While the United Arab Emirates may well have suffered from the worldwide economic downturn more than most, compared to its recent economic highs, there are still a large number of expats living in the region. As a consequence we thought it would be interesting to get a handle on which social networking websites are popular amongst expats in the UAE and indeed what services these websites have to offer.
We will now take a look at how the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc figure in the minds of expats living and working in the United Arab Emirates.
It will come as no surprise to those who follow the social networking arena that 66.66% of expats living in the United Arab Emirates voted for Facebook. This is a company which only came to fruition in 2004 and now has a staggering 900 million users worldwide with an estimated 2.7 million accounts in the United Arab Emirates alone. For many in the expat arena Facebook is something which they will access every day and something which allows them to keep in contact with friends and colleagues in their former homeland or indeed around the world.
It is this ability to exchange information, photographs and indeed keep in touch with long lost friends which seems to have caught the eye of many Internet users. Perhaps the main reason why Facebook is now by far and away the most popular social networking website is the fact that the company has managed to move with the times. While not every development of the website has been greeted with open arms by users, it is the company’s ability to monitor the type of services, type of systems and the design which customers require and act upon this information.
The ongoing development of Facebook recently resulted in a flotation on American stock market with a valuation in excess of $100 billion. However, the fact that the launch was something of a disaster with regards to public relations has led to a number of lawsuits and legal actions against the company, stockbrokers and the NASDAQ stock market. This perfectly illustrates the fact that nothing is ever straightforward in the world of the Internet and indeed social media interaction is an area of business which is very demanding indeed. It will be interesting to see how Facebook develops from this particular point because many believe that the stock market flotation was timed to perfection with regards to potential for the future, with not all potential set to be realised.
Google plus (11.59%)
Perhaps the only surprise with regards to Google plus and the introduction of social networking services is the fact that it has taken Google so long to make inroads. This is a company which dominates the worldwide search engine arena and a company which is more used to dictating markets than following the trend. However, the social networking arena is very different and while the company is experiencing relative success with its Google plus operations it has had to follow the crowd rather than try and dictate the market.
Google plus takes in a number of different services which include Google profiles, Google circles, Google hangouts and Google sparks to name but a few. It is by far and away the company’s biggest gamble to date and the fact that Facebook itself recently floated on the stock market for in excess of $100 billion was obviously a major attraction. Towards the end of 2011 it was estimated that worldwide Google plus was attracting over 600,000 new users per day and is on target to have an audience of 400 million members by the end of 2012. Whether these figures will actually materialise remains to be seen but hopes are high that this is Google’s major breakthrough into the sector.
For many people it is the ability to integrate an array of different Google services across the board which makes Google plus more attractive. It is also recognised as something of a social marketing service across the Internet with many websites now showing the famous Google plus button. The more exposure this particular service can accumulate the more chance of growing significantly in the short, medium and longer term although whether it will ever become as popular as Facebook very much remains to be seen.
This is perhaps one of the most inopportune moments to cover the popularity of LinkedIn across the United Arab Emirates and across the world. This is a company which was launched back in May 2003 and particularly targeted at the professional arena where individuals may wish to mix in similar circles and indeed look for employment opportunities. It very quickly caught on and there are now more than 150 million users across 200 countries with the website now available in an array of different languages.
There are obvious attractions for those looking to set up a new life in a new country and the ability to talk to people who have been there, done it and take their advice is invaluable. LinkedIn also allows users to advertise their wares on the Internet and indeed to apply for a variety of employment opportunities. It is also offers the opportunity to become part of the business arena in your new homeland so that you can integrate yourself and become aware of local practices and local customs as soon as possible.
However, as we suggested above, perhaps now was one of the most inopportune times to cover the LinkedIn service because the website was recently hacked by Russian criminals who stole 6.4 million user passwords. The company has requested that all members change their passwords as soon as possible and while it is not the only social media network company to come under such attack it has certainly grab the attention of the media around the world. The truth is that no Internet service is ever 100% secure though the fact that the company has publicly discussed the intrusion is certainly welcome.
Twitter is one of those social media phenomenons which has literally taken the world by storm and is a service which many of us have become acutely aware of. However, it comes in at number four with regards to social networking websites used by expats in the United Arab Emirates with the main reason perhaps associated with the fact it is seen by many as a business service rather than a personal service. However, there have been major changes over the last couple of years and Twitter is now used for personal activities as well as business services.
Again it is easy to forget that Twitter is only six years old and currently has around 140 million active users with 340 million tweets issued per day. It has been a phenomenal success by any standard and while perhaps more attuned to short sharp messages it has certainly become a communication tool of choice for many people. Indeed many people believe that the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East was heavily assisted by Twitter something which was reflected when a number of governments across the region blocked the service.
This perfectly illustrates the power of social networking, social media and interaction between individuals around the world. In years gone by many of the activities of governments around the globe would have remained “in-house” but social media services such as Twitter have allowed many on the ground to put forward their opinions and their experiences. Some will say that Twitter can be abused while others will say that Twitter offers an opportunity to right wrongs. There are arguments for either scenario but one thing is certain it is becoming more and more popular with the expat arena.
