Month: July 2012

Are you ready for Ramadan? A Comparative Buzz Analysis

July 19, 2012

As millions of Muslims prepare for the Holy Month of Ramadan, modern technology and social media have stepped in to help them share their views and wishes during this special time in the Muslim calendar. Muslims are taking this opportunity to raise awareness and encourage one another to make the best of the Holy Month. Companies and organizations are also supporting their social responsibility initiatives on this occasion by offering internet services and mobile applications to help people give a deeper meaning to Ramadan. For example, Nokia’s free “Ramadan application suite” allows users to look for the nearest mosque, keep track of prayer times and browse the Quran, whereas iPhone’s “Ramadan Booster Pro” offers tips and recommendations related to the Holy Month. In addition, MSD pharmaceutical firm launched an iPhone application helping Muslim diabetics make sure they are able to control their blood sugar levels while fasting. All these applications are designed to help users perform their religious rituals with ease and find the right spiritual and physical balance.

Meanwhile, Salam World, or “Muslim Facebook,” is a new project being launched this Ramadan with the intention of serving the needs of the Muslim community by offering a communication platform with Islamic content. Salam World hosts many applications that allow Muslims to educate themselves on the Islamic heritage using eBooks, an Islamic encyclopedia and interactive sessions with qualified scholars and experts on Islamic science. The main purpose of the project is to provide Muslims with their own space on the internet and on social networking sites to interact with one another in a ‘halal’ way, i.e. a way that is religiously permissible.

Not only have Ramadan-specific technology-based offers increased in recent years, but more and more online users have been using social media platforms to share their thoughts or disseminate important information about the Holy Month. That’s why in this Buzz report we took a closer look at what social media users have been discussing in relation to Ramadan. The following analysis is based on a sample of 700 tweets out of the total of 3169 unique mentions captured in the UAE and Kuwait. For our search, we used different spelling variations of the keyword “Ramadan” in both English and Arabic, as well as popular Twitter hashtags between July 1st and July 10th 2012.

Arabic is the first official language of the UAE and Kuwait, but findings showed that users in both countries used both Arabic and English to express themselves. In the UAE, 85% of comments were in English compared to 15% in Arabic, whereas 89% of Kuwaiti comments were in Arabic and only 11% were in English.

 In general, the content in Arabic posted by users in Kuwait mostly came from religious leaders trying to educate people about Ramadan and inspire them to take a more serious interest in their religion. More than two thirds of the volume analyzed was of a religious nature. Users shared videos and pictures that emphasized the spirit of Ramadan to prepare worshippers for the special days to come. The remainder of the volume analyzed was related to charitable events or grants-in-aid within the Arab region.

Thus, the bulk of comments were discussing the ethical and religious dimensions of Ramadan by sharing different videos of religious leaders’ speeches on the matter. Many charity-related initiatives were being tweeted, particularly charities directed towards Syria, Africa and needy families in the GCC region. 14% of users also shared information about the different TV shows and series airing during Ramadan; most comments expressed negative sentiments towards them, believing them to be a distraction from prayer and worship, which are the main objectives of Ramadan. Meanwhile, plenty of posts related their prayers and wishes for the Holy Month and expressed their excitement towards it.

Due to the low volume of English conversation on social media in Kuwait, it was not possible to detect distinct trends. Most comments expressed excitement about the upcoming Holy Month, sharing food tips and discussing Ramadan TV shows. A tweet about a charity initiative within the context of Kim Kardashian’s visit to Kuwait was retweeted several times:

Findings on derived from the content in Arabic posted by users in UAE were somewhat similar to those in Kuwait. Many users discussed different spiritual elements of Ramadan, i.e. how to be a better person, prayer schedules, performing Omra (lesser pilgrimage) during Ramadan, etc. Almost half of users expressed their excitement by posting prayers and wishes for the Holy Month. UAE-based users were more excited about the TV shows and series that would be airing during the month and unlike in Kuwait, very few were opposed to them due to religious concerns. Meanwhile, 12% of the volume was related to charity initiatives in the region, organizing visits of friends and family and participating in Ramadan-related events.

The English-language conversation in the UAE presented a slightly different picture than the Arabic-language buzz in both the UAE and in Kuwait. Though the general topics of discussion remained the same, the approaches to these topics and the focus of discussion varied. Tips and instructions on what to do during Ramadan made up 35% of the total buzz and mostly consisted of fasting tips, food recipes, iftar (the meal during which Muslims break their fast) suggestions or warnings of scams. One humorous video instructed users on how to behave during Ramadan. Only 2% shared wishes or prayers and 6% discussed the TV-shows, whereas the proportion of English posts that discussed events or organizations was larger than in Arabic (15%). Users also discussed food prices, opening hours during Ramadan and the exact date on which Ramadan was to begin.

