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What Lebanese brands need to know about social media

The Lebanese are perhaps the best people when it come to adopting a new technology or trend. This has been evident lately in the use of social media in business: Although this move is considered to be late in comparison to the West, Lebanon and Jordan are the pioneers of this social revolution in the Middle East, especially in business.

However, whenever the Lebanese get their hands on a new toy, they become very "creative" and try to abuse that tool until it cannot breathe anymore. I'm just gonna speak about a few misconceptions and tips about social media and how it applies to the Lebanese businesses.

Social media is NOT a fad

A lot of Lebanese brands think that social media is a fad, that it is a one-time thing that they have to implement and it will eventually go away. They think it is a one-time campaign, they will pay a couple of hundred or thousand dollars and that's it. Well let me tell you this. Social media is not going away anytime soon. So you guys better integrate its costs to your long term budget (and yes, I said costs, because unlike what you believe, it is not free -- will be discussing that in the next part). Social media is not social networking. Facebook and Twitter might be the "big thing" right now, but they might fade out soon to new tools. Social media is the future of communications and business because its fast, communicates directly with your customers, cheap and popular.

Social Media is NOT free

I have been approached by several Lebanese companies to work as their social media manager, and most of them think that social media is free, it does not incur any costs, and therefore they don't have to pay me a decent wage, because social media is play, something that I can do out of bed or in the shower.

What they don't know is that there are a lot of costs associated with social media, especially that, unlike what they believe, their marketing departments are not qualified to do social media because they still have the traditional way of thinking about marketing: the "shine and polish our brand name and ignore complaints" approach, but we're coming to that later.

So what costs are associated with social media, you ask? Well, aside from the obvious hardware and internet costs, social media needs a lot of preparation and strategic consultation. Before deciding to go online, companies need to do a brand audit and perfect their existing brand because if their is something wrong with or, or their brand sucks, there is no point of going online and get bashed or whipped by the online community's negative reviews. So fixing the brand is a must before deciding to go online.

Another cost is training, and yes I said training. You cannot just give candy to a 12 year-old to post your mission statement on twitter. Employees should be trained to professionally use social media and represent the brand professionally online. Shall I remind you of Gilbert Gottfried (ironic name) who got fired from his insurance company after tweeting insensitive remarks about the recent natural disasters in Japan?

Other costs includes creating content (such as videos, blogs, articles, etc..), integrating the online tools with the traditional marketing, distributing content, relationship management, measuring value and monitoring the brand online. So as you see, social media involves a lot of work and costs and should be integrated as a big part of the marketing budget.

"If we just delete all negative comments no one will see them"

"No seriously, I don't think anyone would notice if we deleted those negative comments," is a typical phrase
that you here from brand-polishing traditional marketers. Without resorting to extreme examples such as the infamous Benihana Kuwait case, I would just like to make it clear to the brands that the whole purpose of them being online is to see what people actually think about their brand and work on improving it. Deleting negative comments will not make your brand more popular, it will just piss off the complaining people and believe me, they will resort to worse measures if you keep annoying them.

My dear friend Darine Sabbagh always says: "If you screw up online, you should embrace it. Chances are by fixing a mistake correctly, your campaign might be more successful than if you had no mistakes at all." Responding to complaints and promising better service will get the people to come back to your store/shop again. You might want to check how well Classic Burger Joint are handling their reviews, both positive and negative.

Below is a small incident that occurred between Roadster Diner and myself on Twitter. Aside from the perfect monitoring and quick response, they have successfully got me to return to their restaurant after being a dissatisfied costumer for some time.

Screenshots by Darine Sabbagh

Facebook likes will NOT increase sales

Yes you heard me right. Social media is not here for you to make more quick cash, so if you are trying to do so, you're doing it wrong. Having a million likes on your facebook will not increase your sales if you do not know how to utilize them wisely. Social media is not a popularity contest. I've seen many companies run facebook ads for thousands of dollars (while being ripped off by media agencies) and think that the amount of likes on their page is a measure of success. If you are not active and engaging on your page, you are not building brand equity. Brand equity and exposure are what you gain mostly from social media, and not direct increase in sales.

Publicize seeking quality NOT quantity

"If we build it, they will come." If you actually think that, then you might as well open your business in an igloo in the south pole. Having a twitter account or facebook page is not enough. You have to get people to visit those pages. Though many companies are resorting to facebook ads or spamming people's inboxes, these methods are not effective because most of the likes or follows resulting from such desperate tools are either careless about the brand, useless, or irrelevant to your business. Therefore, they won't be engaging or communicating with you or your brand and you will not be gaining anything. The best idea is to integrate your social media with your shop, store, restaurant, brand or service. You need to induce your costumers and potential customers to follow you on social media inside your store; that way you will guarantee repeated visits as well as word of mouth (buzz marketing). If you have 100,000 fans on your facebook page but most of them do not visit your store or buy your products, then what is the point of having them?

Personify your brand
If you think that you've got it covered by tweeting your mission statement and posting your discount rates on your Facebook page, then you really need to rethink social media. One of the reasons that you are online is to personify your brand, gain customer loyalty and preference. Creating useless contests on facebook and getting people to spam their friends to like your page to win something doesn't mean your actually gaining customers. Firstly, many of the people unlike the page after the competition is over and secondly, this makes your brand cheap and impersonal. Personifying your brand means giving your brand a voice, supporting social causes online (online CSR), having an electronic heart by making your customers feel loved, and so on. Yes it will take time but it will be worth it. Don't you wish your customers are so obsessed with your products they would sell a kidney to buy it? (Pun for Apple Inc.)

In conclusion, taking on social media as part of your business in Lebanon is a huge step that requires a lot of preparation and training. Do not take it lightly. For starters, you should consider two new positions in your marketing department: "Social Media Manager" and "Online Content Manager." You also need to choose them wisely and pay them well because firstly, they are representing your brand online and you don't want to screw that up, and secondly, the Lebanese online community is brutal and they can destroy you.


  1. Very interesting and enlightening post Mhijazi :)

  2. Social Media newbies, you better read that, print it & keep it in front of you!

  3. Great Article Mohammad!

    We are so glad that you have returned to Roadster diner. Don't forget we are always more than glad to hear your feedback.

    Thanks a lot,
    Have a great evening
    Rd Team


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