Bouthaina El Kheshn, 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 November 1-30, 2021, the top three most discussed topics were entertainment, education, and health in that order, followed by malls & retail, electronics, and finance.
Social media in November 2021
Entertainment conversations came in at the first place, including festivals, sports events, nationwide celebrations, and similar activities across the region. Educational topics came in second with discussions around school exams and regulations, World Children’s Day, as well as special educational events such as the book fairs. Finally, health conversations gained a considerable volume of mentions this month, as the new COVID-19 variant spiked fears across the world.
With numerous football tournaments and championships in progress, most notably the Premier League, World Cup qualifiers, Saudi Pro League, as well as international leagues such as the AFC Champions League and the UEFA Champions League, football was predictably among the top themes of conversation in the region. Whether it was searches for game timings and updates or heated discussions of games on social media, football remained a huge topic of interest for users across the GCC.
In addition to debates about player performances, there were also conversations about this year’s Ballon d'Or ceremony. While a large number of fans took it to social media to celebrate Messi’s win, others voiced their disappointment and support for other players who they believed were more deserving - most specifically Polish striker Robert Lewandowsky and Italian midfielder Jorginho.
Another sport that gained momentum this month was cricket, as the UAE’s hosting of the T20 World Cup made the game acquire a substantial number of online mentions. In addition to news articles analyzing games and publishing tournament news, there was considerable conversation on different social platforms, namely Twitter. Cricket fans, who are mostly members of the South-East Asian communities in the GCC, shared their opinions and discussed the games online.
The FIFA Arab Cup currently held in Qatar also gained significant momentum as another important tournament held in the region. Even before its commencement on November 30, Arab Cup promotions and news made their way into conversations as one of the major sports events in the GCC. The opening ceremony was met with numerous positive reviews from social media users, mostly for the creative medley of national anthems.
The medley, sang by three Arab artists to soft piano tunes, received a lot of praise from the wider Arab community as they emphasized the benefit and importance of Arab unity. Furthermore, the inauguration stadium, Al Bayt Stadium, also caught all eyes as people showed their fascination with a unique design that resembles a Bedouin tent.
While it is not typically a Middle Eastern observance, the intense cultural mix of the GCC made the South-East Asian festival of Lights, Diwali, an important regional holiday. Numerous businesses and brands published celebratory content while the post with most interactions was from Burj Khalifah’s official account as it lit up to celebrate it.
Other events such as Oman’s National Day made their way into conversations as well. Mentions did not only come from the country’s nationals and residents, but rather from the wider GCC as other nationals presented congratulatory sentiments and different brands administered special offers for the day.
The most notable National Day this month, however, was the UAE’s. While it is actually on December 2, the country’s celebration of its Golden Jubilee generated major hype as nationals and residents in the country could not contain their enthusiasm about the special occasion. Promotions and talks about highly anticipated activities and celebrations dominated the online conversation in the GCC during the last week of November.
After its one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Riyadh Season is back with plenty of shows, events, and activities. Starting in 2019, the Riyadh Season is Saudi Arabia’s initiative that aims to make the country an international tourist destination. The season, which lasts around six months, includes hundreds of activities, festivals, concerts, and other entertainment events.
Though it started in October of this year, the talks about the festival still retain a strong online presence, where there were numerous ongoing retail competitions, festival attendees sharing their excitement and experience, as well as promotions for the season’s events.
Other festivities in the region, such as the Ajyal Film Festival, the annual Qatari film festival, were also amongst trending events in the GCC. The festival featured screenings of films from diverse backgrounds such as Iran, Mexico, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and more, catering to the wide array of cultures present in the region and pumping the festival’s popularity.
In addition to movie-related activities, the Ajyal Film Festival also features “Geekdom,” a pop-culture event where visitors participate in cosplay competitions, video game tournaments, talks, and other related activities. Like previous editions, this year’s Geekdom activities received considerable positive feedback from the community, highlighting its importance as an expressive and inclusive event.
This month also witnessed the release of American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s second re-recorded album. Red (Taylor’s version) is a new recording of an album with the same name that was released in 2012. The re-recording was prompted by the artist’s disputes with her former record label, as the label refused to sell her the ownership of master recordings of her albums. Although the songs were not new, fans heavily praised the album highlighting her strong character, and the troubles she had to go through to gain rights for her own work.
Recognized worldwide on November 20, World Children’s Day was one of this month’s celebrated events. Schools, educational institutions, as well as organizations concerned with children – such as UNICEF – were amongst the main observers of this day. Furthermore, several other entities facilitated community activities, such as the Katara Children’s Festival and children’s activities in Dubai’s Expo 2020, both of which were met with positive feedback from the community.
Educational topics this month were mainly concentrated in KSA, with a surge in Google searches for education platforms such as Madrasti and Noor. With the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education developed online systems platforms where students can easily access material and where parents can track their children’s records and exam results.
Last month, and with the announcement of continued online education for younger grades, there was a substantial rise in Google search for the Madrasti platform, rising to more than 1 million queries as parents tried to figure out their children’s schedules and materials. This month, with the conclusion of the first semester, a similar surge in searches was seen, but this time for Noor , as the ministry announced that final exam results will soon be available on the system.
A noteworthy educational event that also took place this month was the Sharjah International Book Fair. From November 3-13, prominent authors, researchers, and publishers came from all around the globe to celebrate knowledge in Sharjah. The fair featured several book signings, a library conference, as well as different programs and seminars. All these activities were widely acclaimed on social media where book enthusiasts posted pictures with their favorite authors, different institutions promoted their presence at the fair, and intellectuals shared their experiences.
Although conversations about COVID-19 lessened in the previous months, they have now risen again as fears about the Omicron variant shake the world. During the last week of November, the World Health Organization (WHO) made several announcements regarding the risk and advised measures against the new COVID-19 variant.
While social media conversations were undoubtedly filled with fear, numerous users still tried to find humor in this difficult situation. Some people mocked the name of the new variant, highlighting how, if nothing else comes from the pandemic, at least the world would have learned the Greek alphabet.
Another important aspect of social media users' conversations, however, was their skepticism about the WHO’s seemingly conflicting continuous announcements, the variant’s actual risk, and the current trail of events compared to those at the beginning of the pandemic.
On a related note, conversations about the importance and effectiveness of the vaccines remained relevant this month. Most GCC states are now offering an additional booster dose to their populations, especially to those at a higher risk and/or who took their last dose over six months ago. In addition to encouragements from health ministries and medical institutions, the sentiment around the booster dose has been largely positive, as users encouraged each other to receive the additional dose as soon as they can.