In addition to these topics, four more discussion categories could be identified in the UAE that did not trend in the comments posted in Arabic. The largest topic was linked to marketing, advertising and promotions. As a lot of posts promoted special Ramadan offers, ads, or events. Many posts also simply expressed the author’s excitement towards Ramadan in a way that could not be found in the Arabic buzz e.g. just by saying “I can’t wait for Ramadan!”. In addition, more than 30 comments discussed plans before, during or after Ramadan, and some users stated that they were going to be travelling abroad during the Holy Month and wondered what spending Ramadan away from home was going to be like.  Finally, a proportion of users feared certain restrictions during Ramadan and criticized the fact that there was a smaller inclination towards charity during the rest of the year.

Here are some insights to provide a deeper understanding of the conversation on social media platforms in both Arabic and in English:

Comparing the analyses of the Arabic and English-language conversation, we found, that:

  • Arabic conversation is more related to religious matters e.g. excitement towards Ramadan is expressed in prayers and wishes.
  • The majority of English charity-related posts either disseminated information about an initiative or an event whereas the Arabic posts usually offered help.
  • The posts captured in English focused on the organizational aspects of Ramadan such as food, locations, plans, events and so on; in Arabic, the focus was on religious content, especially in Kuwait because the majority of the content was spread by religious leaders.
  • A huge proportion of the English-language buzz was advertising and promotions—none of which could be found in Arabic.

This poses the question of whether the topics of discussion are more affected by language or region. The analysis indicates that the language affects how the ideas are expressed and the topics of discussion are a factor in determining which languages are used. For example, to express excitement, Arabic-speaking users posted prayers, whereas in English expressions of excitement were limited to simple, straight-forward statements.

To conclude this week’s Buzz Report, we used user comments to extract some general Do’s and Don’ts during Ramadan. To conclude, Ramadan Kareem!

Scope Note:

The Buzz Report monitors trends and themes that dominate current discussions on various social media platforms. Our research included UAE and in Kuwait-based content related to Ramadan. The data obtained in both Arabic and English was captured the period between July 1st to July 10th.  Our search was both manual and automated, using the various English and Arabic spellings of “Ramadan” as our keyword.

If you are interested in monitoring any special event, political development or a certain brand/product, we welcome you to contact us at info@social-eyez.com. We also appreciate any suggestions and improvements for this Blog. Also follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook-Page to get regular updates regarding future Buzz Reports.

#UAEDressCode – A Social Media Debate

July 5, 2012

Two UAE nationals took the responsibility of raising the flag on dress code violations in Dubai. The campaign was launched on Twitter by Hanan Al Rayes and Asma Al Muhairi. They used the hagsh tag “UAEDressCode” and began educating Dubai residents and creating awareness on the norms, traditions and culture of the country and the emirate.

The campaign was launched during the month of May.  The hashtag #UAEDressCode has attracted many followers since its launch. And the campaign has helped stir a conversation on both social media and local media outlets. One question was raised across all platforms; should foreigners or expats abide by such rules. Users on social media labeled the initiative as a restriction on personal freedom, and stated that everyone should be free to do whatever they want in a city that opened its doors to an international audience.  The campaign became viral on Twitter and spilled over to different social media channels such as Facebook and various Blogs. The campaign is now at an international level and also transformed into an “off-line” controversy, when the topic was discussed in the Federal National Council on 12th of June.

Over a 45 day period (5th May – 18th June 2012) of monitoring, we captured a total of 10,025 conversations from the UAE. SocialEyez analyzed a total of 1,116 conversations when compiling this buzz report.

63% of the coverage was captured on Microblogs such as Twitter, followed by 32% captured on Social Network such as Facebook.  The remaining 5% was divided amongst Newspapers, Blogs and Forums/Message Boards.

The aim of the campaign was to educate the public on local traditions rather than enforcing dress code regulations for tourists and resident expatriates.  Furthermore the campaign’s language changed from Arabic to English with the growing local and international attention. The campaign received mixed reactions; few users loved the initiative and echoed its benefits across all social media platforms. While the remaining users thought that this was an unnecessary movement targeting the expat community.

