By Azmat Haroon
Doha: While Qatar’s social media community continues to grow, a majority of government and private organisations do not see the benefits of engaging with people online, according to experts.
Many organisations think it is taxing to establish accounts online because social media cannot be ‘controlled’ and negative comments could cause more harm than good to their reputation.
Twitter and Facebook have become a source of news in Qatar and the influence of the online community has grown in recent months. The controversial five-metre head-butt statue of Zinedine Zidane, for instance, was recently removed from the Corniche following strong reaction from the community that was largely witnessed through social networking sites.
Qatar Airways, Ooredoo and Qatar National Bank also have a large number of followers on their Facebook accounts, and a team of experts manage them on social media. But many organisations have not yet incorporated social media into their marketing and media strategies.
“They do not see the potential in the digital market because they find it difficult to calculate working hours for those who would take up such jobs. They also want to know the level of control over the content and its response on social media,” argues Ammar Mohammed, a social media pioneer in Qatar. He has helped various agencies, including the Interior Ministry, to build their accounts on social media, which now help them communicate with the public. However, one of the challenges faced by the organisations is that it is not easy to create social media-related jobs here.
“If they want to build a new section of social media in a ministry, they need a job title, description and it is not easy in Doha to create such job titles,” said Mohammed.
Alternatively, there are a handful of social media experts who are familiar with media ethics.
Ghazanfarullah Khan, a blogger and social media expert, said one mistake that companies and organisations often make is that they put too much emphasis on numbers. “It’s all about numbers here. Companies are interested in how many followers they have on Twitter, how many people like their page on Facebook; but there is very little real-time communication between these companies and the public on the Internet.”
Khan points out that as companies become dependent on agencies for marketing and publicity, social media often gets sidelined. These entities are also on the lookout for bilingual social media experts, who are difficult to find here.
Mohammed has recently formed the Qatar chapter of Social Media Club, which has more than 300 chapters worldwide, with the aim to change the approach to online communities.
“There are many projects going on in Qatar, we also have a clear vision. It is time for us to have our own social media strategies and engage with people, because the new media have given people the power to influence our reputation,” he said.