Horyou and how one website is looking to bring corporates, charities and volunteers together

Horyou is a platform for social good for corporates, charities and the general public. If you have an idea you'd like to share or you'd like to volunteer go to www.horyou.com.

Horyou is a platform for social good for corporates, charities and the general public. If you have an idea you’d like to share or you’d like to volunteer go to http://www.horyou.com.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, especially when all of the good of the digital world is brought to bear on societal problems. One website I’ve recently been introduced to it Horyou (it’s pronounced Or-You). Horyou’s premise is simple – it is a platform for promoting interaction between corporates, charities and the general public. Horyou aims to transform ideas for social good into action through bringing together these different groups.

While you can check out the Horyou website here and also sign up, I wanted to know more. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Noof Al-Shammary, Marketing & Community Relations Manager for the region, to ask a couple more questions about Horyou and what it means for social causes.

Alex: So tell me, why is Horyou unique? What does it offer to individuals, charities and corporations?

Noof: Horyou is action-oriented platform. It is unique because it facilitates the evolution of ideas to actions with a social platform that offers all users (organization, personalities, members) a dedicated environment where they can share and promote positive actions, exchange quality content, and spark meaningful interactions. Our contribution to social networking is the gathering of a dedicated community of individuals looking to make a difference in their surroundings.

Alex: What is Horyou looking to achieve in the region?

Noof: Horyou is a universal platform. We believe in diversity, therefore everything you see on the platform is oriented to enhance positivity. We are working in different regions, including the Middle East, representing an opportunity to continue spreading the concept and practice of social networking with a purpose. We are actively working in both the non-profit and private sectors. Horyou is bringing a social platform to the forefront that can be used to highlight daily good worldwide.

Alex: How can we individuals, charities, and companies contribute and benefit from Horyou?

Noof: Any individual, companies, personalities, or organizations can contribute with their projects, positive actions, knowledge, interactions, and their willingness to be part of this global platform. Everybody’s contribution represents a step towards bringing more good to the world. Horyou is constantly looking for partners, supporters and individuals ready to take part in the promotion of social good.

If you’d like to know more about Horyou, the good people there have produced a short video which sums up their ideas and what they’re trying to achieve. I for one hope to play my part. Will you join me?

Obama and Netanyahu reach out to the masses – how the net helps as well as hinders the message

Politicians who use digital for their messaging need to remember that once it's online, it's there forever (image source: YouTube)

Politicians who use digital for their messaging need to remember that once it’s online, it’s there forever (image source: YouTube)

Politicians love to talk, at least those in the West do. Some politicians talk with a purpose, while others talk for the sake of rhetoric. We’ve had plenty of talk over the past couple of weeks, thanks in part to both global and regional political campaigns.

The net has completely changed how leaders communicate with their audiences. For example, leaders can now directly reach out to whole nations directly and without the need for a medium or intermediary such as the media. Two examples come to mind this week. The first is that of Benyamin Netanyahu, who went over the heads of Israeli media to directly address the Jewish Israeli public to exhort them to vote. In his address, which was posted to his Facebook page, he warned of the Israeli Arab threat. You can have a look at the video below.

While the demagoguery may have worked with the right-wing voters, this and other responses to questions such as the possibility of there being a two-state solution are not helping Netanyahu internationally. In a day and age where everything is on the internet and can be translated by a machine, there’s little to no opportunity for politicians to say one thing to one audience and then do a 180 with a different audience. Netanyahu’s media assertions that his words were misinterpreted are difficult to understand for anyone with an internet connection who can watch his words directly online.

Obama has also been using video this week, to address Iranians on the eve of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Using the opportunity to reach out directly and talk about the opportunity for an agreement over their nuclear ambitions, Obama’s message is simple and sincere. He’s stepped over the Ayatollahs and the government-controlled media to appeal to Iranians, who can access his speech online (the video is not recorded in high definition, for faster loading for Iranians). I’ve included both the comments and the video below.

“This moment may not come again soon. I believe that our nations have an historic opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully — an opportunity we should not miss. The days and weeks ahead will be critical. Our negotiations have made progress, but gaps remain. And there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you — the people of Iran — is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we seek. This year, we have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries.”

