This article was originally published on ArabianBusiness.

Social media strategies need to be flexible, according to Kamel Al-Asmar, as the industry changes too quickly for long term plans

Many start ups in the Middle East fail to grasp the social aspect of social media platforms, according to Kamel Al-Asmar, director of community and data at Wamda.

Speaking at the Arabian Business Start Up Academy, Al-Asmar said small businesses use platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to share releases and offerings rather than engage with users.

“A lot of start ups miss the ‘social’ part of social media. A lot of brands and companies use it as a distribution channel, but it’s not. If you miss the engagement part, you are missing whole part of being on social media,” he said.

Al-Asmar, who is also the founder of Jordan-based NGO Nakhwah, said start ups’ social media strategies should constantly change with current trends.

“To understand how to engage people on these platforms, you have to start actually engaging with them and seeing what works for them, then adjusting your strategy. These 36 month strategies for social media don’t work.

“There are no ‘experts’ on social media. An expert on something that is constantly changing does not exist. To be an expert on that specific point in time, you have to listen to people in that moment and adjust to what they like,” Al-Asmar said.

The director said it is up to start ups to come up with engaging social media campaigns, but that it is ultimately the followers who decide on an idea’s success.

“You come up with an idea and you test it. Whether it works or not, that’s up to the audience, not you…” Al-Asmar said.

“For example, we noticed that people like fame on social media. One of my favourite hotels in Beirut started taking positive reviews they like on travel websites like TripAdvisor or and giving a shout out on their channels to the people who wrote them.

“So people started writing more reviews just to get a shout out and be featured on their timeline. The hotel probably came up with the idea just to thank people, but it turned out to be a trend, because it was appealing,” he added.

Different approaches

Marwan Al Awadhi, known as DJ Bliss, said start ups should apply different approaches to each social media platform.

“Sometimes people get stuck posting on one platform and sharing on the other. But people don’t want that these days; to post a picture on Instagram and share it on twitter and what not,” said the artist, social media influencer and founder of Bliss Inc. Entertainment.

“When social media platforms first launched, I tried to jump on all of them as quick as possible. I had my blackberry clipped to the side pocket of my trousers, tweeting away with the side ball. But it’s definitely not easy trying to keep up with all of them, especially in our line of work and entertainment. It’s about being on all of them,” he said.

Al Awadhi said he changed his Instagram strategy to include his audience in his experience.

“My personal Instagram was really bad at first because I used to just post flyers all the time. All I was doing was telling people where I’m playing next. A year ago, I took a step back and changed my strategy, because people don’t want to just see flyers. I took a different approach and let people be part of the experience. It’s like when you pick up a magazine, you don’t just look at the ads, you read the articles,” he said.