Using Social Media for Business – Tamakkan seminar in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Businesses in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE and the Middle East at large are realising the power of social media. Social media is an entrepreneur’s best friend, when used wisely, strategically and in tune with brand values. That was the theme of my talk at a seminar in Abu Dhabi recently.

Farrukh Naeem Social Media Consultant Abu Dhabi UAE

Don’t we already have an abundance of social media speakers? Yes!
There is no shortage of people speaking about social media in the UAE. Practitioners. Enthusiasts. Even researchers and academicians. So although I work on social media for brands all through my waking hours, I usually prefer staying on the audience side.

I attend many of these social media talks, sessions, workshops. The presenters are usually from companies that offer social media and internet services. They share their experiences and social media case studies. We have Akanksha Goel of Socialize, Alexander McNabb of SpotOn Public Relations, Steve Vaile of H2O, Danish Farhan of Xische, and my all time favourite who looks like Peter Andre – Yousef Tuqan Tuqan of Flip Media. All great people to know and listen to.

Also, brand owners share case studies of their usage of social media – brands which are doing cool stuff in social media. Like du, GoNabit, Wild Peeta.

Mostly, the case studies are useful – and being a digital consultant guiding clients to use social media with a strategic framework that fits their brand – I try and attend the events when I can. It’s great catching up with the industry peers.

Sometimes I learn new stuff at these events. Sometimes, it’s about things I know and have implemented already. Sometimes, I really wish people would share practical things businesses can do to take their social media to the next level, here, in the UAE.

Tamakkan – encouraging entrepreneurs and innovators
When Sana Bagersh, the founder of Tamakkan – an organisation established to support entrepreneurship and innovation – invited me to speak to entrepreneurs in Abu Dhabi at a seminar entitled “Harness the Power of Social Media for Your Business,” I took it as an opportunity to reach out and help entrepreneurs do cool stuff, with immediate effect.

Social media tips – from an entrepreneur, for entrepreneurs
Being an entrepreneur myself who gets 90% of his new business using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, business blogging, LinkedIn, etc. I was happy to give a practical, no-nonsense talk jammed with tools, tips and free services entrepreneurs can use. I told Sana that in the 15 minutes that I get to speak, I will try and squeeze in as many ready-to-implement tips I can to benefit the audience. No theory. No shameless plugs. Real stuff that brands and people can use to get more out of social media without paying through their nose.

What’s your elevator speech?
The seminar was held on 26 October at Al Mamoura Auditorium in Abu Dhabi. To warm up the audience and break the Abu Dhabi ice (people who have tried networking in the Capital know what I’m talking about) started off with Grant Regan challenging members of the audience to the 30-second elevator speech challenge. It’s a useful exercise that teaches you to introduce yourself as if you were meeting someone in an elevator and had only a few minutes to make an impression.

Soon, the hall was packed to capacity. We had people coming in from other Emirates as well. A bus full of students from Institute of Management Technology arrived from Dubai, led by Dr Mohan Lal Agrawal, Professor of Marketing. Dr Mohan introduced the speakers and the panel.

Tamakkan Entrepreneur of the Month – Sheikha Manar of
This month’s entrepreneur was Omani fashion designer Sheikha Manar Mohammed Talib Al Hinai, who sells Gulf inspired fashion merchandise online on

What I found really interesting was how Manar’s influencer outreach led to Arab bloggers opening up countries for her in a big way. Lovely to see young entrepreneurs using the level playing field the internet has created.

Manar was interviewed by Dr. Alma Kadragic, from the University of Wollongong, Dubai, and a former broadcast journalist.

Social Media figures from around the world, and the UAE
Jim Buckingham, Senior Education Technology Specialist and Mathematical Modelling (Statistics) Instructor, at Zayed University, shared the latest figures on social media usage – and case studies of brands using social media intelligently. Of Facebook users in the UAE crossing the 1 million mark.

The perfect groundwork for my presentation. Then it was my turn to speak.

Let the social media action begin!
I dived in straightaway into tips, tools and services you can use for your business – with Google as an added bonus. Moved from YouTube to Twitter to Facebook. Also shared tips on managing and monitoring social media effectively. I tried to match some advanced stuff with some commonly known stuff to try and benefit everyone.

The audience was amazing. Engaged. Receptive. Great!

Yes, I exceeded my time limit but people were happy that I did. It was valuable (and free) information they could use immediately.

