Carlos Estrada-Ruiz, Digital Analyst at 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 last month.
Every month, Netizency identifies a group of Arabic and English keywords from different industries in the region, classifies them according to the volume of mentions, and analyzes the topics of conversation across all social and online media.
Between March 1-31, 2022 the top three most discussed topics were electronics, entertainment, and education in that order, followed by health, finance, and retail.
March was overwhelmingly marked by discussions around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its impact across the world. Even though military and political conversations dominated the digital space, the war has had large influence in other areas, such as technology and education, as explained in further detail below. However, as it has been shown time after time, societies have always found ways to find hope and enjoyment represented in the many events followed by the Gulf communities.
Zooming in to March’s conversations, we saw some changes in the top themes of conversation. Electronics discussions maintain their top spot in the region, with talk about measures taken by big tech companies in Russia. Entertainment conversations remain in second place, among popular media, sports, and international events. The biggest change this month is that Education comes back into the top three positions mostly among students in Ukraine.
March marks the third month in a row that the electronics conversation ranks at the top. This month is particularly packed with special occasions perfect for store giveaways; Mother’s Day as well as International Day of Happiness are just two of the highlights. But the highlight of the season was naturally the Apple Event, as the Cupertino giant released the latest devices to almost complete their transition to their proprietary silicon.
The star announcement was no other than the M1 Ultra, the most powerful version of Apple’s proprietary silicon family to date. The processor powers the also newly announced Mac Studio, a sort of middle child in the Mac family, sitting between the entry-level Mac Mini and the soon-to-be-announced Mac Pro. The M1 Ultra achieves peak performance by combining two M1 Max, which were already quite capable when they were announced last year.
Gulf users and Apple fans gleamed at the endless possibilities for the massive power potential of the Mac Studio, including its surprising variety of ports, but as they themselves expected, gasped at the equally hefty price tag. Users also paid little attention to the other devices presented, such as the new Studio Display and the new iPhone SE with 5G, but they surprisingly took a liking to the new green colorway available for the iPhone 13.
Gulf users also joined their international peers in discussing major American companies’ decisions to cut down products and services with Russia. Namely, many agreed with Apple stoppage of product sales, Google halting ads in the country, and even YouTube blocking channels from Russian accounts.
From the premiere of yet another high-profile superhero movie to football thrills and heartbreaks, the finale of a world-class event, and even showbiz onstage drama, the entertainment conversations in March were easily the most intense this year. In the earlier days of the month, it was the premiere of the highly-anticipated The Batman that captured most of the mentions. Gulf users expressed divided opinions about the movie’s quality, but they all agreed that the expectation of seeing hitherto teen star Robert Pattinson taking the mantle of one of the most iconic superheroes was worth the wait—and the memes.
It's lights out and away we go with the 2022 Formula 1 season running its first two races in the Gulf for the first time ever. The opening event of the season, and the debut of the new regulations and all-new cars, was the Bahrain GP, followed by the Saudi Arabian GP in Jeddah. Many Gulf motorsports fans shared their excitement for the race developments as Mercedes, the team that had dominated the sport for the last decade, did not seem as powerful anymore. Instead, both Ferrari and Red Bull seem poised to be the contenders for the title.
Racing was not the only important sporting conversation this month, however, as the Qatar 2022 World Cup Qualifiers decided the last spots for this year’s tournament. In a recreation of the African Cup of Nations’ final, Egypt faced Senegal in a two-match play-off that was ultimately won once again by the Senegalese. In the other play-off, Algeria found the same fate as its Arab neighbor when they were defeated by Cameroon. Both the Egyptian and Algerian communities in the Gulf expressed their sadness at having their national teams narrowly miss out on the first World Cup in an Arab country.
The most dramatic event of the month, though, was probably Will Smith at the Oscars, when the actor slapped host Chris Rock after making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. The whole world reacted to the incident, many showing their disapproval of violent acts on live television, arguing that actors should be role models for the rest of society and thus behave accordingly. Yet, others called out Hollywood’s hypocrisy in condemning a slap when the industry, in general, glorifies violence, especially towards women and minorities. All in all, most of the world witnessed an avalanche of memes, ranging from reactions to the slap to even Will Smith apologizing.
Finally, and on a bittersweet note, this month was historic for the region as it marked the conclusion of Expo 2020 Dubai. After being postponed for a year because of the Covid pandemic, the world fair finally opened its doors last year with resounding success, attracting over 24 million visitors from all around the world and boasting of world-class pavilions and programs. Naturally, such an important event couldn’t end without a bang, and so Gulf users shared their glee at the final performances on its closing day, including global stars Christina Aguilera, Norah Jones, and DJ Tiesto.
The dire situation in Ukraine for students was the locus of the education conversations in March. Gulf users shared appeals for help from Ukrainian students, who suffered the loss of their schools.