Arab content creators on social media share experiences:

Highlights of Shoof Forum 2017

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YouTubers and social media influencers shared lessons learned from their experiences at the 5th annual Shoof forum in Jeddah this week. The forum is an initiative by MiSK Foundation to gather content creators from the Arab region to engage with the public and encourage youth to create innovative digital content.

Visual content in the digital sphere is the most effective medium of communication today, according to several media personalities.

Television news anchor Humoud Alfayez, says television and social media won’t replace each other. However, “social media is a useful tool for ordinary people to use it to send positive messages especially during times of tension in the region”, he said.

“It’s an open platform turning individuals into influencers”, he said. “Those with innovative and quality content will be able to succeed.”

Being natural and original is one of the key factors in making it in the digital world.

“You have to be yourself,” travel vlogger Haifa Bseisso told the audience. “As Arabs, we need to unite. This is the best time to join efforts and create great content together and share it to the world. As individuals, we can all be great but as a team we can create miracles. I believe in our generation’s talent and amazing stuff they can offer.”

Omar Farooq, Bahraini YouTuber who makes videos in his channel ‘Omar Tries’, says he aims to not only entertain but also raise awareness. His weekly show is a series of vlogs of him experimenting and immersing in adventurous activities from driving an ambulance car, working as a construction worker, to traveling barefoot.

One of his most recent videos is showing “the world’s toughest job” of him stepping into a mother’s shoes and taking care of a baby for an entire day.

“Trying is living,” he said in an interview with Saudi Gazette. “It’s a way to not only discover myself but also to introduce new experiences to people.”

His YouTube channel gained millions of views. “I realized I opened a new door of ideas to people who are used to routine and living a mundane life. It triggers people to become brave in trying new activities, learning languages, working something different they hadn’t thought of.”

Asked about his opinion on digital content in the Arab world, he describes is as “superfluous with little influence when it comes to sharing ideas and opinions.” He said, “We need more aware content creators and originality in the type of content.”

Salwan Alawi who goes by the name of Miss Elham, a fictitious character she made up on social media, says comedy is a powerful tool to send meaningful messages. “I use comedy to raise social issues that people don’t like to talk openly about. I shed light on matters that occur in society, what some go through, and the private realm of people that isn’t shown.

Her short skits of her playing different characters using funny filters quickly attracted fame, reaching over on Instagram.

Asked about her use of Egyptian accent, she said “I find it the funniest and I love Egyptian people. Since I was young, I grew up watching their humor. Now I decided to pass it on to people.”

SAUDI ARABIA’S FAVORITE YOUTUBE DUO

YouTube sensation Saudi Reporters have a goal of reaching 10 million subscribers from making funny videos.

“The main message is positive and spreading good values through comedy,” they told Saudi Gazette. “We love what we do!”

Their videos has been uplifting to many of their followers, they added. “We want our videos to make people escape bad reality.”

Asked about their inspiration, they said they get creative from getting ideas from daily life. “We like to read and search and by watching international influencers, we put our own flavor to bring something new to our community.”

The brothers have been making videos and Vines long before YouTube. “We always loved making videos back when we used to use our Nokia phones. Our parents and friends encouraged us to post them on YouTube. With their support, our journey started.”

‘SNAPCHAT IS NOT SOCIAL MEDIA’

Saudi Arabia ranks as one of the top countries with Snapchat users in the world.

Snapchat’s head of creative strategy Will Scougal told Saudi youth the app receives 180 million daily users. Around 1 trillion photos have been estimated to be taken by smartphones worldwide this year.

The Arab region is “hugely important” for Snapchat, he further said. Over 9 million people in the region use the app everyday spending an average of 30 minutes per day and take around 20 snaps daily.

“This is a market where people get the idea of communicating visually and enjoy it,” he said.

Snapchat is not considered a social media app but rather considers itself a camera platform.

It’s an ecosystem around the camera that allows people to communicate more creatively and visually throughout the day, according to Scougal. “The camera is at the heart of the app but close friends are on one side while premium content on the other,” he said.

Disappearing content makes people “freer and authentic” in sharing photos, he added.

Snapchat has worked on bringing innovative tools to its platform, such as customized filters, 3-D emoji, Lenses, among others.

Some of the misconceptions about the app is that it’s difficult to use or targeted for young people but “that’s changing over time,” Scougal said. “The app has a best-in-class mobile design that’s easy to use”.


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