After my presentation, I requested a few seconds to pay my tribute to all entrepreneurs in the hall with one of my all time favourite ads by TBWA for Apple:

The amazing people I met at Tamakkan
It was great to meet the attendees after the talks and the panel discussion – Sarah Craft, Gautam Rishi, Samir Al Sayed Al Hashemi, Raglan Sanders, Sanaa Marhaben, Sachin Nambiar, Shadaab Ahmed, Alicia Suwaina, Tejas Ashwin Shah and Subhag Jain – and many many more.

Using Social Media For Business – want access to my presentation?
I have refined the presentation and uploaded it online. If you’d like to have access to it, please use the form below to submit your details and give me permission to send you more information.

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Were you at Tamakkan? How did you find my presentation?
If you were an attendee at the Tamakkan seminar – it would be really great to have your feedback. Did you find my presentation useful? Did you try the tips I shared? Would you like to have more of such hands-on talks and perhaps even a workshop in the future.

Your comments are invited below…

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How Copywriter in UAE celebrated the 39th UAE National Day – with Haidar Taleb – inventor of the solar wheelchair

There were many choices to celebrate the 39th UAE National Day on 2 December – most had to do with lights, spray cans, using immense amount of energy and electricity.

One man celebrated it in a whole new way – a man called Haidar Taleb.

Haidar was diagnosed with polio at the age of 4 and has been wheelchair bound ever since. He’s now 47, and stands head and shoulders above the rest when you look at what he has achieved.

In November 2010, Haidar became the first person in the world to cross 88 miles in a motorised wheelchair – non-stop. He created a Guinness World Record. With sheer determination.

He didn’t stop there.

For UAE’s National Day Haidar embarked on an 200 mile journey across the nation, from one corner of the UAE to another in his solar powered wheelchair to raise awareness of the need and importance of renewable energy across the UAE.

Haidar’s 11-day wheelchair journey was completed in Abu Dhabi on 2 December – UAE’s National Day.

His trip was sponsored by Masdar – Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted initiative for the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable and alternative energy technologies and solutions.

It’s a very smart move by the brand to support Haidar and I’ve blogged about why I think Haidar is the ideal brand ambassador on my blog – although Masdar has not called him an ‘ambassador’. You’ll also find details of the communication campaign that tracked Haidar’s journey on social media. Good stuff!

Coming back to this post, on the early morning of 2 December, when most of the people were enjoying the National Day holiday at home, I invited my friend Emirati director and filmmaker Hassan Kiyany and his crew Leo James and Sebi to welcome Haidar to our the UAE capital.

To celebrate the UAE National Day, we decided to Be with Haidar and capture the inspiring moments in the last lap of his unique journey. It was a story I wanted to blog about and an effort I wished to be a part of.

We also made a short film on this, our humble tribute to Haidar and his mission…

We look forward to seeing his invention – the solar powered wheelchair that he travels on – to change people’s lives and encourage companies to find green solutions to our never ending needs for energy consumption. Haidar – we are with you!

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Celebrating the 39th UAE National Day in 2010 in Abu Dhabi

The 39th UAE National Day in 2010 was one of the most memorable with people from all nationalities joining in the celebrations as always. Buildings lighted up. Cars decorated in the most unexpected ways. And wars of foam. Here are a few moments captured in the capital – Abu Dhabi.

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Philip Kotler announces World Marketing Forum Abu Dhabi at Marketing 3.0 Seminar

Professor Philip Kotler, author of Marketing Management – the world’s most authoritative book on marketing – announced the launch of the annual World Marketing Forum (WMF) in Abu Dhabi in conjunction with the Higher Colleges of Technology.

He was in the UAE capital for his ‘Marketing 3.0 – Values Driven Marketing’ seminar held at Abu Dhabi Women’s College city campus on 13 October where the announcement was made.

“This is a milestone event for businesses in the UAE and will create greater opportunities for local growth and prosperity.”

Dr Tayeb Kamali
Vice Chancellor
Higher Colleges of Technology – UAE

World Marketing Forum in Abu Dhabi
The annual World Marketing Forum, the first of which is expected to be held in the first quarter of 2011, will bring CEOs and CMOs from the world’s leading corporations and Fortune 500 companies together in Abu Dhabi.

“Until now there has never been anything like the World Marketing Forum, where we will bring the best thinkers in marketing from industry, commerce and academia to Abu Dhabi,” Professor Kotler said. “It will be like the World Economic Forum or the World Business Forum.”

Philip Kotler in Abu Dhabi signing MoU for establishing the World Marketing Forum in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology and Professor Philip Kotler signing the Memorandum of Association (Picture courtesy Fahed Bizzari)

Kotler Research Centre (KRC)
The MoU signed between HCT and Kotler Impact also provides for the creation of the Kotler Research Centre (KRC) at the Centre of Excellence for Research and Training in Abu Dhabi. It will build research capabilities in Professor Kotler’s Marketing 3.0, values-based marketing concepts.

