Many UAE residents are spending at least 15 hours a week surfing the web for personal use, according to Steve Hamilton-Clark, CEO of TNS MENA, a marketing research agency.

He said that as the online world becomes increasingly accessible through a variety of devices more and more consumers are turning to the internet for information. Hamilton-Clark‘s message is that brands are now faced with the challenge of embracing digital media channels right across their business, or risk losing relevance.

“It is not simply about being good at digital marketing. It is about the success of the whole business in a world that looks to have embraced digital for life,” he said.

Hamilton-Clark’s observations are supported by the TNS Digital Life global programme which shows that 69% of Internet users in the UAE spend at least two hours a day online. Meanwhile, 90% of users nationwide use the internet for research.

The research also shows that 84% of the global population belong to one or more social networks and 47% of region-based respondents cited social networking as their most important online activity.

“We have been hooked and the trick now is for marketers to use this opportunity to really get to know their followers and provide them with relevant information as they gravitate towards an online experience that matches their needs.”

He pointed out that many brands, including media houses have indeed been fast to recognise the increasing use of the digital space for information, entertainment and social connectivity. He said that it is the task of online channels to keep us engaged, as well as to encourage complementary brands to join them in their space.

“Although markets differ in openness and infrastructure, the reality is that social networks are fast becoming a primary channel of communication. Brands have a golden opportunity to tap into the vast potential through compelling, relevant connectivity,” he said.

Hamilton-Clark’s observations are further supported by Digital Life statistics that show that mobile access to social networks has grown from 14% in 2010 to 25% in 2011, worldwide.

“Brands must keep in mind why users are online in the first place if they are to harness the power of the social explosion.

“From a consumer perspective Digital is less about brands talking about themselves and more about their individual needs being fulfilled. Online content has to be engaging and entertaining. Marketers need to understand and embrace this fact, and fast,” he concluded.'

Michael Byrne

Before joining SME Advisor as an Assistant Editor in 2010 I obtained a Bachelors Civil Law Degree (Hons) from the National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland, in 2005. I worked as a trainee lawyer in Dublin, Ireland, specialising in defence litigation and criminal law before obtaining a Masters in International Journalism from the University of Cardiff in 2009. At present I am the Editor of SME Advisor Middle East, which is a publication within the CPI Business Group. You can follow me on twitter: @mikey_byrne or @SMEadvisorME. Also, you can join me on Linkedin (Mike Byrne) or at (SME Advisor).