packshotEconsultancy has published its first Facebook for Businesses in the Middle East and North Africa best practice guide, authored by digital marketing consultant, Husam Jandal.

Focused on the region-specific factors that need to be considered when creating a Facebook page for businesses, the guide stresses the importance of understanding your audience, taking cultural and religious influences into account when pushing out content via a Facebook page.

This best practice guide is a first for the region, and is timely, given how rapidly internet and social media usage are growing in the Middle East.

This blog post touches on just some of the issues that companies marketing to MENA consumers need to be aware of.

MENA Facebook use is on the increase

The number of Facebook users in MENA doubled between 2010 and 2011, and it is now estimated that there are more people consuming Facebook content than those reading newspapers in the region. For marketers, although Facebook is an inexpensive and accessible tool for marketing, a lack of knowledge about how to use the platform has caused a slow uptake in the past.

However, its increasing prominence means that businesses are steadily looking to Facebook to connect with consumers on a more conversational level. Facebook itself has recently opened an office in Dubai, reflecting the increased usage of the platform across the Middle East.

Business is based on trust and word of mouth

The culture of the MENA region has an impact on how business is done; trust and word of mouth play a large part in business deals, and activity can be restricted by religious and cultural rules and norms.

This impacts upon Facebook marketing as the channel relies on an interaction between business and customer. For example, religious values restrict women from sharing their photos in public, which is a key use of the platform. As a result there are fewer active females on Facebook than males.

The MENA region is large, comprising multiple languages, interests and lifestyles. Report author Husam Jandal expands:

“No two countries are identical in terms of Facebook culture. Each country has its own pulse and flavor when it comes to how users are engaging with Facebook.”

The top influencers are how religiously conservative a country is, and how wealthy it is, meaning that a knowledge of Islam, and a grasp of the languages and dialects used in the countries being targeted is vital when starting a Facebook campaign.

Multiple languages introduce further complexity

The report contains a section of case studies, which highlight the role that language plays in Facebook success for a business. Languages used in the MENA region include Arabic, English, and French, among others, and ensuring that none of your audience is excluded through a language barrier is a key point, underlined by the author. He advises:

“You should consider having a content plan for each language and each country based on the demographics of your target audience. Understanding the words people use locally in each country becomes vital to enable smooth communication between you and your fans.”

The fact that business is based strongly on personal relationships in the Middle East increases the need for copy being posted to be highly personal and engaging to all of your audience. Accuracy in the language and dialect being used is vital to enable this.

The 67-page Facebook for Businesses in the Middle East and North Africa best practice guide is available to Econsultancy subscribers (Silver and above) for download, and to others on a pay-per-view basis.