What if 50% of your market were under the age of 25, extremely mobile, social-media-savvy and brand-conscious?

What if you could turn back the clock a couple of years – knowing what you know now – and go back to the beginning of the social media “revolution,” only with mature tools and stable platforms at your fingertips?

Think about these two hypothetical situations and bring them together. How would you blend Social Media and digital communications into your business model? This is the question being asked by the business community in Dubai and the rest of the GCC – a region of the world finding itself on the cusp of a powerful marketing communications shift over the next couple of years, starting right now.

I shot a little video while I was there, just for you. If the video embed doesn’t work for you, watch it here.

The threat of failure: Companies (and their marketing partners and agencies) using social media merely as marketing channels through which to push traditional messaging, marketing offers and other noisy, low traction tactics. Traditional thinking is the enemy of progress in this instance.

The opportunity for success: Blend Social and Traditional tactics without making the same mistakes that companies in the west already made over the last few years. That is to say: Blend and mix social and traditional but do not confuse the two. Make full use of word-of-mouth (lateral forces) instead of relying on aggressive discounting to earn business. Watch where companies in western markets have succeeded and failed with social media (and why) before jumping into the space and making similar mistakes. (The US, Canada and Europe are outstanding labs for regions just now getting into the space. Don’t guess at it. Study what has been done and learn from it.)

Once again, the difference between success and failure rests on simple decisions being made by companies just like yours: Do we think this problem through both strategically and tactically, or do we just throw money at these new channels and hope for miracles? Some companies will reap the rewards of properly integrating social media into their business models while others will waste their time with poorly thought-through investments in the medium and see very little benefit from it. What is beautiful to me about the region though, is that it is still more or less virgin territory: None of these decisions have been made yet. The market is wide open for success. All I see is opportunity, not just there, but across the Muslim world, which constitutes a hefty chunk of the world’s population/markets. That is pretty energizing for someone with my kind of mindset. Yahoo is making big moves there. Most major European marketing firms and agencies were also well represented in Dubai last week. The momentum is building and for obvious reasons: The middle east is evolving fast, the region’s economies are looking beyond the oil boom (Dubai especially since it produces very little oil), and the population is increasingly young, connected, and modern. The shift is palpable when you are there. It isn’t theory or pie-in-the-sky. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns (it never is), but the middle east is investing in its future, and its demographic profile is going to cause significant changes in its markets over the next two decades.

Eye-opening trip to Dubai on a lot of levels. Amazing place to visit if you get a chance, fascinating region, and LOTS of opportunities for great work to be done in the social space there over the next few years. Food for thought if you aren’t tied into a mortgage, your passport is giving you that disapproving look, and your suitcases have been begging for a little action.



Yahoo Middle-East's Ahmed Nassef at the Total Marketing conference