Marketing Hall of Fame & Kotler Chair of Marketing
A Marketing Hall of Fame will be created in Abu Dhabi to honour excellence in marketing and showcase best practices from around the world. A Kotler Chair of Marketing will also be established at the Higher Colleges of Technology.

Will these developments change things in the UAE?
“The announcements brought great applause from the room,” says Fahed Bizzari, my good friend who is a web strategy consultant and Principal of Bizzari Consulting (@FahedBizzari on Twitter). Fahed was the first person to book a ticket for this event and came all the way from Sharjah to attend it.

Such developments could mean that the UAE will start to see an improvement in customer service and other aspects of the buying and services experiences, Fahed believes.

“We will start to see internal brand loyalty wherein employees of a company love their jobs, love their employers, are loyal to them and you can see it when they serve you.”

I can imagine the buzz Abu Dhabi could generate when the world’s leading professionals arrive for the World Marketing Forum next year. If marketed well, that is.

How far do YOU think a shift in marketing will impact Abu Dhabi and its economy and business?

Comments invited…

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Eid Greetings and Best Wishes from Abu Dhabi, UAE

Eid greetings and prayers from the heart

May your fasts be accepted, your prayers answered, your wishes fulfilled.
May this Eid and the days ahead bring relief to our brothers and sisters around the world
who may not this day have a roof over their house, a loaf of bread to eat, a glass of clean water to drink.
May Allah give freedom, comfort and peace to all. Ameen.

Eid Greeting Card Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque UAE

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Copywriting in Abu Dhabi wins the city's first Cannes Lions Award for Film

Abu Dhabi has just won its first ever Cannes Lions Award for a film. It’s for the TVC called ‘Be Still‘, created for Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) by TBWA\RAAD Abu Dhabi. It’s also the first time that the Middle East region won a Cannes Lion in the Film category.

I haven’t written this ad but you know why I’m celebrating? The TVC won a Cannes Lion for Film Craft in the COPYWRITING category.

Here’s to Martin Lever, Executive Creative Director, TBWA\RAAD Abu Dhabi who wrote the poetic copy for this ad – something I had complimented him on when I had first seen the ad. As a writer – it was nice to see copy written from the heart. What’s nicer is to see it done for Abu Dhabi – a city I have lived in most of my life. And then it goes on and wins a Cannes Lion for film – the very first for Abu Dhabi!

Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority ‘Be Still’ TVC by TBWA\RAAD Abu Dhabi

And here’s the copy – if you, like me, relish words more by reading them:

Advertiser/Client: Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority
Advertising Agency: TBWA\RAAD Abu Dhabi
Executive Creative Director: Martin Lever
Copywriter: Martin Lever/Timothy Brothers
Agency Producer: Richard Forbes-Robertson
Account Manager: Nick Mcelwee
Production Company: Boomtown Productions, Dubai
Director: Hadi
Music: Artist/Title: Matt Faddy
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Posted in Advertising in UAE, Copywriting, Copywriting in Abu Dhabi, Copywriting in UAE | 4 Comments

Advertising in the UAE? It's not funny.

“People don’t buy from clowns,” Claude Hopkins used to say. But does that explain the lack of humour in advertising in the Arabian Gulf?

When was the last time a local ad tickled your funny bone, made you laugh, or even smile? Think hard. Give up?

When I had met Ed Jones, regional creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, at the Gulf Marketing Forum a few years ago, I thought he’d know the secret.

There are very few if any Emiratis doing any advertising in Dubai.

Ed Jones

(Ex) Regional Creative Director

Saatchi & Saatchi

He said: “Here people are very nervous of making jokes about the population because so many of the people who are doing the advertising are not part of the host country. There are very few if any Emiratis doing any advertising in Dubai. So they are not very sure of themselves in the kind of risks they can take.” The same situation is on the client side, he noted.

“You want people to have the courage to take risks. But if they don’t know their audience, then of course they are less inclined to.”

The advertising industry is very new in this part of the world, only as old as the oil boom. So, anyone who’s attempting humour is most often sailing in uncharted territory. Also, there are cultural considerations. What might work in the USA or the UK might be too much to take for local sensibilities.

“Let’s face it – it’s a very conservative culture,” Ed said. I agree. But there have to be creative ways to cut through the cultural differences and touch a human chord across a multicultural audience.

All we gotta do is find those ways. And with time, we will. At least that’s the half full glass I would like to see.

Insha Allah, as we say. Insha Allah.

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