A report issued by Orient Planet Research about social media as a business tool for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) stated that social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn have become a main business enabler for SMEs in the Arab region.
The results of the report came as no surprise amidst the unprecedented growth of the number of Arab internet users who benefit from different social media platforms for communicating and sharing information with friends and family. According to the Arab Knowledge Economy Report 2015-2016, internet users in the Arab world are expected to reach 226 million by 2018.
A survey conducted by professional network LinkedIn on the social media habits of SMEs in the GCC region showed that, of more than 260 respondents, 92% are already on social media platforms; 5% of those surveyed are now in the process of establishing their presence. Social media enables them to effectively reach and engage customers, partners, and other stakeholders.
Nidal Abou Zaki, managing director of Orient Planet Group, said that social media presents itself as a valuable tool for SMEs owing to the wide range of benefits that it has to offer at a reasonable cost. These online social channels offer connectivity and transparency for SMEs to gain strong competitive advantages.
Ensuring the success of the SME sector is fundamental, given that they are considered the backbone of the region’s economic growth. A recent study on emerging markets by global management consultancy A.T. Kearney showed that successful SMEs create jobs four times faster, and drive revenues and gross domestic product (GDP) six times faster than large companies. The same report predicts that the sector will contribute an additional $100bn to GDP and up to two million jobs in the coming years.
In Dubai, SMEs represent 95% of all local establishments, accounting for 42% of the workforce, and contributing around 40% to Dubai’s economy, while in Saudi Arabia, the sector contributes around 33% to the GDP, and comprises nearly 25% of the total labour force. The SME sector in Bahrain is more vibrant, accounting for 99% of the total registered companies in the country, and employing over 421,000 people, of which over 52,000 are Bahrainis.