There’s no doubt the power of digital to step over the media and appeal directly to the masses. What our leaders need to remember is that whatever is put on this medium is immutable. For politicians who are known for changing their position based on whom they’re talking to such as Netanyahu, digital may come back to haunt them. For others who are trying to reach out and build bridges, such as Obama, video represents the best medium to send a message out to as big an audience as possible.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Do you want to know more about social media in the Middle East? Download the TNS ArabSMIS report here

Do you not know where to start when it comes to social media and the Middle East? This report may be your answer (image source: http://blue16media.com)

Do you not know where to start when it comes to social media and the Middle East? This report may be your answer (image source: http://blue16media.com)

We have our fair share of big events in Dubai and this week was no exception. The past two days has seen the Emirate become the place to be for social media influencers. Whilst we found ourselves invaded by all types of beautiful people (and others) waving their selfie sticks and pouting for the camera, there were some handy takeaways for an audience looking to learn more about how to use social media to build brands for themselves, their companies or their countries. Oh, and Twitter has finally decided to open an office in the MENA region, obviously in Dubai.

The most impressive part of the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit was the report. Coming in at a whopping sixty seven pages, the report by research house TNS covers a whole host of areas of social media interest across the MENA region. The study combines both qualitative research with a quantitative survey of more than 7200 users of social media spread evenly
across 18 Arab countries.

If you’re looking to know which channels are used across MENA, then look no further. The report includes stats on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Google+, and YouTube. It also includes social media usage habits, including time of use, duration of use and devices used. Most importantly, the report looks into attitudes about social media across the region and what people are doing online.

If you’re doing anything online in the MENA region, download this report and start dissecting. You can thank me later, on social media.

The ASMIS Social Media MENA Report

When it comes to social media, advertising and the Middle East, why don’t we have any ethics?

The region loves social media, but its influencers and advertisers are less keen to say when a post is paid for (image source: www.business2community.com)

The region loves social media, but its influencers and advertisers are less keen to say when a post is paid for (image source: http://www.business2community.com)

Who needs ethics right? Ethics are boring, they’re dry, and they mean we have to use disclaimers. Ethics really aren’t fun. But you know what, without them we’d be in a fair amount of trouble. With the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit happening this week in Dubai, and a fair few social media influencers being in town (including quite a few from Kuwait who don’t make it clear that they accept money for posting on their social media channels), I want to reprint this post which I shared with the Media Network Middle East last month. I’d love to hear your views on ethics, or the lack thereof, when it comes to social media and advertising in our region.

While European and American consumers are benefiting from crystal clear regulations on sponsored social media content, there’s little to no clarity here on the same.

We’re awash with social media in our region. Everywhere you go, you’ll see people sliding their fingers left and right, pushing up and pulling down on their smartphone screens. We’re all at it, checking our Instagram accounts, refreshing our Twitter feeds, and posting Facebook updates.

Today we have social media celebrities, people who have become famous through their online activities. There are Instagrammers in Kuwait with over a million followers, Facebookers in the UAE with hundreds of thousands of likes, and Saudi Tweeters with followings equal to the population of Bahrain.

Alongside these social media celebrities we have witnessed the rise of paid posts. Those of you with a keen eye will have noticed how many celebrities online have become more commercial, and have begun to share updates, images and videos promoting brands.

There’s nothing wrong with promotional advertising. Using paid influencer marketing is a common tactic to spread awareness, promote a brand, and to engage social media users across the globe. Online advertising can be more cost effective in terms of measurement and reach.

However, there’s no distinction between an advert and paid-for content. Both involve a payment of some kind by a company for a promotion of its brand or services. Regulators across Europe and the United States have essentially ruled that if money is changing hands, obvious disclosure must occur in-ad. Their reasoning is simple; consumers have a right to know what is an advert and what is not an advert.

While European and American consumers are benefiting from crystal clear regulations on sponsored social media content, there’s little to no clarity here on the same. Consumers here have no authority to turn to or no regulations to guide them on what is and what isn’t sponsored.

There seems to be little eagerness for brands or social media celebrities to advertise what is paid-for content either. This is understandable, as their followers may be less inclined to engage with a post if they know it is sponsored, or even follow a person who they know accepts money for posts.

While this lack of disclosure may appeal in the short term and help to maximise revenues (paid-for posts in Kuwait can fetch up to three thousand dollars per posting), it does nothing to building goodwill and trust with consumers across the region. A lack of honesty and transparency on what social media celebrities are paid to post will negatively affect trust in both the sponsoring brand as well as the celebrity who is accepting the payment in return for sharing the content.