The dialogue on social media platforms suggested that many expat women found the campaign to be “offensive” and that it represented women in “an unpleasant way”, making way for an anti-campaign movement promoting the belief in a free choice of clothing as a basic human right.  With the rise of the anti-campaign some users no longer wanted to be a part of the discussion asking for a conversation between locals and expats instead of a disrespectful argument on social media.

The change of attitude towards the law can be seen in a poll by “The National” on 13th June which showed that 70% of the respondents thought that a dress code law is required.  However on 23rd June, 64% voted that tourists and residents should be more educated rather than creating a law.  Overall the majority of people supported the campaign #UAEDressCode, users who conversed in Arabic were pro-campaign and encourage the idea of a law with 67% of positive reactions or support and no negative reactions (the remaining 23% were neutral posts with links to news articles about the campaign).

The subjects of the discussion are showed below:

Users who were pro-campaign encouraged the idea of covering up stressing that it was a matter of respect to dress adequately in UAE. 10% of the comments were written in an offensive way, and around 20% preferred a dialogue between locals and foreigners. Apart from tradition and culture a few discussions raised religion and that expatriates were to respect the fact that the UAE was indeed an Islamic country. A small percentage of users suggested introducing the abaya as appropriate clothing for all residents.

To prove the fact that foreigners do not wear “respectful” clothing in the UAE, many users stated that they saw “naked” women in malls and some even attached pictures to their tweets and posts.  The latter lead to further discussions as some active users did not appreciate looking at exposing pictures of women online.  Some comments also stated that a dress code should also be required for men, i.e topless and revealing shorts.  As a consequence of immodest clothing some users pointed out that, women get “evil” looks from men and this could be the reason for sexual harassment.

 

Users who reasoned the campaign (mainly tourists and expatriates) thought that lack of information and awareness was causing the problem. Some comments focused on the changing tradition in the UAE, asserting that locals themselves are not wearing traditional dresses anymore.  Moreover, shops for selling revealing clothes and the music and advertising industry are to blame for the origin of indecent clothing. These users requested the local community and authorities to educate expatriates and tourists on how to dress appropriately in the UAE.

The social media users who were against the campaign questioned the need for such restrictions and defended the expatriate community. Some users had difficulty to understand the priority of topics, as in their opinion there are more urgent issues that could be discussed.  They also accused the campaign supporters of being Islamists.

There were several neutral posts containing links to topics related news articles, and many comments contained a meta-discussion about the campaign, promoting the demand to trend the hash tag #UAEdresscode.  In addition to spreading awareness, organizational questions to the founders of the campaign were raised as well as a comparison to a further campaign (no2nudity).  Last but not least there were also some thankful comments which stated the success of the campaign and how it found its way through the social web.

Some examples tweets:

Conclusion:

Overall the topic “UAEdresscode” is not only interesting because of the content and the debate itself, but it also demonstrates the impact a Social Media campaign can create.  This campaign has been trending and is viral for longer than a month. It has spilled over to other media channels both online and offline and has made a difference in the real world, e.g. by triggering a fundamental social discussion in UAE’s headquarters.

Whether you agree or disagree with the act of policing people’s clothing, such a campaign seems unique because it was not launched by the governmental authority, but by two individuals, and their tools of communication was not conventional media like broadcasting and the press, but rather twitter. As a step towards education tourists and expatriates the Abu Dhabi authorities have now introduced an Ethics guide. A 14-point guide released by Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters on the 5th of July, 2012. Omeir Al Muhairi, Deputy Director of Police Operations at Abu Dhabi Police GHQ  said “The code of ethics has been issued to ensure that tourists fully adhere to local rules and regulations, and do not upset the traditional and cultural values. The guideline has been prepared so the tourists have all the comfort and enjoy their visit at the same time ensuring the security of the society and respect of traditional and religious values”.

Scope Note:

The Buzz Report monitors trends and themes that dominate current discussions on various Social Media platforms. This explicit search was conducted globally with a special focus on the UAE about the campaign #UAEdresscode. The mentioned posts and comments were captured in both English and Arabic from the 5th May – 18th of June 2012. The keyword for the search was “UAEdresscode” in different spelling variations and hashtags and was afterwards checked manually.

If you are interested in monitoring any special event, political development or a certain brand/product we welcome you to contact us at info@social-eyez.com. We also appreciate any suggestions and improvements for this Blog. Also follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook-Page to get regular updates regarding future Buzz Reports.

