Ala Shashaa, Data and Insights Director at the regional digital marketing agency Netizency, shares with Communicate a social recap analyzing the discussions in the GCC’s public sphere and highlighting the most relevant trends.
At the end of each month, we at Netizency study the popular conversations happening on social media and online platforms across the Gulf to highlight the most relevant trends and analyze the discussions that have gained momentum. To do so effectively, we’ve identified a group of keywords in Arabic and English that define conversations based on the region’s most relevant industries. We then classify them according to the volume of mentions and analyze the topics of conversation across social and online media between the first day of the month to the last.
Photo Source: Netizency
In July, the category rankings remained consistent with the previous month. Entertainment, Electronics, and Finance retained their top positions, while Education, Health, Automotive, Malls & Retail, and Telecommunication followed suit.
It was an exciting month online, filled with buzz about Barbie, Oppenheimer, Friendship Day, World Emoji Day, Islamic New Year, Samsung Unpacked 2023, Twitter's "X" rebranding, and the grand launch of Instagram's Threads. But wait, there's more! Let's explore the hottest topics in the GCC, covering Entertainment, Electronics, and Finance.
Sports remains a dominant force driving online chatter within this category, and this trend holds true month after month. July is no exception, as it witnessed widespread coverage centering around two events: the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 and the FIFAe Nations Cup 2023 — marking a historic moment as the first-ever FIFA event hosted in Saudi Arabia. Both have captured the attention of partnering brands, entertainment-oriented social media accounts, influencers, and engaged users. A noteworthy moment that triggered a spike in the positive sentiments for The FIFAe Nations Cup was when Sami Al Jaber, a Saudi football manager, and former professional player, was announced as the event’s ambassador. Users enthusiastically engaged with relevant posts, endorsing him as the ideal face to represent the country on this front. The positivity also prevailed in the FIFA Women’s World Cup discourse, recording two key peaks. The first was when the Morocco team became the first and only Arab team to play in the tournament, and the second was when they won their match with a 1-0 victory over South Korea. Indeed, this prompted an avalanche of congratulatory comments on pertinent social media posts.
Photo Source: Esquire Middle East
However, not all the trending topics carried a positive twist this month. In fact, the next two stories caused a major commotion, leading to a surge in negative sentiments across the Entertainment discussions.
"King the Land," a South Korean drama that ruled Netflix’s top 10 in the UAE, faced a barrage of backlash for its controversial depiction of an Arab character in a recent episode. K-drama fans found the scene with Prince Samir in a nightclub, dressed in traditional Arab clothing and behaving stereotypically, outdated, and offensive. In response to the uproar, the production company issued an apology, clarifying that the drama's characters, regions, and place names are all fictional and not representative of any specific country. Nevertheless, the controversy persisted, stirring debates on cultural sensitivity and representation in the entertainment industry, especially for international shows with diverse global audiences.
Photo Source: Netflix
Additionally, the new SaudiaBEYOND ad featuring TikToker Khaby Lame wasn't immune to the online tumult, finding itself entangled in a mix of reactions from supporters and naysayers. The uproar started when a now-deleted social media video showed Khaby demonstrating how to use the in-flight entertainment system to a Saudi passenger. Some users found the ad offensive and criticized the brand for portraying a Saudi national as technologically weak while presenting a foreigner as proficient. They argued that as a Saudi brand, it should have showcased a more accurate and positive depiction of Saudis' technological prowess. On the other hand, some argued that comedy in media content can be sensitive, and government entities or the private sector must be cautious about its use. Others have appreciated the use of Saudi traditional dress and music in the ad, seeing it as a positive idea complementing the travel-related content. However, due to the backlash, the airline has replaced the ad with a new version featuring a seemingly East Asian passenger being assisted by Khaby with the “Do not disturb” mode as part of the brand’s in-flight entertainment system. The incident serves as yet another testament to the influence and power of social media.
Now onto tech talk!
