Rauf Hameed - Communications Manager, Tetrapak

 Email interview with Rauf Hameed - Communications Manager, Tetrapak 05 Dec 2007



What businesses and organisations in the Middle East use blogging or other social media for marketing/ communications?


Blogging is still in infancy in the Middle East; exceptions are countries like Lebanon and the UAE where access to the internet is higher and affordable, exposure to western cultures is much higher. In Lebanon, it could be attributed to satellite and frequent travel and in the UAE due to western expatriates.


Blogs in this region from a corporate point of view are in their infancy. However, some of the big brands like Coca-Cola, Burger King, Tetra Pak, USOS, KFC, Nivea are seriously evaluating the efficiency of these social media tools to build their brands.

Is there an enthusiastic online culture in the Middle East? Do many people read blogs or participate in social networks like Facebook?


There are, on last count, 4 million active bloggers in the region, and around 10 million registered blog followers (people who thread them and interact with them). Facebook is becoming very popular in the Middle East, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia where internet is mainly used for chatting.  Furthermore, local forums are well developed with topics related to religion and politics dominating the discussions – but again very limited.

What is the impact of social media and online communications on culture/ personal lives?

Social media is going to be (if not already) the next thing now in the region. There are more than half a million registered Facebook users in the region.


The impact of social media and online communications on our personal lives is immense. The average Middle Eastern person receives a host of messages per day in some form or another and a huge percentage of it is digital – meaning, SMS, phone calls, Bluetooth, email, web browsing, banners, online advertising etc.


Social media is relevant in the region because it is an avenue for expression. Blogging is becoming huge in countries where freedom of expression is often not at its best. Iran and KSA are huge. Social media and online communications is considered as a virtual meeting point in countries (like Saudi Arabia) with lots of social restrictions (difficulties to meet the opposite sex).

What is the role of mobile communications? (eg. In parts of Africa and other developing nations, I understand that mobile comms are used more than PC based comms.)

Mobile is big in areas where online access is often not at par. In countries like Sudan, mobile communications is vital. In those countries, communications via handset is essential. Unfortunately, most of the mobile operators in the Middle East are focusing on discounting the rates rather than developing the industry and the services.



What are the current trends/ hot issues around social media in the Middle East?



Iraq War

Iran’s nuclear status

Fashion (New Trends Watches, Fashion Clothes)


Electronics (New Launches e.g. Mobiles & Laptops)

Hamas "Islamic Fundamentalism"

Emergency in Pakistan

Bin Laden

Saudi Stock Market

Automotive "New Launches"


A special language developed using Latin letters to write Arabic, supported with numbers assigned to Arabic letters that have no English equivalent.


Using the internet is picking-up:

-          hardware cost is getting cheaper everyday with more specialized computer retailers coming to the market

-          internet cost and accessibility is improving; internet providers aggressively promoting the service thru attractive promotions and big discounts

Facebook is the leader in all formats. But there are several others like Maktoob and d1g that are catching up. It’s all about expression and channels that gives one the freedom to do this.

Are there any social media issues that you think is important for business communicators to be aware of, especially if they or their clients are considering doing business in the Middle East?


Language is main barrier… with low English literacy; I believe developing an Arabic version of Facebook could be a major success. Sensitivity of inter-gender communication intense fascination of new and high technology gadgets is growing. Getting brand engagement via consumer voice is the key here and brands like Coca-Cola, Tetra Pak, Burger King, Virgin, Loreal, Mars, Nescafe, Nestle, MTV, BA etc are heavily into it.


Here in the ME, we need to find the resonance with the brand and the consumer, and then let the consumer do the bit on advocacy. Finding the right resonating tone of voice and brand space is the key factor.