In the US the burden is on brands to ensure that their endorsers, such as bloggers and online influencers) are in compliance in terms of disclosure. Paid-for posts have to include language such as #Ad, Ad: or Sponsored. Even brand posts and shares by a company’s employees have to be clearly labeled to account for the bias.

Either brands can take action and begin to self-regulate, or they can wait for regulators to finally step in and possibly take a harder-line approach to sponsored influencer endorsements. Is risking a reputation and trust, built up over years of marketing, worth risking over a lack of disclosure? I hope the answer is no.

Learning about a local community – Humans of Bahrain

We’re bombarded by adverts on a daily basis, and unfortunately it seems that social media may be going the same way. What with all of the selfies, the food pictures and the holiday snaps it could be argued that there’s little in the way of meaningful insights into wider social communities. However, every now and then you come across a gem that’s worth shouting about.

My wife was the person who first told me about this one Instagram account. Humans of Bahrain aims to tell the story of people living in Bahrain, both local and expatriate. It’s an account that is frank and candid, and shares a personal view of each and every one of the people being profiled by the account (it’s similar to sites found in the US and Asia which profile local communities).

Each picture on the account includes a story told in text below the image, both in English and Arabic. Subjects covered include education, marriage, careers and employment, and good old-fashioned feelings and emotions.

So far, the account has posted 169 images and it has just over three and a half thousand followers. If you’re looking to learn more about culture and the people that make up Bahrain, this is an amazing site to follow. I wish more people would focus on what is around them to tell the story of their community and their home rather than simply themselves.

"مضحك لما يدش عندي زبون فيلقاني قاعد ويقول لي 'بيّا چم ذي؟' ولما أرد عليه بنعم يا إن يضحك ويتبلعم أو يستحي ويشرد، وأنا أضحك معاهم، بالعكس ماشوف فيها شي.. كلها كلمة بلغة ناس ثانية حالهم حالي أنا ماني أحسن منهم في شي. ليش مو كلنا مثل بعض؟" – "Funny how when a customer approaches me and asks me 'Bhaiyya, how much is this?' and when they hear me talk they either laugh, stop talking, or turn red and storm out, and I only laugh in return because I honestly see nothing wrong with it.. A word from another language, I am better than the people who speak it in nothing and in no way. Aren't we all the same?"

A photo posted by Humans of Bahrain (@humansofbhr) on

"Can you tell us about a culture shock you got here in Bahrain?" . "A culture shock in Bahrain? Well, I've been here for twenty two years so the first thing that happened when I got out of the airport was that I fainted. I was only thirteen at the time so that was the heat shock. But the cultural aspect was primarily the difference in the sense that there were mosques, singing prayers and people wearing the traditional dress. I grew up here so this is home for me. Nothing really shocking. I love Bahrain." – "هل تستطيع إخبارنا عن صدمة ثقافية أصابتك في البحرين؟" . "صدمة ثقافية في البحرين؟ أنا هنا منذ اثنتين وعشرين سنة. سقطت مغشياً عليّ فور خروجي من المطار عندما وصلت البحرين بسبب حرارة الجو. كنت حينها في سن الثالثة عشر. رؤية المساجد واللباس التقليدي شكلت الاختلاف من الناحية الثقافية، لكنّي كبرت هنا فالبحرين هي وطني، لا شيء يصدمني حقاً فأنا أحب البحرين."

A photo posted by Humans of Bahrain (@humansofbhr) on

"صار لي ثنين وثلاثين سنة في شقة ومقدمة على بيت، مطلقة، عاطلة عن العمل وعندي ولد معاق. راحة المواطن والعيشة الكريمة الي نسمع عنها مب محصلتها.. مثل الياهل يقولون لچ بنعطيچ حلاوة.. عقب يقصون عليچ. ونصيحة للبنات، تحملوا تتزوجون من أهلكم، روح بعيد وتعال سالم .. كتبي تحت بعد مطلوب زوج حقي." . "أكتب مطلوب زوج؟ عادي؟" . "إييي عادي من الي بيي عاد.. كتبي بعد أبي عمره خمسة وعشرين سنة." *تغمز* – "I am divorced and unemployed with a disabled son. I have been living in an apartment for thirty two years, and I applied for a house but I have never experienced the decent and comfortable life we often hear about on the news. It's like you're a child, they promise to give you candy but you get nothing. Oh, and some advice for young women, don't marry a relative, like they say: go far and return safely. Also, write down: Wanted: a husband for me." . "Can I really write that?" . "Oh yes! It's not like anyone's going to actually propose.. also add that it's better if he's twenty five years old." *winks*

