Our guest this episode is Hussein Dajani.
Hussein is the COO of Hug Digital, where he’s been for 2 years.
He has a background in traditional advertising, made the switch to client-side, then decided to try his hand at digital.
Hug Digital has been in business for 7 years, with 122 employees spread out across Dubai, Cairo, and Trivandrum.
If you’re in the agency game in Dubai you’ve probably seen Hussein around.
He’s a go-to expert on social media marketing and a regular speaker at industry events.
- How has social media marketing changed in the past decade?
- The importance of agencies being transparent with clients about KPIs and analytics
- How well are businesses leveraging changes in social media?
- Case study – new initiatives can backfire if not managed well
- Don’t focus on sales. Focus on brand building
- Which trends are worth paying attention to?
- What is Hussein’s approach to dealing with algorithm changes?
- Who are some of Hug Digital’s clients?
- Which tools does Hug Digital use to manage its business?
- Final recommendations and insights
Click through to read the complete show notes.
How has social media marketing changed since Hussein got into the social game?
His first experience in social was in 2010 with Virgin Mobile in Qatar when they launched the brand there.
Back then, clients were obsessed with amassing fans and were ready to pump as much necessary to do that.
There was less competition between the social channels.
Now, social media platforms change at such a fast past people have a hard time keeping up.
For example, Facebook recently introduced Blueprint, a training platform for advertising on Facebook, so people can stay up-to-date with algorithm changes.
This requires significant time and resource investments from agencies.
Hussein says that as a small-to-medium agency they don’t get the same level of support from the Social Media channels.
They have to deal with Dublin instead of Dubai, for example, and this makes their job harder.
It’s not always about the money or size of the accounts since it’s usually the small-to-medium agencies who are doing the most interesting things with social media.
Now, it’s about all engagement
All those clients who pumped in money to grow their follower counts are spending money to clean up those irrelevant or fake followers.
When you look at the analytics, a significant chunk of those followers are not your target audience to begin with.
Another change is the transition from organic to paid.
The importance of transparency
After how many seconds of watch-time is a video counted as viewed?
What are the differences video viewership in Youtube, Facebook, or Instagram?
It’s very easy for agencies to trick clients (with vanity metrics) so it’s important for agencies to be transparent and present a clear picture.
Agencies also have a role to play in educating clients so together they can accomplish amazing things.
How are businesses leveraging changes in social?
The UAE market is a tricky market.
Who are you targeting? The Emiratis, the Lebanese, the British, the Indians, the Pakistanis?
It’s not like countries like KSA or Kuwait where the overwhelming majority are nationals.
In the UAE, you simply can’t target everyone, and this is a trap many clients fall into.
It’s a melting pot, and you need to decide who you want to go after.
Hussein says some companies are doing a good job with their campaigns but as someone who watches social media closely nothing stands out to him right now.
However, he says the same campaigns might do very well in a place like KSA (because targeting is much easier.)
Does this have something to do with clients’ understanding of how social media marketing works?
Sheyaf notes many clients are still stuck in the traditional advertising mindset and haven’t fully embraced digital yet.
Hussein says he’s had experiences with clients who are willing to spend the money on digital but they’ll do it as a one-off campaign.
Brands need to realize that to capitalize on social media, they need to become publishers.
Content is the new game, and not just any kind of content. You need to tell stories.
Moreover, brands need to stop talking about themselves and start talking about their customers.
Hussein mentions edutainment – educate your customers while entertaining them.
Check out Hardees Arabia on Twitter – they are doing a great job speaking the language of the people.
Case study – automotive brand launched a chat-bot for users to request test-drives
Respect to the brand for trying something new, but they didn’t test the chat-bot before launching it and it backfired.
They need to manage it well so as to not lose the trust of the consumer.
A number of key things are at play here.
Does your organization have an internal team that owns digital and social media?
A lot of organizations pass it all off to the agencies and this is bad practice.
Yes, the agencies can handle your social channels, but they need to talk to someone client-side who understands the space.
The other problem is the client still being too heavily dependent on traditional media as opposed to digital.
Hussein notes that some of the blame here lies with the agencies, for not properly educating clients as to the benefits of digital.
The most important benefit is the ability to track results and optimize.
Sheyaf points out that most of the marketing managers have a traditional background and this is a limiting factor.
Hussein mentions his experience working for Red Bull, handling the MENA region and reporting back to Austria.
He was amazed by what they were doing with the brand in America and Europe but in this part of the World they are still only focused on sales.
He notes that this problem is across the board.
Don’t focus on sales. Focus on brand building.
The second you step into a social channel you have an obligation to invest in building your brand and do it the right way.
Sheyaf mentions that Ubrik has the same experience dealing with its clients.
Hussein says the minute you stop building your brand and focus only on sales, you start to notice the customer doesn’t want to deal with you unless you’ve got a special offer going on.
This is most prevalent during a recession or a downturn in the economy.
When you say you don’t want to spend to build the brand you end up investing significantly more playing catch-up when the economy is good.
In research conducted by Content Marketing Institute, 78% of consumers are ready to ditch their existing brand and go to a competitor. There’s no such thing as brand loyalty.
You need to take the DNA of the brand and push it out to all the social channels.
The traditional strategies are still the same. Only the channels have changed.
Which trends have caught Hussein’s eye recently?
It’s the survival of the fastest and the most relevant.
The brands which keep up with the latest trends and capitalize the fastest will win.
Also, brands will need to choose which channels are most relevant to them and their target audience.
Even though VR and AR are on the horizon, in 2017 its all about creating the right kind of video and leveraging it on different channels.
How does Hussein deal with algorithm changes?
Hussein prefers that brands don’t be reactionary and focus on improving their content.
At the end of the day, if your content on-point you’ll always be ahead of algorithm changes.
Who are some of Hug Digital’s clients?
They handle Americana group – Hardees, TGI Fridays, Longhorn, Olive Garden, Krispy Kreme etc.
Dubai Festival City, Doha Festival City, and Cairo Festival City.
Emaar in Egypt.
Al Futtaim automotive – Lexus, Toyota, Honda, Dodge, Volvo, Lotus, etc.
Majid Al-Futtaim Leisure – I Fly, Magic Planet, Sky Dubai, Lego Explorers etc.
It’s a lot of fun and Hussein’s team works on trying to marry brands together for added leverage.
Hussein notes that while they are only present in three markets they handle clients across MENA and in Pakistan.
What sort of tools does Hug Digital use?
They’ve built a Social Intelligence command center.
Social Bakers is used for analytics to see how clients’ brands are performing against competitors and the industry as a whole.
They use Brandwatch for social listening because it allows them to analyze Arabic from the Levant, GCC, and North Africa.
They work with Mintrix to understand how video is performing on different channels – it gives them around 140 different data points.
Hug Digital has an R&D department which works on proprietary tools, e.g. Ask For Insight, a crowd-sourced market research tool which allows them to get instant feedback from different market segments.
Any final recommendations or insights?
Hussein has some parting advice for social media agencies: invest in your in-house team and the revenue will come.
He also notes that clients need to help agencies out with the budgets to put enough of the best people on campaigns.
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