Between 2021 and 2022, the number of social media users in Saudi Arabia grew by 5 per cent and the average amount of time per day spent using social media in the Kingdom increased by 18 minutes – to 3 hours 24 mins, the eighth highest usage rate in the world. When studying KSA’s unique data patterns and behaviours in light of key digital trends, we can see clear emerging changes that brands must consider.
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In-feed syllabuses: Social is being repurposed as a space for self-directed learning.
Across the globe, social media users are more likely to say they’ve learned practical life skills from social platforms than university (57 per cent vs 51 per cent). In KSA, viewership of educational videos, specifically maths and science on YouTube, has increased by 200 per cent year on year, while 95 per cent of users have also watched DIY content on the platform.
Ultimately, the way we communicate and absorb information has changed, driven by immersive content formats and a renewed appreciation for innovative learning solutions. From serious topics that develop life skills (understanding local law or crypto guides in Arabic) to lighter-hearted edutainment where people learn for leisure. It’s key for brands to know that learning journeys don’t necessarily end on social, but increasingly it’s where they are starting – and, importantly, where they’re nurtured.
In Saudi Arabia we see a popular TikTok veterinarian @hamadokka.24 portray animals he takes care of in silly scenarios, yet his main goal is to promote animal wellness and the importance of protecting them. On a brand level, we’ve seen the likes of Nabta Health, a holistic healthcare service for women in the MENA region, creating bitesize, informative content that consumers can learn from in-feed and ultimately apply in their daily life.
As only 18 per cent of internet users aged 16-64 in KSA report that a primary reason for using social is to find content from brands, there has to be a step-change in how brands impart knowledge to audiences from within their feeds, from a blended lens of the brands’ and consumers’ own priorities and beliefs.
The vibe economy: The creation of moods and feelings has become a coveted creative skill.
The rise of social video, combined with a heightened desire for connection post-pandemic, is seeing a new form of creativity move to the fore. TikTokers such as Iimeeto create humorous multisensory meme content that transcends generations, to depict the modern-day life of Saudi nationals. Home of Switz is a brand example where we’re seeing moments of audiovisual eloquence using aesthetics blended with product usage to create content that is compelling.
The rise of platforms that allow for this visual exploration has increased, with a 16 per cent increase in penetration on Snapchat, and TikTok reporting 87.9 per cent of all adults aged 18+ being reached by TikTok ads in 2022. TikTok also reports that 70 per cent of Gen Z TikTok in KSA discover new brands on the platform, with 47 per cent immediately buying something they see, and 47 per cent also convincing someone to buy products they’ve seen on Tik Tok.
Brands must harness digital media to curate a mood around products and services, collaborating with curators to assimilate into specific cores or communities.
Prime-time platforms: Social has levelled up from its role as a ‘second screen’.
In a fragmented entertainment landscape, social media has become the lynchpin of shared media consumption, with data from TikTok showing that 35 per cent of its users say they’ve watched less TV and streaming services since downloading the app. In KSA we are seeing a decrease of 15 per cent of consumer time spent watching television – from 4 hours 36 minutes per day in 2021 to 3 hours 35 minutes per day in 2022.
When applying this trend in Saudi, it’s important to note that the country ranks eighth in the world for percentage of internet users who play ‘video games’ – at 91.4 per cent. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, this is coupled with a decrease in YouTube penetration, from 89.5 per cent of internet users aged 16-64 who reported using the platform in 2021, to 79.7 per cent in 2022.
From the Weeknd’s live performance in TikTok, to immersive storytelling formats being sprung from gaming channels on platforms like Twitch, the growing trend towards immersive, live content has made unmissable social content more commonplace.
For brands to learn from this and apply this in the KSA market, they should look to collaborate with commentators on platforms where the nation is highly engaged like Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter (which boasts 72 per cent penetration in KSA, the highest in the world). Brands can also look to show up in social-first entertainment spaces, embedding characters into the metaverse or creating communities in non-traditional places that add to consumers’ online experiences.
New materialists: People are investing in digital content and creativity.
From NFTs to designer Fortnite skins, a growing number of people are seeing the value of digital goods and putting hard cash behind them, including the 33 per cent of Gen Zers who have invested in digital clothing. In the MENA region we’ve seen the emergence of The First Arabs – An NFT community building the ‘Arabverse’ to explore Arab culture and support non-profits. We’ve also seen people begin to understand the value attached to creators’ labours, with 35 per cent of social media users globally recognising ‘social media creator’ as a skilled profession, which rises to 47 per cent among Gen Z and young millennials (18-34).
Digital ownership is being used to signal what you believe in, show people what you love, and give a shout out to the communities you’re a part of. There’s an opportunity for brands to explore how their products and services can translate into virtual worlds, in three key ways:
1. Brands can look to extend the physical ownership of their products into digital;
2. Brands should be showing up in digital environments relevant to their consumers;
3. Brands can collaborate with digital artists or social-first franchises to build digital credentials.
As culture continuously moves at the speed of social, so too must brands and creators alike; working harder and better to make us laugh, move us and connect us. In unique markets such as Saudi Arabia, brands must look to their local communities to co-create experiences that add value to both sides, as our physical experiences and online worlds continue to blend.