Spain Wins European Championship 2012 – Social Media Buzz

July 3, 2012

Spain’s dominance of European football continued with a magnificent 4-0 victory over Italy in the final of Euro 2012 at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.  Spain became the first country to retain the European Championship and marked their place in history with a blistering performance on Sunday night.  Vicente del Bosque led his side to an emphatic victory in Ukraine to become the first coach to win a World Cup, a European Championship and a Champions League title.  Football fanatics from all over the world gathered to watch the match and tension built up throughout the game.  Sunday’s Spain vs. Italy match for the UEFA Euro 2012 championship set a new sports-related Twitter per second record.   As fans increasingly use social media to connect during major sports competitions, new “tweet per second” records are constantly being set.

For this Buzz Report we took a closer look at the user reactions on Twitter relating to the biggest event of the Euro 2012.  The following analysis was created through a sample of 1,750 tweets out of the total of 7,873 captured posts in the UAE, in both Arabic and English.  The research included all comments on Twitter with the following Hashtags “euro2012”, “euro12” and “#يورو_2012” between 30th June and 1st July 2012.

Reactions before the game

On both days Spain received a higher amount of positive mentions than Italy, most of which were about fans wanting Spain to win the Euro 2012.  Before the start of the game, Italy received more buzz and a higher number of positive comments in English, however Arabic tweets continuously favored the Spanish team.

English and Arabic tweets included quotes about the players, their family members, well wishes and predictions.  Italian supporters cheered their team by using comparisons such as “Why buy a Zara item if you can go to Armani”.

English tweets favoured the Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo before the start of the game.  However as the game progressed and the Italian side looked weaker, jokes started to spread on twitter particularly targeting the Italian player Mario Balotelli. The striker received the highest amount of mentions which reflected his performance during the semi final against Germany and comments directed at Shakira’s boyfriend Gerard Pique.

Two thirds of online conversations in English included mentions about the different teams or players while one third expressed excitement towards the game and discussed about where they would watch the match.  A few comments consisted of news about other teams in the tournament like Germany, Portugal and England.

Reactions during the Game

As soon as Spain scored the first goal, they received an increasing positive reaction on Twitter both in English and Arabic. Reactions included announcing the scores, reviews of the game and some users expressing disappointment due to the one sided nature of the final.

During the game, the Spanish players Fernando Torres, Xavier Hernández i Creus “Xavi”, Jordi Alba and Juan Mata had the most positive coverage in English. Iker Casillias, Sergio Ramos and Fernandi Torres were favored by the users posting Arabic tweets.  During the second half of the game where it became apparent that Italy was losing, Arabic speaking Spanish fans commented and aimed jokes at the Italian team e.g. about Gianluigi Buffon’s lack of goal keeping.


Reactions after the Game

After the game the majority of users congratulated Spain on winning the Euro 2012 and reported the final results in both English and Arabic. Whilst the Spanish fans tweeted about winning and celebrating, the Italian supporters expressed their sadness about losing the finals. Italian fans did not acknowledge Spains success due to lack of consistency in the tournament despite winning the final.  The Arabic tweets consisted of congratulating the winning team while some Arabic speaking Italian supporters did not blame their team as they gave it their best.

With the final whistle about to blow, Spain had the most positive coverage on Twitter.  There was a turning point in sentiment towards both teams amongst English comments.  The positive sentiment switched from Italy before the game to Spain during and after the game.  Over the whole period Fernando Torres was regarded as the favourite player, followed by Andres Iniesta, Andrea Pirlo and Xavi Hernandez, as opposed to Mario Balotelli, who received the most negative coverage.  As for the users tweeting in Arabic, Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas were the most discussed players.

The morning after the Euro 2012 final, one question was passed around by football fans, journalists and professionals, can this Spanish side now be considered the greatest of all time?

Scope Note:

The Buzz Report monitors trends and themes that dominate current discussions on various Social Media platforms. This explicit search was conducted in the UAE about the final game of the Euro Cup 2012 on Twitter. The mentioned posts and comments were captured in both English and Arabic on the 30th June to the 1st July.  The keyword for the search was “Euro2012”, “Euro12” and “#يورو_2012”and a manual check conducted afterwards.

If you are interested in monitoring any special event, political development or a certain brand/product we welcome you to contact us at info@social-eyez.com. We also appreciate any suggestions and improvements for this Blog. Also follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook-Page to get regular updates regarding future Buzz Reports.