Saudi Arabia, a country of the Arab world is perhaps the most commonly misjudged of all GCC countries. The western world has a skewed perception of the Kingdom, based on its lifestyle, rules and regulations. Some of the most common assumptions include a belief that Saudi-ites live on ancestral wealth, far away in a deserted land, with little access to technology or social media. Quite contrary are the facts & figures of how social media has grown to be the most popular medium for entertainment needs and all things conversational. With limited entertainment options in the country, people turn to YouTube for movies, videos, information, news and more. Cooking channels, music & sports shows, gaming shows, comedy shows, are the rage. YouTube’s popularity in the kingdom has made it the 2nd most consumed website after Google Search in Saudi with over 2.9 billion video views up until the end of July 2015. The platform also created two YouTube sensations who quickly gained celebrity status in the country. Ala Wardi who touched millions of hearts across the world, with his sensational A Cappella music, is born and raised in Saudi. The one that comes as a surprise is Van Alstine, a young 25 year old, American-Muslim, who began making YouTube videos while in college at the University of North Texas, now runs his own show on one of the most popular television networks in Saudi. His motto behind making the videos was to wash off the misconceptions people have about Islam and offer a better understanding of the religion. What added to the virality of the videos was his subtle imitation of the Saudi dialect, all in good humour. He was then invited by the Saudi leadership to run his own TV show. Such is the power of social media in the Kingdom.
Over a period of time, Facebook has taken the position of the official platform for free flowing communication for those living in Saudi Arabia, both locals and expats. According to recent statistics, Facebook continues to top the charts of social media platforms in the country and is the 4th most visited website in the country. The platform has also witnessed a substantial hike in the number of users from a 7.8 million in 2013 to 11 million in 2015. Twitter swiftly leaps up to be the 5th most visited website in Saudi with 9 million active users in mid 2015. It is learnt that an average Saudi user tweets 5 times a day, making it to be a dynamic platform for brands to engage on. Instagram and Snapchat are quickly making its mark too. All these social platforms consume a lion’s share of a regular Saudi internet user.
Technology is a key element in Saudi Arabia’s communication eco-system and is all set to grow even bigger, more impactful in years to come.