Electronics & Technology
Amidst the July buzz, jaw-dropping news from social media giants propelled quite a storm, sweeping even Twitter’s mighty blue bird into the winds of change! Elon Musk left his mark by rebranding Twitter as "X," aligning it with his holdings, SpaceX and TeslaX, and showing his deep fascination with the letter. While Musk emphasized that the move represents more than just a name change, envisioning an "everything app," it elicited mixed reactions from the online community. GCC users shared their sentiments on #تويتر_بحله_جديدهX (Twitter’s new look X), with some bidding farewell to the blue bird and praising the new X symbol replacing the heart Like button. Others saw it as detrimental to Twitter's core identity, undoing years of branding. They were not entirely pleased with the switch, questioning if Musk's move was just showmanship without substance and fearing it might give an advantage to its newest competitor, Instagram’s Threads, on a silver platter.
Photo Source: Lifewire
This brings us to the next top story about Instagram's grand launch of Threads, its latest text-based app. This new app stole the spotlight, gathering a massive 100 million users in just 5 days, surpassing Twitter's 5-year record. However, as the initial hype subsided, recent data revealed a 70% drop in user engagement. Despite this, Threads' arrival triggered an avalanche of buzz. Users in the GCC were split in their opinions, and the battleground was set with the Arabic poll hashtag #تويتر_والا_ثريدز (#TwitterOrThreads), comparing the two platforms. Memes flooded the conversation, with users poking fun at Elon Musk's investments in Twitter and Meta's tendency to clone features rather than innovate. As the dust settles, one thing is clear: the battle between social media giants is far from over, and we’re here for the show!
Generative AI was also prominent in this month’s trending conversation, with ChatGPT and Google's Bard dominating the word cloud. ChatGPT earned praise from GCC-based users for its Android app release following its debut on iOS last May. On the other hand, Google's Bard impressed users by expanding into Arabic, demonstrating its ability to comprehend 16 different dialects, including Egyptian, Emirati, and Saudi Arabic, all while responding in Modern Standard Arabic. Many tech influencers believed this move would give Google a winning edge over ChatGPT. They flooded social media with lists of Bard's benefits over the latter, emphasizing its direct internet connection, up-to-date information, Arabic support, speed, and seamless integration with Google services like Gmail.
Coming up next: Finance frenzy!
The 'Buy Now Pay Later' (BNPL) payment option has been a hot topic in the Finance category this month, fueling lively discussions among GCC users. The conversation gained momentum following two significant announcements made by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait's Central Banks. The former has granted both Tamara and Tabby, BNPL platforms, permits to conduct postpaid payment activities in the Kingdom. The move was applauded by some as it aligns with the country's vision to become a regional fintech hub fostering innovative financial solutions. Meanwhile, Kuwait's Central Bank issued BNPL regulations to local banks, finance companies, and large e-money service providers, aiming to create an environment conducive to innovative value-added financial services for customers. As for users' sentiments about the whole BNPL evolution, they are mixed! Some users took to social media to highlight how they embraced the trend, lauding the ease of interest-free installments that simplify their daily spending habits. On the other hand, some strongly opposed it, believing that BNPL creates a false sense of security, making it too easy to overspend on unnecessary items and get trapped in a never-ending loop of debt. This leads us to our next story which stands in stark contrast to BNPL.
From “Buy Now Pay Later” to “Save Now, Buy Later” – a pioneering solution, unveiled by UAE FinTech app, Sav, in July has caused a spike in the Finance conversation. As the name suggests, this feature aims to instill responsible spending habits amid mounting price pressures. It encourages users to adopt a savings-focused approach and steer away from reliance on credit and debt accumulation. By providing instant cash rewards upon reaching savings milestones, the "Save Now, Buy Later" feature offers an attractive alternative to the prevailing BNPL trend, incentivizing responsible money management and thoughtful purchase planning. Users and news outlets alike were abuzz with excitement, sharing the news online and commending Sav for taking a proactive stance to promote greater financial responsibility.
Noon has also appeared in the Finance conversation this month with the introduction of Noon Pay, its latest peer-to-peer payment service. The feature enables effortless money transfers in the form of noon credits within KSA and the UAE, where the receiver can conveniently use the balance on different platforms or transfer it to others via mobile number or email address. Mainstream sources picked up the news, sharing articles that emphasized its advantages, including instant and fee-free transactions, expanding the online reach around the new feature.
That concludes our July monthly roundup! But you can subscribe to our newsletter to get the freshest social media updates delivered straight to your inbox every week.