Social media ‘a force to be reckoned with’ Business landscape undergoes change

THE rise of social media has been one of the most pervasive trends across the globe. People use social media for various reasons from personal level, rallying some ideologies to promoting some businesses. Social media has been used as one of the communication tools in marketing that creates a personality behind a particular brand and relationships with consumers. Social media gives marketers a voice on how to communicate with the target consumers and the public.

How important is the role of social media in people’s lives? How has it influenced the business landscape in Kuwait and the rest of the world?
Hussain Adel Al-Essa, the Owner of Mohtawa Content Marketing and Co-Founder of H&Y Marketing Consultancy, in this interview, provides an overview of the role of the social media in content marketing and its use in branding and business innovation. As a Branding Consultant and a Social Media Expert, he also talks about the trends in social media, the issue of invasion of privacy, identity theft, censorship, blogging and tweeting away from trouble.

Question: What can you say about the advent of social media and its rising popularity across the globe in general and in Kuwait in particular?
Answer: Social Media is just the tip of the iceberg of a bigger picture which is the online marketing. It is forcing brands to provide the sufficient content to sustain the company’s sales conversation. Unlike the traditional media described as a one-way street, now customers can provide essential market research opportunities by just commenting on a product or service online. Today engagement of the audience is paid in both attention and action. By attention you could choose to follow a brand on Twitter, ‘like’ their page on facebook, check in one of their branches on Foursquare, show interest in the brands’ talent by connecting to their Linkedin page, subscribe to their channel on YouTube, and that’s not even covering all the new social media tools.

Q: When did you start blogging? What pushed you to blog?
A: I started blogging in 2006, it was a way to take note of what was going on around me. By blogging about a topic it was a way for me to start a conversation without meeting a friend or a group. Forums were popular long before blogs, but I knew that with blogs my topics would bring out individuals with whom I have stuff in common. With blogging I have given and received advice on different topics, and today what pushes me to blog is to provide valuable advice on my field as well as sharing my expert opinion on a matter. Today a blog is an effective tool for positioning, it can be a corporate blog for a company or a niche blog for building a personal brand.

Q: What’s your blog site? What are the topics that you usually write about?
A: I am currently blogging on multiple sites shared with other authors; TheMediaBoss.com talks about subjects under the umbrella of marketing & media to gain a certain rapport with the readers and the other is an online magazine that’s on beta-version called UrbanQ8.com, that talks about urban living in Kuwait.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with your blog?
A: With blogging I always open the doors for potential businesses and make it easier for current clients to refer me to new opportunities. Blogging is like walking into the party, if you’re a wallflower no one would know the value you would offer, but if you learn to become a social butterfly then readers know what you specialize in. “Content is King” is a term I live by, originally from Bill Gates in a speech he gave back in 1996 when talking about the opportunities the internet provides. As a branding consultant I tend to be very generous with the tips I provide on my blogs, readers won’t take the information and run but they would remember to consider contacting me to explore more on the subject.

Q: What’s your most unforgettable blog entry?
A: I once critiqued about men’s apparel retail store with a poor choice of a name on its storefront. When I started to be more transparent with my blog on who I am and my contact details, the store owner managed to contact me asking to take down the post. This was the first time I felt that people are reading what I post.

Q: Have you ever written an entry on you blog that has created controversy or stirred some discussions among the bloggers in Kuwait and the public?
A: I haven’t written a controversial post yet, my topics are usually mild with no intention in provoking anyone. But if I ever would write something then it would be about issues that are shared on different geographies rather than specifically in Kuwait.

Q: Before writing an entry on your blog, what are the things that you take into consideration? Do you practice self-censorship?
A: Self-censorship would be the constraint that allows me to be creative in my blogging. Things I would take into consideration are the outcome of the entry itself. How would the readers react to it and in what way would I leave them with the intended outcome of my entry.

Q: Do you have a Twitter account? What are the things that you usually tweet?
A: I am a religious Twitter user, I mainly share interesting articles on regional news, business, social media news, marketing and new market trends. I rarely share something personal unless its an opinion on current affairs.

Q: What should one take into account before tweeting to stay out of trouble?
A: One should take account the followers who are reading their tweets and why they started following, who to mention on their tweets and would it be considered defamation of any sort, and the frequency of their tweets; too much would make them a annoying and too little would make it pointless for others to follow them.

Q: What’s the trending topic on Twitter among the tweeps in Kuwait now?
A: What makes Twitter so powerful is that it works on the basis of real time reporting. There is usually a very high turnover of topics in general world wide. Narrowed down to Kuwait you still need to understand different psychographics tweet about different things. Best way to find out is looking for trending hastags on a daily basis or try visiting the websites like trendsmap.com.

