Social space: A roundup of all the GCC social media news in October

The top three most discussed topics were electronics, education, and health in that order followed by entertainment, malls & retail, then automotive.

The most important electronics discussions this month were monopolized by Apple’s controversial decisions surrounding the release of the iPhone 12.

Apple’s newest flagship device marks a return of the iconic form factor resembling the squarish sides prominent in iPhone design from 2010 to 2014. Users regarded the wider range of choice in this year’s iPhone line favorably, as Apple released four different models: a mini model, a standard 12, a Pro version, and a Pro Max with the biggest screen ever in an iPhone.

However, aside from the attention given to the top-of-the-line specs and material, users across the GCC took issue with Apple’s allegedly eco-friendly decision to not include a wall charger with the newest iPhone. Many claimed that is just a brazen money-grabbing move from the Cupertino company to flex its extensive brand following to cut costs but not reducing prices, therefore placing the burden of the decision on the customer.

Users also questioned the effectivity of such a move for the benefit of the environment; many customers complain that since the longevity of Apple chargers is minimal, they would have to then buy a new charger anyway regardless if they owned one before.

Continuing a line of criticism, albeit with a lighter note, users questioned the usefulness of the inclusion of 5G in the iPhone 12 line. Claiming that the technology is not currently accessible for all in the GCC, many dismissed Apple’s claims of the revolutionary speeds the telecommunications technology purportedly bring. In fact, a viral video circulated in the Gulf mocking the numerous times ‘5G’ was uttered in the iPhone 12 presentation video.

Educational discussions continue to revolve around the challenges and obstacles of operating schools during a pandemic.

Despite the continued efforts by national authorities in the GCC, students and teachers alike still struggle with the hurdles of online and hybrid education systems. From burnout and screen fatigue to risk of contagion and social anxiety, the pandemic has not only aggravated existing mental health difficulties but has also added new challenges to solve

Individual countries are facing their own obstacles, too. Users in Saudi Arabia, for instance, launched a hashtag to suggest to the education authorities to allow remote testing for students with special needs. Omani users are expecting a hybrid schooling system to be finally rolled out on the first day of November.

Health conversations are still about the latest developments in the fight against the coronavirus in the Gulf.

At the forefront of vaccine development, the United Arab Emirates announced the successful completion of phase III of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group.

In addition, users expressed their gratitude and praise to the health authorities for their work as they also announced their partnership with the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow, the developers of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine. The UAE will be testing ground for phase III of the ‘Sputnik V’ trials, and there seems to be a lot of support based on public opinion.

The arrival of autumn’s cold weather, however, did not bring many positive sentiments this year. Users all over the Gulf expressed their worry that colder temperatures usually usher the advent of flu season, which, in combination with the pandemic, might exacerbate the difficult conditions already present for public health.

France was at the center of the intersection between malls, retail, and politics in October following President Macron’s comments after a terrorist attack in the French city of Nice.

All over the Gulf, both citizens and residents called to boycott French products and companies. A large number of users showed their commitment against French products from brands like Cartier and Dior to Renault and Tefal through viral hashtags as well as influencer actions. Supermarkets joined the initiative, too, as many users showed empty shelves after French products were removed.

We have identified a group of keywords in Arabic and English that define each of the pillars highlighted above. We then conducted a social listening exercise for these keywords across all social and online media from the GCC between October 1-31, 2020. We then calculated the volume of mentions for each pillar, and analyzed them to highlight the most popular topics under each pillar.

The latest updates to social media platforms include:

Facebook:

  • Integrates Messenger into Instagram to stay connected with both FB Messenger and IG friends on the same app
  • Launches Accounts Center to manage logins and purchases from Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger in one place
  • Launches ‘Emotional Health Resource Center’ to support people who are struggling with mental health problems
  • Announces the ban of political ads after the US elections to avoid potential legitimacy conflicts
  • Cracks down on offensive and dangerous content including the removal of all Holocaust denial content as well as the ban of anti-vax ads
  • Enhances Automated Language Translation tools with cutting-edge AR to stop relying on English translations
  • Improves discovery tools for FB Watch with new Topics and Highlights
  • Brings back Spark AR Partner Network to offer business AR solutions
  • Introduces ‘Neighbors’ features for users to connect with their local events and communities

Instagram:

  • Tests new tools to limit offensive comments to fight cyberbullying
  • Celebrates its 10th birthday by dropping new visual features & an eCommerce tool for IGTV
  • Updates its Threads app with auto-status updates and a full messaging functionality
  • To tighten rules for influencers to make sure all commercial partnerships are disclosed appropriately
  • Improves age tool to set age filters for business posts across geographic regulations
  • Rolls out new IG Live badges for donations directly to creators
  • Enables the creation of organic product tag ads from scratch

Twitter:

  • Updates Audio Tweet functionalities including the future inclusion of auto captions
  • Tests ‘Birdwatch’, a new crowdsourced strategy to fight misinformation
  • Considers a new ‘Suggested Follows’ section to enhance content discovery on the platform
  • Sets quote tweets as the default retweeting option to encourage users to read before sharing
  • Upgrades Reels’ audio tools to share, search, and save sounds from Reels
  • Adds new misinformation warning if a user retweets any tweet flagged as misinformation

Snapchat:

  • Rolls out ‘Sounds’, enabling the addition of licensed music clips to snaps
  • Adds AR tools for the iPhone 12’s new LiDAR depth sensor to make AR experiences more immersive
  • Launches ‘City Painter’ in London’s Carnaby Street, Snapchat’s first ‘Local Lens’ collaborative AR experience
  • Rolls out barcode-scanning features for nutritional content and wine reviews

TikTok:  

  • Adds new layouts for Duet to engage with content from other creators
  • Gets banned, and un-banned, in Pakistan
  • Announces a new partnership with OpenSlate to improve brand safety
  • Expands ban on QAnon-related content including associated hashtags
  • Improves transparency notifications to inform users of the specific rules broken if one of their videos is taken down

LinkedIn:

  • Overhauls its Community Policies with new safety features
  • Upgrades events features including personalized recommendations and event registration lists

YouTube:

  • Enhances AI-powered features to reduce the background noise of stories
  • Experiments with product tags to overhaul eCommerce capabilities
  • Updates its creator verification process by submitting a new form to apply for a verification badge
  • Cracks down on conspiracy theories by banning all QAnon-related content
  • Tests ‘Shorts’ shortcut as it continues testing the TikTok-like feature

Google:

  • Brings free SMB tools to MENA to make use of the free listings available on Google Shopping
  • Rolls out new trends tool to help advertisers stay up to date on the latest search trends within their niche
  • Redesigns the alerts that pop up when a critical issue is detected with Google accounts
  • Adds the ability to hum to search a song, and other text recognition features to search

WhatsApp:

  • Overhauls Business features including product catalogues, checkout tools, and more

WordPress:

  • Enables publishing blogs as Twitter threads with one click

Zoom:

  • Introduces ‘OnZoom’ paid events platform to schedule, host, and manage payments of immersive experiences

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