Social Media in the Middle East: The Story of 2016

ArabNet Team, Dec 11 2016

The continued rise of visually orientated social networks, the dominance of Middle East social media by Facebook and the wider Facebook family, and continued tensions between telecoms providers and services which allow free internet calls, are all charted in a new report from the journalist and academic Damian Radcliffe. The study offers an up-to-date analysis of how people across the Middle East use social media.

 This is Damian Radcliffe’s fifth annual study on the state of social media in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), following previous publications covering developments in 20122013, 2014 and 2015. 

 The findings were previewed at an internal event hosted by the BBC in London on 6th December 2016.

 12 key findings - and trends - from 2016:

  1. Facebook remains the leading social network. Across the region Facebook has 136 million monthly users. 93% access Facebook on mobile. The number of active monthly users has tripled since 2012.
  2. WhatsApp – which along with Instagram is also owned by Facebook - remains the most popular direct messaging service in the region, according to data from Northwestern University in Qatar. 93% of WhatsApp users, in the six nations studied, are daily users of the app.
  3. Across the 16 countries covered by the annual Arab Youth Survey, 62% of young Arabs (those aged 18-24) use WhatsApp on a daily basis (ahead of Facebook at 55%).
  4. Instagram usage has grown from 38% of Internet users across UAE in 2014 to 60% in 2016. Usage in Saudi Arabia has jumped from 57% in 2014 to 82% in 2016. The global average is 42% (2016) up from 24% two years ago, according to the Connected Life study published by the research agency Kantar TNS.
  5. The same study found in Saudi Arabia and UAE usage of Snapchat has tripled in two years among internet users. Usage in Saudi Arabia grew from 24% - 74% during 2014-16. In UAE, it increased from 15% - 53%. The global average was an increase from 12% to 23%.
  6. Instagram has overtaken Twitter, according to a survey of internet users (nationals only) in Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and UAE. Data from Northwestern University in Qatar, shows that use of Instagram in these markets increased by 24% between 2013 and 2016. The number of Twitter users fell by 17% in this time, including a 12% drop in the past year.
  7. YouTube launched a new hub called Mosalsalat. Featuring more than 500 iconic Arabic television series, it offers over 7,000 hours of content, produced in the region. The hub contains material dating back to 1962, searchable by genre and country of origin.
  8. The network also created an offline viewing mode on the YouTube mobile app for users in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, and Algeria.
  9. More than half (52%) of Arab youth share stories with their friends on Facebook, up 11% in the past year. Only 17% of young Arabs aged 18-24 use newspapers as a source for news. In 2011, nearly two-thirds of Arab youth (62%) claimed to use newspapers as part of their news habits.
  10. 71% of UAE residents will take advice from Social Media Influencers before buying a product. Facebook is the most popular channel to follow influencers in food, fashion and beauty. 
  11. Services were restricted on a temporary, or permanent, basis across the region. In Turkey, popular services were blocked in March, July and November.In Morocco, Skype, Viber, Tango, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, were among the services blocked, whilst in in July, UAE issued a new law banning the use of VPNs. In September Saudi Arabia added calls from the app Line to its list of blocked services.
  12. Research from Northwestern University in Qatar found: “Nearly seven in 10 national internet users say they changed how they use social media due to privacy concerns, with proportions ranging from 89% of Saudis and 75% of Egyptians to 46% of Qataris”.

View/Download the report

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