Q: What’s your take on the government’s move on implementing stricter rules regulating the use of social media in Kuwait?
A: I am really happy that the government perceives social media as a force to be reckoned with. With these rules being implemented it just might mean we can all be responsible citizens and tweet about issues that do provide the betterment of Kuwait in real time. The same reason I would advise my clients to monitor their brands online, I think the government has taken the right step in tuning in to what is being said.

Q: Do you see social media as a divisive or a unifying factor of people in the society?
A: Because I am a firm believer in the power of content, I have to say it can be both divisive and unifying. When an opinion is being shared you will have people who agree, disagree, irrelevant or just not interested in the matter as whole.

Q: What can you say about the issue on the invasion of privacy in the social media?
A: Invasion of privacy or utilizing data that keep social media platforms sustainable, can be perceived as a necessary evil by many. This information is valuable to advertisers to bring attention of needs fulfillment of the users. As an end user I would prefer seeing ads or being approached on products and services that I could use and have already shown interest in buying based on my searching habits.

Q: What tips can you give to the netizens to guard their privacy?
A: My first tip would be deciding on the amount of transparency before looking into the social media settings. Some people would need this information to be visible to be approachable by opportunities out there. If they are out there to connect, make friends, search for love or selling out then the information shared and the settings need to be adjusted accordingly. Password security is a must, having a stranger seeing your vacation album isn’t as bad as stealing your online identity.

Q: How can the social media help in promoting business in Kuwait?
A: Social media can help local businesses by knowing the network the user is on, IP address of where the user’s logging in from, and interest they have communicated in their profiles and pages they ‘liked’. With this kind of information these individuals can now be approached. Businesses in Kuwait need to communicate the value they offer, their thought leadership in their respective fields, and acknowledging the buying cycle of their customers and the process they go in choosing to buy.

Q: How did the influx of social media change the business landscape in Kuwait especially in the field of advertising?
A: Traditional advertising in form of print media, television and radio come in a cost thus setting the barrier of entry high for those wishing to promote their products but don’t have the budget to do so. With social media an example of a viral video can be seen by more eyes than being on a 30 second ad on the television network at a given time. Social media leveled the field for the big and small alike.

Q: Do you use social media in your branding campaign?
A: I do use social media and plan my print media accordingly. Brands need to cater to customers, owners or shareholders, suppliers and employees and it is therefore visible to all on its vision and how it is going to get there.

Q: Briefly, what is the concept of branding? What makes it different from the traditional form of advertising?
A: Branding to me is a practice of positioning, associating and selling. The traditional form of advertising would be a campaign that can be from days to weeks, but branding is an ongoing campaign that would utilize all media present and not just traditional.

Q: Why is branding important?
A: Exploring brand marketing concepts is a great way to fine-tune your business model and business practices. A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all, your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer.

Q: Is branding popular among the business community in Kuwait or many still prefer the traditional approach?
A: Branding becomes more popular per case in the appearance of competitors that offer similar services. Once there is a new player eating your market share, you need to show how different you are and educate this difference to the customers to help them continue buying from you.

Q: What makes a particular branding campaign effective?
A: The effective branding campaign is the one that has reached the preferred set of brands in an industry. If I ask you to give me names of great personal computer brands in the market and you would tell me Apple, Dell, HP and tell me what makes one more suitable than the other then know their branding campaigns were effective.

Q: If you were to design a branding campaign for Kuwait as the next financial hub in the region, how would you go about it?
A: To design a campaign positioning Kuwait as the next financial hub, I would have to use public relations, traditional media and internet marketing to ensure that the activities done in the past months from privatization of the stock exchange to providing banking facilities services are under one umbrella. Then I would approach specific newspapers, magazines, hold press conferences and attend business conventions to attract future investors and reaffirm this vision.

Q: If you were to brand your life now, what and how would it be?
A: I would brand it with the very value I provide, consultancy.

biography
Hussain Adel Al-Essa, the Owner of Mohtawa Content Marketing and Co-Founder of H&Y Marketing Consultancy.
Branding Consultant and Kuwait’s pioneer in Content Marketer.
Specialist in Branding and Online Marketing for SME (small medium enterprises.
An active blogger.
Educational background
2006 - Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications major in Advertising and Public Relations, American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
Certifications received
Marketing Profs Content Marketing Certificate of Completion.
NLP for Practitioners.
Training for trainers certifications.
Conference attended
Philip Kotler’s Conference on Marketing in turbulent times.
Achievements
Helped start and maintain an internal magazine circulated to 11,000 employees.
Worked on a number of brands from start-ups, medium sized and personal brands.
Speaker and organizer of various branding workshops.


By: Michelle Fe Santiago

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