Ramadan and the Impact of Social Media

In our latest board blog, IABC EMENA Board member Alex Malouf takes a look at how social media has become a key tool for 1.5 billion people during the holy month of Ramadan.  

As many of you may know, we’re currently only days into the holiest month of the year for Islam and Muslims. Over a billion and a half Muslims celebrate Ramadan, the most sacred period of the Islamic year, when Muslims fast to remember the first revelation of the holy Koran to the Prophet Muhammed.

Just as the Middle East and Muslims have embraced social media, so have Muslims turned to social media to learn more about, prepare for and share their best wishes with others during Ramadan. Ramadan is one of the most active times of the year for social media in the Middle East and North Africa, on all social media channels, as Muslims reach out to friends and family, as they prepare for the Holy Month, and as they celebrate in the run up to Eid.

Firstly, as you’d expect when people are fasting during the day and awake at night, engagement vastly increase after sunset, when Muslims break their fast, and before Suhour, the second meal taken before midnight. Diving deeper into the region, social media activity timings differ by country. For example, the United Arab Emirates’ activity on Facebook skyrockets at around 7:00 PM and people are most active on Twitter between 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM.

Saudi Arabia’s Facebook activity peaks later in the night: between 10:00 and 11:00 PM; the best time to tweet is even later than that (between midnight and 2:00 AM).

And then, there’s the amount of engagement. The region sees a spike in social media activity, both at the beginning of the month when Muslims wish each other a blessed month, and then at the end of the month with the advent of Eid. First of all, let’s look at Twitter. The short messaging service recorded over 51 million mentions of Ramadan last year, with 8.4 billion impressions.

And last but not least, there’s Facebook. During 2014, 14.6 million Muslims in the MENA region posted 47.6m updates on Ramadan and Eid. The attached presentation from Facebook provides fascinating insights into when Muslims are online and how much more time they’re spending online, as well as the shift towards mobile and a breakdown of chatter by age and sex. Facebook believes that millennials are shifting away from television and towards the internet, which may be disconcerting for advertisers and television networks.

Google’s focus is on YouTube, in particular channels which have a specific relationship with this period of the year. Cooking is initially popular (Ramadan meals are cooked and served at home), followed by religious channels and general entertainment.

While it’d be fascinating to understand how Muslims are using Whatsapp and other messaging services to spread religious messages and other related content, I don’t have any data on this (and other) channels.

Cultural understanding is key to engaging with different cultures and audiences. As a population of over one and a half billion, which includes much of the Middle East as well as sizeable minorities in Europe, Ramadan is a key time of the year to communicate with Muslims., Whatever you’re planning for Ramadan, do remember the importance of social media channels to Muslims across the region. Make your content engaging (either entertaining or informative), relevant, and shareable. And Ramadan Mubarak!

Posted in Board blog, PR and media relations.