find their purpose and place within the cultures in which they operate to resonate with their audience. By looking at the cultures in the digital landscape, marketers can learn how to best integrate themselves culturally in a way that is authentic to their brands.

"Different cultures think about privacy differently and have varying expectations"

For instance, we find that people on Twitter define global communities who are driving culture forward. A study conducted by MAGNA in 2019 revealed that 23 percent of a consumer’s purchase decision is driven by cultural relevance. We expect to continue seeing brands jumping into a moment and demonstrating their brand purpose, to address today’s evolving consumer expectations.

Getting launches right

In a time when the launch window is more critical to get right than ever, successful brands continue to seek the most effective ways to maximise their launch’s success to drive incremental revenue. Recent research conducted by Bain in partnership with Twitter shows that the bar for success continues to rise, with successful launches 1.8x more likely to grow market share within their industry and 1.5x more likely to grow annual revenue. Today it is more important than ever for a brand to nail its launch, with the level of competition increasing (27 percent more launches in 2018 vs 2017).

Brands will continue to seek audiences who want to discover what’s new, to launch new campaigns. Kantar Media interviewed audiences on Twitter versus those off Twitter in MENA, as part of a study to analyze what they have in common from a profile and attitude perspective. The study showed that 84 percent come to Twitter to learn valuable things and 67 percent are more likely to try and buy new products. We are increasingly seeing leading brands start with Twitter’s audience because this is where people go to discover what’s new, and where they are receptive to new ideas. And going back to the Bain report, it showed that launch leaders are 2.3x more likely to launch on Twitter. We therefore expect to see more focus on getting launches right in 2020.

The health of the public conversation

Digital platforms will be held more and more accountable in maintaining the online health of the conversation. Brands, consumers and industry bodies alike will increasingly demand protection of privacy and data, safe spaces to participate in conversation, and the ability to find credible information.

"People have become desensitised to hearing companies say ‘we value your privacy’"

At Twitter, we continue to prioritize the health of public conversation from both a mindset and resourcing perspective. Through the use of proactive technology and human review, in 2019 we have improved our ability to proactively identify and remove abusive content, with over 50 percent of Tweets removed for abusive content in Q3 taken down without a bystander or first-person report (in comparison to 43 percent in Q2).

With regard to privacy in specific, as my colleagues have previously mentioned, people have become desensitised to hearing companies say “we value your privacy”. Technical debt is a problem that every tech company is facing. This means that older systems that were built, in some cases more than a decade ago, are not made to support new features. In addition, different cultures think about privacy differently and have varying expectations. At Twitter we’re focused on tackling technical debt which will also help us get better products and services to people faster. Privacy by design is also a priority with every product we build, and we are weaving accountability into how we operate through a number of ways including the recent launch of the Twitter Privacy Center.

Relevance trumps reach

The time of social media influencers is waning, with recent research reflecting that regionally influencers are no longer ‘influencing’ as many people in the region as they used to. The survey by Dubai-based BPG group and research agency YouGov, revealed that 79 percent of consumers unfollowed social media influencers due to contrasting values and increased promotional content.

As the public places a higher value on trusted influencers, we will continue to see a rise in brands placing genuine and authentic influence, as opposed to those with the highest reach. In particular, influencers with specialised interest in a specific niche segment, who are viewed as friends to trust, and peers to follow.

Benjamin Ampen, Managing Director, Middle East and North Africa, Twitter

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