By Jonathan Labin
Original content, feature phones and messaging technology will remain crucial in 2016.
During the last decade, we have seen people connect in big and small ways using technology. But nowhere else has the adoption of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram been as rapid as we have seen in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Technology unlocks creativity: Facebook and Instagram are not just connecting people, but helping them find their creative passions and establish entrepreneurial ventures. With the rise of mobile and mobile feeds, communication, discovery and commerce are being revolutionised.
Powered by mobile, which has leapfrogged over other technologies, people here recognise the possibilities available at the tap of a screen. This is what will shape 2016, and Facebook is investing in MENA to help our partners discover their entrepreneurial dreams and reach their customers. Supplementing the growth of mobile will be creative, shareable and engaging content.
The foundation for trends we anticipate in 2016 have already been set in motion. At Facebook, we have moved beyond a single app to being a technology company. This shift is happening across industries as technology begins to play a larger role in how businesses are run, consumers engage and results are measured.
If for the first half of this decade we saw the proliferation of smartphones and the rise of large screen devices, today we are seeing the emergence of content and technology built for mobile, and coming to life on apps and feeds. In other words, in 2016 we will enter a mobile-first world. Today, for example, more than 100 million people access Facebook on mobiles across the MENA region. A key reason for this is that creative content is now being produced locally and is relevant for people here.
Locally produced content has also followed the global trend from text to images to video, including 360-degree formats. The MENA region remains one of the biggest consumers of video worldwide. Today 75 percent of video views around the world are on mobile. In the UAE, 50 percent of daily Facebook users watch at least one video a day. As attention spans reduce, and screen sizes increase, content must be compatible with multiple platforms. More importantly, in a multitasking world your content needs to be designed to capture attention or you risk losing your audience to competitors.
New technology and new content formats however will not be designed for smartphones alone. Feature phones still matter.
We must remember that the mobile industry is growing faster in developing nations where people still use feature phones. Hence mobile content created and services provided must be feature phone friendly. For example, at Facebook we introduced Slideshow, a tool that uses images to create videos for low bandwidth countries. A service like Free Basics, launched in Egypt will open up the doors of the internet to millions of Egyptians, enabling education knowledge sharing and spurring entrepreneurial ventures.
Messaging technology also will shape business-to-consumer (B2C) communication.
Organisations around the world have scaled up tremendously because of technology adoption. From sales dashboards to collaboration tools, technology solutions are raising the bar for businesses. With technology becoming a part of consumers’ lives, they will seek ways to use platforms and channels powered by technology to engage with businesses.
Messaging platforms have a big role to play here. The on-demand expectation from customers today will have brands looking to respond in real-time to audiences. We are already seeing consumers in some parts of the world use messaging platforms to drive commerce and payments, as well. With messenger services adoption growing strongly, for brands this is an easy win with a captive audience.
Progress in this world’s future will be achieved through partnerships enabled largely by technology. A big part of connecting the world is helping people and businesses connect in this new mobile world.
That’s what I think about every day – how can we do more to help our partners build their business or reach their customers in an authentic and right way.
Jonathan Labin, Managing Director of Facebook Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan.For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.