About 2 months ago my experiences of social media were rather select I had FB and LinkedIn and I can’t say I used any to its full potential. So when a friend suggested I join twitter as well I scoffed at her because I couldn’t see any value to it. To my mind apps like Twitter were for pretentious, extroverts and people with too much time so I never pursued the matter further.
So what changed my mind?
During the period of unrest in the region FB and twitter provided up to date information, even though some posts were biased overall one could make a pretty good analysis of what was happening on the ground.
It provided a brilliant service and platform to share communication, updates & travel advice. In the wider Middle East it was instrumental in the social revolution known as ‘The Arab Spring 2011’.
Popular users in the region
Popular social media interests and personalities in the region include politics, royal family members, media, entertainment and fashion. So it came as no surprise when Arabianbusiness.com posted the top 10 most popular Arabs on Twitter, 5 out of 10 of whom came from the Arab Gulf and the rest from the wider Middle East.
These Gulf tweeting diplomats, politicians and royal family members use social media mainly for PR and keeping in touch with the ‘online crowd’. Their tweets consist of updates on meetings, hands they shake, shoulders they rub and other things like that. Media personalities such as Qatar’s Director General of Al Jazeera TV tweet alternative news away from the regions biased media. Bahrain leads the region with their tweeting government departments such as the ‘Ministry of Interior’.
Here’s the surprise
In comparison business organizations professional institutes, project managers, information on projects and resources in the region are poorly visible on social media. I was pleased to find Saudi Aramco and Bahrain’s Alba on twitter the first advertising jobs and the second its philanthropic activities and some project successes.
In comparison to the Arab Gulf, project management in Europe and US is far more mature the industry uses social media in frank and innovative ways. One can find established hundreds of PM blog sites, case studies, analysis and resources easily. This surprised me as senior project staff in this region is generally expatriate or western educated, the majority holding affiliations and certifications from western institutions that encourage innovation, discussion and PM knowledge sharing and individual participation.
So it begs the question why these industry professionals are:
a) Hard to find
b) Not using social media as a medium to promote, transfer their knowledge and benefit the PM profession locally
c) Not contributing to the PM profession more widely with their experiences and lessons learnt
d) Not exploring, encouraging their organizations to adopt new thinking and communication mediums hence become more visible and transparent.
Why the silence?
I asked a western educated GM of a large Saudi organisation why his organisation did not have a social media presence and how he envisaged using social media to improve business and projects?
The answer was evasive and it seemed obvious it hadn’t crossed his mind so clearly wasn’t an agenda item for any near future discussion in that organisation.
The pattern was no different for several different executives I spoke to in the region.
Below is a summary of our discussion on regional organizational attitudes towards social media platforms.
Advantages, Disadvantages & thought barriers towards using social media in organisations and projects
As said by Jonathan Castle, Gulf news media blogger, http://ht.ly/4WRsn
‘Five years ago, social media didn’t exist. Five years from now though businesses that ignore social media will no longer exist. The power of instant communication is driving a seismic shift in the way we communicate,’
I couldn’t agree more, the reasons why organizations should embrace new trends
In comparison to their forefathers the regions young techno savvy population is more modern, vocal and results orientated. They are in tune with the world trends and therefore communicate, respond and engage in ways different from traditional reporting and information structures that exist in organizations today.
Local organizations such as petrochemical giant SABIC, construction kings Bin Laden Group and Saudi OGER as well as all the huge property, education, oil and gas institutions need to look out for their long term survival and embrace this pool of potential talent and future workforce in a form and method they understand. Not only for this reason but also to ensure their survival in this ever shrinking world.