Social Media Users in the United Arab Emirates

Introduction

The establishment of social media is meant to aid people to interact and share information. Before the discovery of the modern social media, people used other media to acquire and pass information. They included radio and newspapers. These modes of socialization had limited impacts on people’s life. The establishment of the internet marked the turning point of social media. The Internet made social media accessible to many individuals across the globe. Indeed, today, social media does not only serve as means of interacting with friends but also a channel of communication (Newsom & Lengel, 2012). In the United Arab Emirates, the common forms of social media include Twitter, Facebook, and Google. People use social media to air grievances against social injustices and mobilize the public. A study conducted in the United Arab Emirates found that many people are connected. At least 99% of the homes own mobile phones. Additionally, over 78% of the citizens in UAE have access to the internet (Newsom & Lengel, 2012). Indeed, the UAE has become a major social media hub. Both the government and the public use social media for different purposes. According to Kirat (2012), the UAE government uses social media to engage the public. On the other hand, the public use social media to socialize, share information, and do business. This report will discuss how different people use social media in the United Arab Emirates.

Categories of Social Media Users

Kirat (2012) posits that it is imperative first to understand the various classes of social media users in a country to learn how it benefits different people in the United Arab Emirates. Kirat (2012) alleges that social media users can be classified into five major clusters. The first group comprises social butterflies. The group includes a high percentage of social media users. These people spend a lot of time on social media and relate with copious groups. Besides, they have a huge circle of friends. The social butterflies use social media to interact and keep in touch with relatives and friends. Additionally, they use social media for entertainment purposes. They watch movies, listen to music and follow up feeds regarding their colleagues. The second cluster of social media users constitutes explorers. Individuals in this group use social media to explore new ideas. They view social media as a rich source of ideas. They read articles, listen to news and watch clips to keep themselves informed.

Kirat (2012) holds that the third cluster of social media users comprises achievers. These are individuals who are ambitious and use social media for intellectual, social and professional purposes. Unlike the explorers, achievers use social media to share their education and knowledge with the public. Achievers exploit social media to build their knowledge base, thus enhancing their professional and personal lives. Additionally, they use social media to identify business opportunities. The fourth group of internet users is escapists. These are people who yearn for socialization but are unable to establish a big circle of friends. They are gullible, trusting and even sensitive at times. Escapists use social media to communicate with other people without being timid. They view social media as a shield that enables them to interact with people easily. The last group of social media users comprises pragmatics. These are individuals who use social media sparingly. They only use social media when it is necessary. Instead, they prefer to use other renowned channels of communication. A good example of the pragmatics is the government of the United Arab Emirates.

Social Media Use

Government

One of the groups of people who use social media in the United Arab Emirates is the government. The government falls under the pragmatics group of social media users. It uses the social media only when necessary. According to Al-Jenaibi (2015), the UAE government appreciates the significance of social media as a communication platform. The government leverage social media for public engagement. Over 60% of people in the United Arab Emirates participate actively in social media discussions (Al-Jenaibi, 2015). As a result, the different arms of government use social media to gather public opinions. The views help the government to formulate policies that suit the needs of the public. For instance, in 2015, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid; the leader of Dubai initiated a social media brainstorming scheme. The project sought to gather public opinions on how Dubai could enhance public service delivery. Within a short period, over 82, 000 people shared their ideas about what the government should do to improve service delivery (Al-Jenaibi, 2015). Eventually, the government used information gathered through the social media to transform Dubai’s health and education sectors.

According to Kirat (2012), the government of the United Arab Emirates uses social media to allow the public to partake in decision-making processes. Social media platforms provide the state with efficient, instantaneous ways of understanding the public and its varying dynamics. The government uses social media to address simple issues like potholes’ nightmare. Additionally, it uses social media to assess general disposition on matters of national significance. For instance, the minister of state uses social media to respond to concerns of the United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy (Kirat, 2012). The minister uses social media to clarify and provide insights into the UAE’s foreign policy. Besides, the government uses social media to mobilize the public to participate in national celebrations. In 2011, Sheikh Abdullah used Twitter to encourage Emiratis and everybody living in UAE to hoist the national flag on top of their houses (Kirat, 2012). The campaign sought to encourage people to participate in the National Day. Today, it has become a norm for people to hoist the national flag on top of their homes before the National Day.

Business People

Business people are another group of individuals who use social media in the United Arab Emirates. The group falls under the cluster of achievers. They use social media to identify new business opportunities and relate with customers. Information published on social media enables business people to comprehend and project customers’ needs. In return, the entrepreneurs enhance their operations to ensure that they meet consumer needs. Goodrich and De Mooij (2013) claim that social media enable business people to position themselves and overcome competition in the United Arab Emirates. According to Goodrich and De Mooij (2013), social media enable entrepreneurs to become more customer-centered. They use social media to gather customer feedback which helps them to enhance product development and service delivery. Additionally, business people use social media to evaluate customer behavior. According to Goodrich and De Mooij (2013), understanding customer behavior helps an organization to position itself in the marketplace. Knowing customers’ taste and preference helps entrepreneurs to produce goods and services that are marketable. Through social media, business people in the United Arab Emirates can quickly analyze and classify consumer ideas and thoughts. The ideas and thoughts facilitate the development of future products as well as the formulation of business strategies.

According to Kamal and Chu (2012), the United Arab Emirates business people are using social media to develop their enterprises. For instance, some entrepreneurs use social media to market home-based boutique businesses. Additionally, some home-based bakers use social media to market their products to customers. According to Kamal and Chu (2012), home-based bakers upload photos of their products on social media. The photos reach a broad range of people who translate into customers. Social media has led to the growth of internet marketing in the United Arab Emirates. Kamal and Chu (2012) claim that social media has resulted in the rise of fashion designing businesses, events planning and bakeries in the United Arab Emirates. Social media has made it possible for business people to market their goods.

