x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Facebook looks to cash in with ads thanks to active Mena users

The region has 62 million monthly active Facebook users, of which 42 million are active on mobile devices.

Jonathan Labin, the head of Facebook Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, says the people in Mena region are very active on Facebook. Sarah Dea / The National
Jonathan Labin, the head of Facebook Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, says the people in Mena region are very active on Facebook. Sarah Dea / The National

Facebook is on a drive to attract more advertisers as research from the French company Ipsos shows that users of the social networking site in the Middle East and North Africa region are more active than any other part of the world.

The region has 62 million monthly active Facebook users, of which 42 million are active on mobile devices. Mena users upload 1.2 times more photos on to Facebook and message and comment 1.5 times more than the global average, while checking their news feed about 14 times a day.

“Generally speaking in the [Mena] region, people are very active on Facebook. When you think about how much people comment, upload photos, it over-indexes compared to the rest of the world,” said Jonathan Labin, the head of Facebook Middle East, Africa and Pakistan.

Facebook believes it has cracked mobile advertising and is now sharing its platform with agencies in the region to benefit. The social network announced its own advertising platform, the Facebook Audience Network (FAN) at its annual developer conference in San Francisco last week. FAN is a mobile advertising network enabling app developers to tap into its network of advertisers, which allows the developers to make money without having to sell advertisements or target users themselves.

In the UAE, 74 per cent of users interact with a brand on the network, while 50 per cent are influenced by what they see on Facebook. In Saudi Arabia, 68 per cent of users interact with a brand while in Egypt the number drops to 49 per cent.

“Mena consumers are more inclined to share and engage and that shift to mobile and social from analogue is faster than anyone could have predicted,” Yousef Tuqan, the chief innovation officer at Leo Burnett Middle East. “But digital advertising need not work at the expense of other media. Digital, when combined with TV is a far more powerful thing.”

Facebook is looking to get more brands involved during Ramadan, when activity on the site peaks, especially during the screening of various TV series during the holy month. Users share their thoughts with friends and family or with the brand pages directly on their mobile devices while watching these shows.

It links into Facebook’s “mobile first” strategy, said Mr Labin. The company’s latest earnings results show that 59 per cent of all its advertising revenues now come from mobile.

“We have gone through a transition in the last two years,” he said. “We were a desktop company, today we are a mobile first company. Our users are shifting to mobile and we need to monetise that.”

“[Mobile] is still a huge opportunity. It is where their eyeballs are, consumers are getting more and more on digital and more and more on mobile. Consumers have made the decision that the mobile screen is their primary screen,” said Mr Labin.

thamid@thenational.ae

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