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So you want to be active in social media and engage with your consumers and followers, but you're not sure if you can handle a negative situation?

Relax, it's not the end of the world. In this article, I'll be sharing with you a simple example that I faced not too long ago and how I managed to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one.

Not too long ago, I was attending a social media conference held in Dubai. If you've ever tried to search for any kind of numbers or statistics about social media network usage in the Middle East, then you probably know how difficult it is to find any good sources with somewhat accurate information.

Luckily, at the conference there was a research associate from the Dubai School of Government with the latest numbers from their second release of the Arab Social Media report that was yet to be published. As she was presenting her findings, I was tweeting the major figures from her report, as you can see from the image below:


For some reason, the tweet about Facebook's demographic was being tweeted and retweeted, until this happened:

Let me explain why this is important. First of all, there's definitely a shortage of case studies and numbers in this region, which means that content like this instantly has a viral effect. In addition, Fadi Ghandour is a very influential person and a big advocate for entrepreneurship in the Middle East. In fact, he's known as the Ron Conway of the Middle East. So I replied to @fadig and explained to him that I was at a conference and I cited the source.

You can now imagine how I felt; I was engaging with one of the top tweeps in the region and thought there was going to be a viral spread of tweets and re-tweets resulting in me gaining a couple of thousand followers or so (okay, I'm exaggerating, but you know what I'm saying!) but I never would've expected what happened next:

When I read that I couldn't believe it. First of all, these weren't my numbers and I had already cited the source twice by now. I hastily replied without really the taking time to think about the situation, and you could say that I got defensive. This was my tweet:

To which she replied:

I was getting frustrated and as I was typing another hot-headed message, until I received this tweet:

Then I realized that these Twitter users weren't really talking with me one on one; we were all engaged in one big conversation and perhaps some of the people involved were really only interested in trying to capture the attention of the influential @fadig. In the tweet above, the Twitter user is not even comparing the same age groups, which means that we can both be right about the numbers.

So I took a minute and tried to absorb everything that was going on and then replied, stating the whole story from the beginning. I explained that I was at a conference and that these numbers are the latest findings from a report that isn't published yet. I then linked to the report's first release:

Things instantly took a turn for the better. It's amazing how things can quickly escalate and de-escalate online, especially on Twitter. And to my surprise, this is what happened the next day:


Without noticing at the time, I had managed to turn a skeptical person into someone who is willing to promote my blog and talk about it with at least three other people on Twitter right then and there, and quite possibly elsewhere, on other networks. This led to at least 20+ new Twitter followers and higher traffic to my blog, with just with a couple of tweets in the span of a couple of hours.

I felt this simple example was worth sharing because there is a lot of resistance from regional brands in the Middle East to enter the realm of social media due to their unwillingness to deal with negative feedback or not knowing how to handle a specific situation.  I'd like to leave those brands with these takeaways from my experience:

  • Your tweets reach an audience much bigger than your follower base.
  • Don't get defensive or take it personally. People will think you're hiding something or don't know what you are talking about.
  • Take a minute or two and think before you reply.
  • Never assume users are following the entire conversation; usually, they will just tag along on.
  • Always, always say thank you!

Image credit: Jon Bishop via Flickr

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Published 14 June, 2011 by Tariq Seksek

Tariq Seksek is CEO at Interactive ME and a contributor to Econsultancy.

2 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Anne Patrick

Social networks are continuously spreading to people all over the world. And there could be more benefits for them in future as it will be enhanced thoroughly. Thanks for the information.

over 5 years ago

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Racha Mourtada

Thanks, Tarik, for pointing out this interesting thread.. what is social media if not a forum for questions and debate? But, for the record, 15-29 year-olds do make up 70% of Facebook users in the Arab region :) and those are official Facebook numbers we compiled for the 2nd edition of the Arab Social Media Report.

over 5 years ago

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Ehsan Khodarahmi

Great article, thanks for sharing!

Middle East is a very complicate market, from my personal experience with number of brands there, Social Media has to be studied with the culture of the region. The demographics given for 15-29 at 70% stack up perfectly fine, considering the population of both locals and non-locals. There are number of European and American universities have overseas campuses in the UAE, per se Dubai, and number of 18 - 35 studying and or teaching there are pretty high. So the figures given by one of the community users as 65% can be also right; as in the Middle East over 30 tend to spend more time with family and or running their business so have less time to spend on Social Network sites such as Facebook. And as the age range excluded 15 - 17, whom are quite a lot of them in that region, the given 65% can be seen as accurate.

In the UEA many of the youths use smartphones and have access to Social Media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, so there is no surprise to see 70% of then use Facebook.

Social Media is a change which people across the world are experimenting and in fact enjoying its freedom and democracy of information.

over 5 years ago

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Tariq Seksek

Thanks Anne, Racha and Ehsan for the comments. Glad you found my experience useful and hope to see more cases shared from the region!

over 5 years ago

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