Women

Wolfsfeld, Segev, and Sheafer (2013) maintain that social media played a significant role in the Arab spring. People used social media to share information and mobilize the public to revolt against corrupt regimes. In spite of the significance of social media, the number of women who use it is still low in the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries. Wolfsfeld et al. (2013) argue that in the United Arab Emirates, men are twice as likely to use social media as women. Environmental and individual factors contribute to a small number of women who use social media in the United Arab Emirates. The society and Arab culture do not encourage the use of social media amid women. On the other hand, most women lack requisite skills to operate mobile phones or computers. Hence, it is hard for them to access the social media. The small numbers of women who use social media in the UAE view it as a source of empowerment.

The rise of popular movements in Arab states led to women using social media to access information and associate with their counterparts from other countries. Today, women in the United Arab Emirates use social media to share ideas on matters to do with political and civic activities. Additionally, women use social media to hunt jobs as a way to emancipate themselves (Wolfsfeld et al., 2013). Previously, it was hard for women to partake in critical facets of their lives. However, the rise of social media made it possible for UAE women to participate in political, legal and economic activities that help to enhance their lives. Wolfsfeld et al. (2013) claim that social media enables women to champion the promotion of women rights. Besides, it allows women to improve their entrepreneurial skills and look for employment opportunities.

According to Newsom and Lengel (2012), social media can accelerate or slow down the advancement of women in society. Besides, social media can help to change the stereotype that the society has towards women. For decades, the United Arab Emirates have regarded women as subservient, docile and weak. In spite of the women working for long hours, they receive low wages compared to men. The rise of social media has led to women coming out to fight for their rights. In the past, the Arab media depicted the UAE women in a way that intensified their suffering. However, today, women use social media to challenge activities and cultural practices that oppress them. Besides, the UAE women use social media to enlighten one another on their rights.

Five decades back, the UAE women engaged in small businesses to support their families. Men spend a lot of time at sea. However, the discovery of oil led to most women abandoning the business. Newsom and Lengel (2012) allege that the emergence of social media has revolutionized the role of the Emirati women. Through social media, women have become empowered to assume new roles in the society. In the United Arab Emirates, women have not only become active on the internet but also partake in social forums and networks. For instance, many women participate in the “Women2Drive” campaign started in Saudi Arabia. The campaign has enabled the Emirati and Saudi women to identify innovative entrepreneurial opportunities. Newsom and Lengel (2012) aver that the population of Emirati women who engage in business continues to rise. Many women have succeeded in business thanks to social media platforms like Instagram. They use Instagram to create brand awareness and reach potential customers. The Emirati women claim that Instagram is intelligible and cheap. Besides, it helps them to arrive at a broad customer base. Through Instagram, the Arab women can engage customers to understand their needs. It helps them to offer products and services that are tailored to the needs of individual clients.

Youths

The population of Emirati teens who use social media has grown tremendously. Some teens spend as long as twenty-one hours on social media weekly (Julie & Nahed, 2012). A study conducted amid the university students found that Emirati youths use social media for different purposes. Most teens use social media to socialize. The kids claim that social media platforms like Facebook help them to catch up with friends. They use social media to understand how their friends are fairing in life. Other youths posit that they utilize social media as a consumer tool (Julie & Nahed, 2012). The teens use social media to learn about the trending fashions. Additionally, they acquire information about politics and current news. A lot of businesses market their products through social media. Thus, the UAE youths use Instagram and other social media platforms for online shopping. The kids claim that they also use social media to make buying decisions. Information that people share about particular products determines if the youths purchase the goods or associate with organizations.

According to Julie and Nahed (2012), young Emiratis are changing how they use social media platforms. In the past, most youths used social media for socialization. However, today, most teens view social media as an appropriate avenue to share ideas and access diverse applications. The kids use social media not only to read the news but also partake in copious volunteering activities. Many youths believe that they have an obligation to give back to the society. Social media helps them to link with other like-minded individuals and organize for charitable events. For instance, since 2013, the Emirati youths have been using social media to hold breast cancer awareness programs, advocate proper waste management and sensitize the public against drug abuse.

Conclusion

The use of social media has significantly grown in the United States. The UAE government uses social media to engage the public and communicate foreign policies. The entrepreneurs use social media to engage the customers and market home-based businesses. Besides, business people use social media to identify new markets as well as get customer feedback regarding their products and services. The Emirati women use social media to empower themselves and fight for gender equality. Additionally, some women use social media to emancipate themselves economically. For years, Emirati youths have used social media for socialization. Today, many teens use social media platforms to organize for charitable programs.

References

Al-Jenaibi, B. (2015). Satisfying public relations: The promise of social media in the UAE. International Journal of E-Adoption, 5(1), 1-16.

Goodrich, K., & De Mooij, M. (2013). How ‘social’ are social media? A cross-cultural comparison of online and offline purchase decision influences. Journal of Marketing Communication, 20(2), 103-116.

Julie, W., & Nahed, E. (2012). Social media use among UAE college students one year after the Arab Spring. Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research, 5(3), 209-226.

Kamal, S., & Chu, S. (2012). Beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors towards advertising on social media in the Middle East: A study of young consumers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, 7(3), 74-93.

Kirat, M. (2012). Promoting online media relations: Public relations departments’ use of internet in the UAE. Public Relations Review, 33(2), 166-174.

Newsom, V., & Lengel, L. (2012). Arab women, social media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexivity to analyze gender and online activism. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 13(5), 31-45.

Wolfsfeld, G., Segev, E., & Sheafer, T. (2013). Social media and the Arab Spring politics comes first. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 18(2), 115-137.