A photo posted by Humans of Bahrain (@humansofbhr) on

Educating the Gulf on our humanity through social video – examples from Bahrain, Saudi and the UAE

Here in the Gulf region we’re increasingly seeing the use of online video content, particularly to tackle issues that are both social and controversial. This week there have been media stories on three examples from three different countries.

The first video has been produced by the Saudi Human Rights Commission to Saudi nationals to be kinder to their domestic workers, most of whom have to leave behind a family of their own to earn a living and support them. The video is well shot, and aims to give humanity back to domestic workers, especially those from South East Asia, through concepts such as motherhood.

The second is from Bahrain, but shot by one social media influencer called Yousef Al Madani. The clip focuses on the treatment of white-collar workers in Bahrain, most of whom come from the Asian subcontinent. Yousef looks to take the place of one of these workers at a local grocery store, where they often have to rush out to take orders from customers who sit in their cars and wait for the items to be brought to them. The clip, which has been talked about in the media, has been viewed over half a million times. This video is dubbed into English as well.

The third and final clip is from a corporate, Cola Cola to be exact. To quote the National:

An online advertising campaign by Coca-Cola showing the company handing out excess baggage tags at the airport to travellers has been viewed almost one million times on YouTube.

The clip “Coca-Cola –Taking Home Happiness” begins by showing passengers checking in at Dubai International Airport to head off to various destinations to see family. By Thursday, the video had generated more than 987,000 hits since it was uploaded a month ago. According to the website for Campaign Middle East magazine, Coco-Cola shot the video on December 22 with the cooperation of the airport.

The campaign – which is available only in the UAE and Oman – is expected to expand with additional prizes like flight vouchers, TVs and mobile phones, the company said. The video follows a similar online campaign last year which showed labour camps with Coca-Cola phone booths, into which bottle tops rather than coins could be fed to pay for international calls.

The video, which is probably the best shot out of the three (this is Coca Cola after all), is also dubbed.

What are your thoughts on the above? Are these videos effective? Would they have been more effective on television as well, or less effective? And is one more effective than the other, possibly due to its topic, its producer, its intent as well as its authenticity? Do let me know your thoughts.

The Gulf’s new social media hybrids and the success of @maxofarabia

Living in a region which is known for diversity but which is still pervaded by barriers between all the cultures you’ll find in the Gulf, I’m fascinated by individuals who bring differing peoples together. One such person is Max, who goes by his online moniker maxofarabia. A British-American by background, Max has not only lived in the Gulf but he’s also taken the region to heart. Unlike many expats, Max has picked up Arabic and is fluent in the language (he has a strong Emirati accent).

By creating content in both English and Arabic about issues that are relevant to nationals, Max is opening up a new world for both expats as well as those outside of the region. Max prefers Instagram, but you can also find him on Twitter and Facebook (he’s also on Snapchat, but I’m way too old for that platform). His popularity among Emiratis is evident, and he regularly uploads videos about the UAE and its people to his Instagram account, where he is followed and watched by almost 190 thousand people. Max has become a social media ambassador for a number of projects in and around Dubai.

If you’re an expat and you’d like to know more about the Emirates in particular, then Max of Arabia is one to watch. Have a look at some of his posts below (apologies but Instagram’s embedding function is taking a day off today).

A good morning from Max's trip into the desert on the trails in the UAE

A good morning from Max’s trip into the desert on the trails in the UAE

Huge thanks to @hooralq for the invitation to @sharjahart - a great evening spent in one of my favorite cities, surrounded by creativity, with some of my favorite people - #Sharjah #SharjahArt

Huge thanks to @hooralq for the invitation to @sharjahart – a great evening spent in one of my favorite cities, surrounded by creativity, with some of my favorite people – #Sharjah #SharjahArt

Max even looks good in a thob - here at a wedding in Riyadh

Max even looks good in a thob – here at a wedding in Riyadh