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Introducing Kobon.ME the RetailMeNot of the Middle East

Kobon ME or موقع كوبون, the Arabic version of RetailMeNot, was established to aggregate coupon codes and deals from all around the Middle East and make them available to online shoppers. It provides... Read more »

Reppler: The New Social Media Monitoring Service

Reppler: The New Social Media Monitoring Service

Simply put, Reppler is a social media monitoring service designed to keep your social reputation clean and safe. It addresses three critical pillars of your social reputation — content, privacy and security. Read more »

Does the New “Twittering Interns” Trend Really Work?

Every single day, consumers such as myself, are bombarded with numerous advertising messages slamming us from every radio station we tune to, every television channel we choose to watch, every street we drive or walk about and even through our personal mobile phones! The advertising clutter we are directly exposed to is proven to dilute consumer attention and can sometimes be overwhelming and I think many of you out there would agree!

Just today, as I surfed Original Signal looking for new articles to read and interesting topics to research, I found myself staring at a somewhat disturbing article entitled: Pizza Hut searches for Twittering intern and I started wondering: Is this really what we, consumers, need these days: More and more advertising seeping into every venue and vent of our daily lives?
Let’s think about this for a second and weigh the positives and negatives that may come out of it!

To be fair to Pizza Hut and other respectable chains around the world, I will start with the advantages of such a move:

  • By posting such a job vacancy, Pizza Hut is helping the economy by offering a new position that would in turn generate income for the chosen intern. This will help, in a way, reduce unemployment and enhance its image as a socially responsible chain.
  • While researching Google for more on this topic, I found that numerous sites have addressed this issue which means that Pizza Hut was able to attract the media’s attention and “get people talking” about its endeavor without even trying to boast about it: Free noise-free advertising. Good job!
  • Obviously, by recognizing the power of social media, Pizza Hut has set the bar for its competitors by letting them know that: “Yes, we know more and we will utilize what we know to gain more market share!” Accordingly, competitors will want to react by increasing their advertising efforts yet trying to be creative while doing that by innovative techniques rather than imitation.

Now, how about the disadvantages that Pizza Hut seem to have overlooked?

  • Is Twitter the best way to go? Well, I don’t think so just for the simple fact that there are tens of international restaurant chains available around the globe and if only 5 or 6 of them decide to utilize the same tool for their PR activities this would cause confusion and in turn antagonize the Twitter community!
  • How many of us want to hear more about this restaurant or the other? I mean seriously, how many of us care if Pizza Hut created a new topping or added a new special dish? And if we do care, do we want to be reminded of it often?
  • How many people are really loyal to Pizza Hut as a chain? And how many of them are affected by price vs. quality?
  • Let’s take the best case scenario: Let’s assume the Twitter intern achieved a great job by gathering a Pizza Hut “Lovers'” community, will this community alone end up in more sales for Pizza Hut? Or will it just be a way for the community to talk and share their usual Pizza Hut experiences?
  • Finally, how much information can we process per day? I am a Twitter user for 2 months now and I barely can follow up and grasp a few messages and links from the millions posted every day!

Social media is, by far, a very prominent tool for advertising and no one can deny that but does it always work for everything?

I would like to read your comments about this topic as it is a very controversial one and my opinion is just a cloud in a sky of different shaped clouds of possibilities!

Did social media fail the Egyptians?

Earlier last week I attended a journalists’ panel discussion in Alexandria Library. The panel meant to discuss social media effect in mobilizing people. To be more specific, it focused on giving answers to the question of why social media failed to mobilize people in Egypt on the ‘Day of Anger’.

According to Arab Media Blog, ‘The Day of Anger’ in Egypt was called by the April 6th Movement, a group of young activists formed last year after workers protests culminated in clashes between security forces and workers in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla, killing three people, including a child, and injuring more than 150.

Egyptian activists focused on Facebook and SMS text messages to gain support for their protests. One of the Facebook groups ‘April 6 Youth’ – not affiliated with any particular political movement – boasts more than 75,000 online members with a motto “It’s our right, and we’ll take it”. Many news outlets reported their two main demands: “setting the national minimum monthly wage at 1,200 Egyptian pounds (213 dollars) and electing a body to draft a new constitution – The current minimum wage in Egypt is 167 Egyptian pounds (29 dollars) -“.

With all the hype of social media one would expect huge demonstrations. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much anger in Egypt on the ‘Day of Anger’. Why?

Egyptian journalists attending the discussion panel rationalized it for two main reasons:

  1. The heavy security measurements applied by the Egyptian government security forces. Dozens of people were arrested in the run-up of the planned day. “Police have been given the order to arrest anyone taking part in demonstrations. Extra security forces are deployed around sensitive sites in Cairo and around the country” said a security official.
  2. The virtual aspect of the movement which lacked any real organization or set of demands, couldn’t build the trust needed to create a coalition among desperate groups to demand real change.

Markmedia, a social media expert and one of the main speakers at the panel, corrected the notion of the failure of social media and highlighted a very important point: “Social media is a tool, it doesn’t mobilize people. People are the ones to mobilize each other”.

Throughout history few people have always managed to influence the masses. Think Jesus Christ, Carl Marx and Mahatma Gandhi – just to mention few. In today’s world, such influencers have even more powerful tools to pass on their messages and reach the masses.

Social Media broke the monopoly of mainstream media over reflecting people’s voices. Markmedia put it eloquently “Mainstream media used to say we are the voice of the people. Now people are saying: “F*** off we have our own voices”.

Social media wasn’t used effectively enough to help mobilizing people in Egypt. I looked for other examples over the web where social media failed to mobilize people but didn’t find any -please feel free to point out any other examples -. Although there are many cases where social media failed in business marketing: research firm Gartner claims that many social media campaigns are doomed to fail! Facebook Beacon is an example. There are many successful stories where social media was used successfully. I will leave that for another post.

Now, answer me: Should dictatorships fear the power of the Web today? Or can they manage to suppress the emergence of social media the way they have managed to do with other communication medium?

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