A new report from Spot On Public Relations has confirmed that there are more subscribers to social media service Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) than there are copies of newspapers circulated in the region. The report, ‘Middle East and Africa Facebook Demographics’, shows Facebook has over 15 million users in the region, while the total regional Arabic, English and French newspaper circulation stands at just under 14 million copies.
“Facebook and other social media platforms are now beginning to define how people discover and share information, shape opinion and interact. Facebook doesn’t write the news, but the new figures show that Facebook’s reach now rivals that of the news press,” said Carrington Malin, managing director of Spot On Public Relations. “The growth in Arabic language users has been very strong indeed: some 3.5 million Arabic language users began using Facebook during the past year, since the introduction of Arabic support and we can expect millions more Arabic language users to join the platform.”
Five country markets in MENA now account for some 70% of Facebook users; Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with a gender bias towards male users that flies in the face of international figures – only 37% of Facebook users in the Middle East are female compared with 56% in the USA and 52% in the UK. Despite the strong growth in the number of Arabic language users, the report also shows that some 50% of MENA Facebook users select English as their primary language, with 25% selecting French and just 23% Arabic.
Egypt’s 3.5 million Facebook subscribers help to make North Africa the largest Facebook community in MENA accounting for 7.7 million out of a total of 15 million MENA users. 98% of MENA’s French language users are from North Africa. The GCC states today account for some 5 million Facebook users.
The two key markets of the Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been quick to embrace Facebook – some 33% of the UAE’s population uses Facebook and it also now stands as the country’s second most visited website after google.ae (according to websites ranked by Alexa.com). Interestingly, some 68% of Facebook users in the Emirates are over 25 years old, flying in the face of perceptions that social media is a ‘generation Y’ phenomenon. However, much of Facebook’s growth across the rest of the region has been driven by the under twenty-fives. Over 48% of Facebook subscribers in Saudi Arabia are under 25 years old, with an equal split between English and Arabic users. However, about three times the number of Arabic users have joined Facebook in Saudi over the past year, compared with the number of English language users. 67% of Saudis on Facebook are male.
“For users, Facebook is becoming a richer and larger component of their daily lives, but for advertisers and communications professionals it’s starting to look like an essential part of the MENA marketing mix. In this region, if you’re going to go where your customers are going, then the answer’s clearly online,” said Alexander McNabb, director, Spot On PR. “However, the key challenge here is the nature of interactions over platforms like Facebook and other social media tools are totally different to traditional media – and it’s important to get these interactions right.”
Facebook has become a force to be reckoned with in the Middle East and North Africa and the platform can now claim 15 million users as of May 2010. Whilst Facebook saw strong early growth in 2008/2009 from English and French speaking users across the region, Facebook’s decision to add an Arabic interface in March 2009 has opened up access to a whole new demographic of Internet users and added 3.5 million Arabic users over the past year. Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s Facebook communities have seen the strongest growth among Arabic users during the past year with each adding 1.1 million Arabic language interface users. We soon expect the number of Arabic language Facebook users in Saudi to surpass the number of English users.
However, with the strong expectation that the weight of numbers will move from English language users to Arabic language users in a number of key MENA Facebook markets, today’s reality is that just 23% of users across the region use Facebook’s Arabic interface. So, those seeking to make the most of the Facebook platform are advised to keep up-to-date with its changing demographics.
Here are some of the key Facebook statistics covered in this report:
— There are now 15 million Facebook users in the Middle East & North Africa (this figure excludes Iran, Israel, Pakistan and Turkey).
— MENA’s top five Facebook country markets, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, account for 70% of all users in the region.
— 50% of MENA Facebook users have selected their primary language for using Facebook as English, with 25% preferring French and just 23% Arabic.
— Only 37% of Facebook users in MENA are female (compared with 56% in the USA and 52% in the UK). Only Bahrain and Lebanon Facebook communities approach gender equality with female users accounting for about 44% of total users.
— The GCC has five million Facebook users, which Saudi Arabia and the UAE representing 45% and 31% of that total respectively.
— North Africa has 7.7 million Facebook users, with Egypt accounting for 3.4 million users (or 44% of all North Africa users). Egypt has the largest Facebook community in MENA.
— Francophone countries Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia together account for 3.7 million French speaking Facebook users, equivalent to nearly 25% of all MENA users.
— Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen all have Facebook communities with more than 50% of users below the age of 25 years old.
— The UAE has the oldest Facebook community in MENA with 41% of users being over 30 years old, 28% being 25-29 years old and 31% being under 25 years old.
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