UAE use of Instagram and Snapchat rockets ahead of global average

The use of the social media platforms in this country, along with Saudi Arabia, is vastly outgrowing the rest of the world, offering major opportunities for brands, Kantar's new study shows.

Photos of various scenes around Dubai taken using instagram. Use of the platform has soared in this country. Pawan Singh / The National

The UAE is witnessing a huge increase in the uptake of the social media platforms Instagram and snapchat, and is well ahead of the global average, new research from Kantar TNS reveals.

Instagram’s worldwide average usage hovers at about 42 per cent of internet users in 2016, rising from 24 per cent two years ago, says Kantar TNS, a global research consultancy. However, in this country, the figures “show a staggering 60 per cent this year compared to 38 per cent in 2014”, it says.

In Saudi Arabia, average usage increased from 57 per cent to 82 per cent in the past two years.

The popularity of Instagram and Snapchat has soared worldwide in the past two years as people seek out real, personal and “in-the-moment” content, according to the Connected Life study of more than 70,000 consumers from Kantar TNS.

But it is in this region where the growth has been most marked, the firm says. Its findings reveal clear behavioural differences between internet users in this country and Saudi Arabia when compared with the global average, Kantar TNS says, particularly regarding online advertising and the use of Instagram and Snapchat.

“Gulf markets continue to lead the way on social media usage. Globally, the use of Snapchat has almost doubled in the past two years from 12 per cent to 23 per cent,” says Stephen Hillebrand, the chief executive of Kantar Insights Menap. “However, in KSA and UAE the app has witnessed a massively higher growth in usage.”

In both of these markets it has tripled in usership, with Saudi Arabia increasing from 24 per cent in 2014 to 74 per cent in 2016, while UAE grew from 15 per cent in 2014 to 53 per cent in 2016.

“This acceleration is in line with the high social media usage we have recorded in previous studies, but the magnitude of the growth took us by surprise,” Mr Hillebrand says

Internet users in UAE and KSA are also more open to online advertising and online behaviour tracking when compared to global counterparts, the study reveals.

Despite soaring usage of popular social media platforms, globally consumers are turning their back on brands as 26 percent of respondents “actively ignore” social posts or content. Yet internet users in the UAE and Saudi Arabia buck this trend with only 17 per cent in this country and 15 per cent in Saudi Arabia ignoring brands.

“We are also seeing a far more open and tolerant attitude towards online brand promotions in key Gulf markets” says Mr Hillebrand. “While the global average suggests that 30 per cent of users object to the idea of their online behaviour being tracked by brands, in UAE and KSA consumers are more liberal in their attitudes, with only 16 per cent in each market objecting.”

The results suggest companies have a major opportunity to take advantage of the soaring uptake of Instagram and Snapchat in this region, says Michael Nicholas, the global director at Kantar TNS.

“The rise of Instagram and Snapchat taps into people’s desire for instant, entertaining content from friends, peers and influencers, often enhanced by fun filters and editing. There is a real opportunity for brands to tap into this trend by creating ‘personalisable’ and shareable content, such as videos and stories. The challenge is how to focus the right content to the right people, on the right platforms and at the right moments.”

The surge in usage of newer social media marks a significant turning point in the evolution of digital in the GCC, Kantar TNS says. Cautious in their migration to digital forum, advertisers now need to consider more channels, and understand which platform they want to target. They should also realise that unprecedented numbers of consumers are open to a dialogue with brands in the GCC markets, the firm says.

The Connected Life global study of the digital attitudes and behaviours of 70,000 internet users across 57 countries analyses how connectivity changes people’s behaviour to address the big challenges for marketers. It does so by looking in detail at consumers, connections, content and commerce, providing the strategic guidance needed to keep, engage and influence the people that matter.

The fieldwork was undertaken in all markets between June and September 2016. Instagram and Snapchat usage measured by those identified as using platform at all – daily, weekly, monthly or less often.

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