More companies are using social networks to communicate with their customers. But how do they make the most of them?
One business in Dubai claims to have an answer. "Brands embrace social media because it allows a very high degree of engagement," says Mahmoud Abu-Wardeh, the co-founder of Zeedna.
But, he says it is difficult to manage multiple websites, and those such as Facebook own all of the content uploaded to them. "What we're trying to do is bridge that gap," says Mr Abu-Wardeh.
Zeedna helps companies set up a single website that can be used to reach customers through social networks. "We are giving our clients the ability to carry on this very deep and interactive engagement with their stakeholders but maintain control over the platform," he says. "With content that's published on sites that are built on Zeedna they can publish it directly from their website to their own social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter as well."
The software developer had been working in the industry for a while when he spotted an opportunity. "Being able to have full control of the content that's published … gives them a level of comfort," he says. "We found that there really wasn't anything in this region like this so that's where it started from."
The company has helped everything from small startups to non-profit organisations and Fortune 500 companies. But Zeedna does not just help companies build websites. Its software can also be used to help promote products or services. "We're working with organisations that are building communities around a specific consumer product to help people understand the product better and connect with it," says Mr Abu-Wardeh.
"We also have a lot of organisations, especially NGOs (non-governmental organisations) like charities for example, that are building communities around the services they're providing," he says.
Injaz-UAE, a member of Junior Achievement Worldwide, the world's largest non-profit business education organisation, hired Zeedna to design software to help sign up new volunteers. "The volunteer management system they produced for our website makes it easier for professionals in the UAE to sign up as volunteers to mentor youth through Injaz-UAE's programs," says Bilal Sabouni, the charity's director of operations.
"We have seen a great increase in the number of active members from all over the Emirates and hope to engage existing volunteers to connect with others who are active in the community."
Companies can also use Zeedna's software to sell their products or accept donations under their own domain name and brand, plus run promotions or campaigns. "Instead of having to have a fragmented communications strategy with having to use different platforms for different things, such as having to have separate campaigns for Facebook and Twitter, we help them combine that and they remain in charge of the branding," says Mr Abu-Wardeh.
Vikram Prabhu, the chief executive of Cynergix Enterprise, says Zeedna's services are particularly useful for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). "They have put everything on one platform," he says.
"It's helpful for SMEs for sure, because it provides them with a completely integrated package."
Mr Prabhu says it is too early to say how successful Zeedna's approach will be, but there is certainly space in the market for a company that can help other businesses improve their social network presence. "As far as this market is concerned, certainly. Number one: it's a very dynamic market. It's a growing market," says Mr Prabhu. "A lot of people don't know what they want. So in this kind of a scenario it is very exciting. Social media is one of the cheapest forms of advertising."