The notion of social media in the worldwide context has now gone far beyond plain means and communication and pastime for the youth. In fact, social media is the platform aimed at helping people find various perspectives on leisure, education, and financial well-being. Some of the most widespread marketing strategies known to humankind, along with the new approaches, have now been successfully integrated into the social media context, steadily changing it into a large-scale market (Felix et al., 2017). This paper is aimed at reviewing the state of social media marketing in Saudi Arabia and proposing a qualitative study to explore the topic through analyzing marketing agencies’ experiences with clients.
When it comes to Saudi Arabia and other states of the Arab world, the overall perception of social media marketing is rather uncertain due to some cultural bias and peculiarities. However, social media, as a marketing framework, has been expanding rapidly as a result of a considerable increase in the number of Saudi Arabian social media users. According to the latest statistical data, more than 72% of the Saudi Arabia population actively uses social media platforms, constituting 25 million people (GMI, 2020). Hence, business owners’ major goal is to allocate enough human and financial resources for the marketing strategies to realize at least half of the social media platforms’ potential.
When it comes to developing social marketing strategies in the market, it is necessary to meticulously examine one’s brand in the context of the latest sociological studies. In fact, many enterprises fail to provide customers with a relevant advertisement when focusing on social media trends irrelevant to the field. In terms of the following proposal, the two major strategies for both growing and well-known enterprises will be presented in terms of today’s customers’ expectations.
The first strategy should concern Saudi Arabia businesses that are relatively new to the market and, thus, require a framework that would attract new customers. Considering the facts, one of the most successful methods introduced would be the word of mouth communication. While such an approach might seem quite outdated in the modern environment, information transmission has always been the core of commercial communication. Hence, marketing experts decided to expand this pattern to the web instead of containing its execution.
The so-called “online word of mouth” stands for online communication within the consumer communities in order to share ideas and perceptions of a given product or service (Ajina, 2019). With the help of this tool, business owners within the state have the ability to analyze customer satisfaction with the product without putting much effort into funding sociological assessments. Furthermore, the social media marketing tool helps enterprises estimate the perceived value of the service, which is claimed to be one of the major marketing practical aims in the business segment. The overall customer engagement is also of paramount importance when it comes to marketing strategy productivity.
Another important issue to consider when it comes to the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Saudi Arabia is the fact of their priority allocation in terms of financial abilities. According to the researchers, most of the SMEs focus on the businesses’ innovative purpose rather than forming a solid marketing strategy (Hussain, 2018). Therefore, the methods they use in practice often do not correlate with social media marketing theoretical frameworks. Considering the fact that objecting to working patterns is a sign of creativity beneficial for a business, it is rather difficult to summarize the overall marketing tendencies in the growing Saudi Arabian market, leaving this to future empirical researches.
Unlike the previous group, large Saudi Arabian enterprises have more to offer to the potential consumer, asking themselves many questions concerning the potential outcome of their actions. Thus, the primary data analysis of the field should include an extensive list of things to consider in terms of social media marketing, e.g., need recognition, market evaluation, customers’ profiles, and purchase behavior (Khatib, 2016).
In such a way, the business owners will be able to make the most out of the social media users who react to the advertising. Moreover, according to the statistics, half of the social media users tend to follow the accounts of their favorite goods and services (Ajina, 2019). Thus, in order to incorporate a successful social media marketing strategy, these businesses are to define a recognizable advertising culture that would comply with the consumers’ expectations of the product.
Some research questions can be proposed to further explore the state of social media marketing (SMM) among Saudi Arabian businesses and shed light on opportunities. The selection of SMM strategies depends much on the industry and the business’s advertising needs, consumer profile, and initial financial circumstances (Trad & Al Dabbagh, 2020). Additionally, SMM technology makes constant progress, including the emergence of artificial intelligence-assisted strategies, but not all businesses are fully aware of innovative opportunities (Basri, 2020). Therefore, to gain a complete and professional understanding of the topic, it can be reasonable to contact Saudi Arabian SMM agencies and collect data pertaining to the following questions:
- What are Saudi Arabian firms’ perceptions of SMM and perspectives on innovative SMM technology?
- Whether Saudi Arabian businesses’ openness to SMM-related innovation and preference for particular SMM strategies depend on company size or any other variables?
- Do Saudi Arabian businesses have any preferences for or prejudice against specific SMM channels?
- What SMM strategies are optimal and effective for new Saudi Arabian businesses?
- Are there SMM-related misconceptions or strategic mistakes that are common in Saudi Arabian companies?
The proposed study will use a qualitative research method – the semi-structured interview. By striking a balance between flexibility and systematic character, semi-structured interviews allow researchers to gain rich experiential data reflective of participants’ unique experiences with the subject of interest (Bearman, 2019). The selected method’s benefits include the ability to understand the reality of the state of SMM through exploring subject matter experts’ experiences (Bearman, 2019). In this case, such experiences will refer to Saudi Arabian SMM professionals’ reflections, perceptions, and takeaways from years of practice with clients in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Agencies and consulting firms that provide SMM services to clients in Saudi Arabia will be invited to participate in the study and discuss topics informed by the research questions identified above. The initial goal is to schedule interviews with SMM specialists from at least five agencies with locations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Participants that meet the inclusion criteria and might be invited to contribute to the planned research can be found using websites that offer technology company ratings.
According to Tech Behemoths (2021), the prospective participants with offices in Saudi Arabia include ANIDMA in Dammam, Kismet in Madinah, Yellostack in Al Khobar, and Ban Agency, Changes, and Maze in Riyadh. Other relevant companies are WeUno in Taif and Artxad Branding, KLIX, Webedia Arabia, Ideal Choice, and Room 11 in Jeddah (Tech Behemoths, 2021). Each company that agrees to participate will be represented by one or two English-speaking professionals.
Data collection endeavors will be preceded by recruiting participants and scheduling interviews. Each participant will be invited to answer questions in a telephone/Skype conversation with the researcher or do it using an instant messaging application. During each interview, the researcher will use a list of predetermined questions and use them in a specific order. Each question will be followed by a few clarification questions pertaining to the initial answer. Phone and Skype interviews will be recorded and transcribed to facilitate further content analysis, and answers received via messages will be formatted as MS Word documents.
Reliable tools will be used to interpret interviewees’ answers by means of using coding strategies and identifying recurring themes pertaining to each question. QDA Miner Lite version 2.0, which is a free program for qualitative content analysis, can be implemented to code diverse segments of interviews (Mohajer & Singh, 2018). This software has a variety of tools that will be helpful, including coding features and adding memos to coded textual segments. Other tools are the analysis of codes’ frequency in the text and Boolean and proximity operators’ use in code retrieval. These features will enable the researcher to identify themes that characterize trends peculiar to SMM use by Saudi Arabian businesses and promising strategies to be emphasized.
Taking everything into consideration, it might be concluded that social media marketing has now become part and parcel of business communication and advertisement patterns. Thus, it is of crucial importance to follow the suit of the leading producers across the globe that pay much attention to the aspect, creating a whole new perception of a product due to social media engagement. In the context of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, the very process of social media marketing requires reconsideration in terms of efficiency and relevance to the global market. Thus, both small and large enterprises need to implement working strategies on the shortest notice to obtain a successful and measurable outcome.
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