Sharjah Media City's Ms. Asma Alfalasi explains the reasons behind launching the Shams Talks initiative
Last month, Sharjah Media City (Shams) launched the Shams Talks Initiative, a series of webinars featuring prominent experts and specialists in the media space. Communicate spoke with Ms. Asma Alfalasi, Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications, Sharjah Media City (Shams), to learn more about the series and how Shams is supporting the media industry in the region.
What is the reason behind launching this series?
We launched Shams Talks as a platform for tackling important issues and offer insight, into international best practices and success stories for entrepreneurs and professionals in media and various other industries. The idea is to create a constructive and engaging media environment. This, after all, is our mission at Shams – to empower entrepreneurs and strengthen media’s role, as part of the economic system both in Sharjah and the UAE as a whole. The virtual panel discussions will host prominent local and regional experts, from different industries and are open to entrepreneurs, owners of SMEs, and university students.
What were the key takeaways from the first session of the series? Why select the topic “User-Generated Content and its Effect on Brands” in particular?
We were excited to kick off the Shams Talks series with a session on user-generated content because of the tremendous role it plays in marketing strategies. UGC allows brands – even, or perhaps especially, startups – to broaden their scope to reach larger audiences and communicate with them, all the while projecting credibility and transparency.
We had the pleasure of hosting four incredibly knowledgeable panellists: H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); H.E. Reem bin Karam, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment; and Dr. Suheil Dahdal, Associate Professor, Department of Mass Communication at the American University of Sharjah, alongside our Chairman at Shams, H.E. Dr. Khalid Omar Al Midfa.
They provided great insight into the relevance of UGC beyond media and brand marketing, in fields such as finance, social issues, and academia. We sought to explain how retailers, media agencies, and young professionals in the Emirate can identify and invest in the right media approach, and explore the UAE consumer’s shifting perceptions and tastes. We also discussed how organizations can employ UGC as a means for gathering feedback from stakeholders. We also shined a spotlight on developing policies, new rules of engagement and digital ethics to help regulate or at least organize the sector and protect all users, service providers, and society at large.
What challenges do brands face when using user-generated content?
The main potential pitfall with user-generated content is that it uses genuine people and not necessarily those who are on-message with branding. This allows for the potential of subversion and unwanted messages going under the radar. One key challenge is identifying your target audience correctly. If you try to appeal to too many people, you may end up appealing to none.
Identifying the right platform to use is also vitally important and this should be determined by the audience profile you are trying to reach. Video content is extremely popular with young demographics aged 13 to 34, especially on platforms like YouTube and TikTok but image posts receive the most engagement on Instagram. Posting the right content on the right channel is essential.
Similarly, if your product and service is aimed at a particular gender, you should be aware of gender preferences towards different channels. Twitter, for example, is more popular among men who make up 68 percent of its userbase, while Pinterest is more favoured by women who make up 78 percent of the platforms' userbase. Many of the challenges can be identified easily by conducting enough research, to identify target audiences, the right platform to use to reach them and the kind of user generated responses they respond to. Ultimately the chief takeaway should be that there isn’t a single ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ - every aspiring entrepreneur should research their particular market area, to create relevant and impactful campaigns for the customers they want to reach.
What do you hope to achieve out of these series of discussions?
Our main objective at Shams is to create an environment that empowers entrepreneurs and enhances media’s contribution to the economy. Shams Talks offers an important platform to explore ways to accomplish that, flag any potential challenges that could impede such a process, and develop calculated solutions to address them.
It allows young and aspiring media professionals to develop their skills and know-how by learning directly from accomplished and renowned experts in various fields. We aspire for Shams Talks to become a flagship, go-to platform for media stakeholders and enthusiasts – or anyone with a vested interest – to come to for information, insight, and knowledge on the topics of media and entrepreneurship.
How will Shams Talks support the media industry in the UAE and in the region?
We, at Shams, have set a very clear vision to introduce the youth and entrepreneurs to international media best practices, and allow them to explore success stories from around the world through Shams Talks. What we are looking to achieve with this, is, first of all, hone their skills and deepen their insight, but on a more practical note, we want to encourage and empower them to take on a bigger role in the business world.
Ultimately, our goal is to establish an integrated media industry that embraces advanced technology and boldly adopts promising breakthroughs, while still committing to making calculated decisions based on science and market research, to address challenges and find pragmatic solutions for them. Shams Talks is important in its ability to set the stage for ambitious media professionals and entrepreneurs, to bring change and advance the media sector in the Emirate of Sharjah and the UAE. This initiative creates the necessary conditions for pioneering media projects to thrive.