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The Middle East’s Social Media Boom: A Year in Review

Middle East Social Media fans

The world has witnessed a considerable surge in social media usage in recent years, and the Middle East is a frontrunner, according to a new study.

Published by the University of Oregon-UNESCO Crossings Institute, under the guidance of Professor Damian Radcliffe, the “Social Media in the Middle East 2022: A Year in Review” study is the eleventh in an annual series that began in 2012.

The study revealed that numerous countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region rank higher than the global average in terms of the percentage of the population engaging with social networks. Five MENA nations feature in the Top 10 for the adoption of social networks.

The study revealed that individuals in the UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar are dedicating more time to social media platforms than ever before. The average time spent on social media in the three Gulf states surpasses the global average, with users spending over three hours daily on social media.

The report suggests that the rise in social media usage in the Gulf region can be ascribed to several factors, including age and internet access.

The study stated that the region possesses a young and tech-savvy population, with extensive penetration of smartphones and internet access, with the top countries having 99% internet penetration. Additionally, the availability of high-speed internet and 4G networks has facilitated easier access to social media platforms.

Two of the largest audiences for Facebook can be found in the MENA region: Egypt and Turkey.  Egypt is home to 42 million users, making it the 10th largest national market for the platform. Meanwhile, Turkey, with 32.8 million users, is ranked 14th.

Libya boasts the most extensive global reach for the platform, with 96.1% of individuals aged 13+ engaging with the social network.

Globally, nearly 1 billion people use Facebook Messenger, and it’s a prominent platform in multiple MENA nations. In terms of reach, four MENA countries feature in the Top 20 for the app worldwide. In Libya, three-quarters of individuals aged 13+ (75%) use the app, which is the second-highest reach globally for the service. Nearly two-thirds of Palestinians (62.8%) use the service, along with 61.5% of people in the UAE and 60.1% in Qatar – ranking these three nations 11th, 13th, and 18th, respectively.

Regarding Instagram, four MENA countries feature in the Top 20 for reach, while Turkey has become the 5th largest market for Instagram globally, with nearly 49 million users.

The top five countries globally for YouTube reach are all situated in the MENA region. Lebanon ranked first, followed by Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Iraq are among the Middle Eastern countries that hold the top five positions for TikTok in terms of reach. Nine MENA countries feature among the top 20. TikTok usage is widespread in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, where penetration exceeds 100%. This is closely followed by Kuwait (98.8% reach), Qatar (96.5%), and Iraq (94.5%).

Three of the largest markets for Twitter globally are located in the MENA region. Turkey ranks 7th with 18.6 million users, while Saudi Arabia holds the 9th position with 15.5 million users. Egypt, with 5.8 million users, is the platform’s 20th largest national market.

Considering Twitter’s market share, the region claims five spots in the top twenty. Over half of the individuals aged 13+ in Saudi Arabia (7th, 54.5%) and Bahrain (8th, 51%) utilise the network. Kuwait (11th, 45.2%), Qatar (12th, 45%), and the UAE (20th, 37.1%) complete MENA’s presence in this list. Altogether, these five markets accommodate 21,822,850 million Twitter users.

Read the entire study here.

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