MSN live (1.45%)
If there is one disappointment for Microsoft it has to be the company’s late entry into the social media and social networking sector. This is an area of the Internet which many companies had already targeted some years ago although it is one which Microsoft has let slip under the radar. Indeed the MSN live service is nothing but a rebranding of the Windows live service which also incorporates Hotmail and other social interactive services.
That is not to say that Microsoft has not invested millions upon millions of dollars into the MSN live service and social networking arena but it does appear to have been dragged along rather than try and keep up with the pace. Shareholders in Microsoft have been disappointed with the recent performance of the company and indeed a much discussed relationship with Yahoo has so far fallen well short of expectations. Whether or not it is too late for Microsoft to make a big splash in the social networking pond remains to be seen but the company is certainly playing catch-up at this moment in time.
However, it has to be said that Hotmail is still a very popular service around the world and indeed the ability to interact online and in real-time has obvious attractions for expats. Whether or not this will be enough to give the company an opening in the social media and social networking sector remains to be seen. Facebook and Google seem to be moving at a pace which is far greater than that currently undertaken by the Microsoft truck.
Forums have been very popular in the likes of the UK and the United States of America so it is a little surprising to see forums at number six in the United Arab Emirates. Even a quick search on Google for “forums” will bring millions upon millions of websites to your attention with every subject and every niche you ever thought of covered in minute detail. Those who suggest that forums have had their day only need to look at the websites to see that they offer a different service to the likes of Facebook but they are still very popular.
Indeed, on the subject of expats, it is interesting to see that there is an array of expat forums covering each and every country around the world. For many people the attraction is the ability to interact with users who have been there, done it and worn the T-shirt. Those who have moved overseas to begin a new life will be well aware it is difficult at the best of times and without any advice it can be even more challenging. It is also interesting that all the posts on various expat forums will remain on the Internet for ever and a day therefore it is highly likely that other members have asked the same questions as you in the past and the information may be available straight away.
Many people see forums as information exchanges whereby you can confirm via unconnected third parties whether advice you have been given in the past is correct or not. It is always worth checking with as many different parties as possible if you are given specific advice which you are maybe not too sure of and you need to confirm. Expat forums offer the perfect opportunity to check out the opinions and the information communicated by a number of members but ultimately make up your own mind.
Among the other social networking services specifically mentioned were chat, Tumblr, Kooora and Gopetition.
When looking at social networking websites we often forget that the likes of Facebook, Twitter, etc were not the first companies to enter this market. The likes of MySpace and Bebo will most certainly be a blast from the past for many people although their very quick demise from a relatively successful position should be a stern reminder for us all.
The social networking arena is very fast-moving, relatively young and one which can literally change on a sixpence. At this point in time it seems unlikely that Facebook will ever be overtaken by any other social networking website but then again many critics of the website believe that the recent $100 billion launch on the stock market was perfectly timed to take advantage of high hopes for the future. Whatever you believe about the social networking arena there is no doubt there is excellent value for many people around the world and in particular expats. The ability to talk with friends and family, who may be thousands of miles away, transfer details, transfer photographs, etc is something which literally money cannot buy. Your own online diary!
While there is no doubt that social networking is now a major part of our everyday lives and proving particularly popular with expats around the world there are a number of issues to take into account. With success comes responsibility and obligations to others and indeed this is as much on behalf of companies as it is on individuals using the services. Therefore we will now take a look at some of the problems which have arisen in recent times to remind us that not everything is what we always expect on the Internet.
The law-enforcement agencies have for many years now been warning people against putting too much information on their Facebook accounts for example. Many people go over the top with regards to their date of birth, place of birth, etc and indeed many people will tell their friends when they are on holiday, away from their home for a specific period of time, in other words when their home is empty! Now, if you were a criminal and you knew that somebody was away on holiday for two weeks or away from a couple of days this may well be an opportunity you would struggle to turn down. Put yourself in the position of a thief in your area who knows that your house is empty!
ID theft is something which is becoming more and more of a problem around the world but it is something which many people automatically discount. However, when you take into account the number of public records available on the Internet today and very private and very detailed information which many people display on their Facebook pages, perhaps it is not too difficult to understand why incidences of ID theft have risen exponentially!
You should be very wary of the information you put on your website because in the hands of criminals it can be used to your detriment.
One problem which many people highlight time and time again is the issue of fake profiles and the necessity to know exactly who you are speaking to online. We all have friends who were perhaps on the outskirts of our social circles who we may well come across online in years to come. However, are these really the people we thought they were? How can you be sure you’re giving information to the correct people?
The truth is that many people will set up fake profiles and fake accounts across an array of different social networking websites sometimes to cause trouble and other times to glean information from you. Beware!
There are many people across the world that log onto their social networking accounts on a daily basis and let the world know exactly what they are up to. While general use has increased dramatically over the years, the value to the expat community has increased even more. It is not difficult to see why those living in foreign lands find social networks particularly attractive because they are a very simple and very useful means of keeping in touch with friends and family you may have left behind.
The services available across the likes of Facebook, Twitter, etc are improving on a year by year basis but you also have to be aware of potential problems such as security, ID theft, fake profiles etc.