Social Recap: June 2021 Trends & Platform Updates

At the end of each month, we at Netizency study the popular conversations happening in social media across the Gulf to highlight the most relevant trends and analyze the discussions in the GCC’s public sphere.

To do so, we’ve have identified a group of keywords in Arabic and English that define conversations according to most relevant industries in the region. We’ve classified them according to the volume of mentions and analyzed the topics of conversation across all social and online media from the GCC between June 1-30, 2021.*

What we found:

Between May 1-30, 2021, the top three most discussed topics were health, education, and entertainment in that order, followed by electronics, finance, and malls & retail.

Social media in May 2021

Overview

Health, education, and entertainment remain the top 3 drivers of conversation for the second month in a row. Having health and education conversations in the top spots is now expected, given the way the pandemic is unfolding and how nations around the world continue adapting to the changing circumstances.

Entertainment, however, keeps the spot mostly due to the action-packed summer catalog of sports competitions and media releases – probably the first time since the past year that popular events are making the community feel a sliver of normalcy. As football tournaments continue and the iconic Summer Olympics start, we expect entertainment conversation to remain relevant in July, too.

Top themes

Health

The important progress achieved by Gulf nations in their vaccination campaigns as well as the threat of Covid’s Delta variant were polar opposites in the health conversations during June. Whereas most GCC countries continue lifting the restrictions of their most recent lockdowns, uneasiness advances from the affected South Asian neighbors that are experiencing a deadly wave of the highly contagious strain.

Notably angering many in the Gulf community, travel restrictions and suspensions to and from countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh were just the beginning, with more countries being added as a precautionary measure. Confidence still runs high though, as the current vaccines have proven so far to provide robust protection against the more infectious Delta variant.

This has allowed for Gulf authorities to manage to ease more and more social distancing policies – reflected in a much more positive outlook from the Gulf community. Also noteworthy has been the positive reaction to the UAE first and Bahrain second authorizing children aged 12 to 17 to take the vaccine jabs, making them the first GCC countries to do so and strengthening their community’s immunization.

The Euro 2020 was also an unexpected driver for health discussions this month. First was the sudden collapse of Danish player Christian Eriksen during their group stage match against Finland. When the football star suffered a cardiac arrest, his teammates rushed to his side and formed a barrier to shield him from cameras while doctors struggled to save his life. This act of solidarity was praised by many in the Gulf community, starting a conversation about journalistic ethics as many media outlets often show graphic imagery for the sake of views without respect for those depicted.

Second was a viral video from Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, in which he confidently removed two Coca-Cola bottles from their prime sponsorship position at the front of the press conference desk. “Drink water” was Ronaldo’s advice as he replaced the maligned soda with a water bottle, prompting impassioned discussions about the health effects of Coca-Cola and other sodas. The conversation quickly evolved into the role of not only carbonated drinks but also the general damaging influence of sugar in the diets of Gulf users.

Education

Continuous protests against in-person examinations were the main drivers of the educational conversations in June. This time, however, the discontent came from the expatriate communities across the Gulf nations, especially the ones whose homelands are currently affected by the contagious effects of the Delta variant.

Most particularly, the biggest movements are centered around the situation in Pakistan, calling for the elimination of in-person examinations and the outright dismissal of the federal education minister. While students marched and protested on the streets and outside of governmental buildings in Pakistan, the Pakistani community in the Gulf took the matter online and continued to heavily campaign with the hashtag #CancelExamsSaveLives.

Entertainment

The enthralling matches of the Euro 2020 (in 2021) were the focal point of the entertainment conversations in June, marking the second month in a row that the beautiful game dominates the social media space in the Gulf region. The surprise early elimination of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Kylian Mbappé’s France in the first knock-out stage made the headlines; yet, it was the cheer supporting England’s national team that united the anglophone social space, and the Gulf expatriate community was no exception.

Pop culture became increasingly relevant in June, with major movies, series, and albums releases from global stars. Marvel’s cinematic mastermind Kevin Feige seems to make no mistake as the relatively low-profile ‘Black Widow’ debuted with critical acclaim. The first Scarlett Johansson solo movie as the fictional super spy had a very haphazard screening schedule worldwide due to the pandemic; however, the GCC countries continue lifting entertainment restrictions.

Marvel’s prowess is no longer limited to cinema as their productions are taking a hold on the small screen, too. Starring in the third of the slate of this year’s limited series, Tom Hiddleston immediately captivated the hearts and minds of Gulf fans – mirroring the skills of the titular character he plays in ‘Loki’. The Asgardian God of Mischief quickly became a favorite, as many GCC netizens promptly joined the pleas for the renewal of the show for a second season.

Rocking the pop world, Britney Spears took the Internet by surprise with her polemic declarations against her abusive conservatorship. Gulf users joined the call to #FreeBritney and allowing her to end the legal relationship with her parents. The Princess of Pop’s plight also prompted a wider conversation around issues related to fame and mental health, highlighting that not everything we see on social media is an accurate reflection of reality.

Spotlight: Operating systems

The summer hasn’t even ended and yet the two personal computer giants have dropped significant updates to their operating systems. The first one was Apple, announcing Mac OS 12 Monterey, the next version of its OS that, while it keeps the visual language of its predecessor, will add a wide variety of features for those already invested in the Apple ecosystem.

Indeed, this update focuses on ‘continuity,’ that is, the development of strong and versatile services and apps that work across all Apple devices. Tech enthusiasts across the Gulf joined the hype when it was announced (during the presentation) that the new OS would allow users to use the cursor of your MacBook to control your iMac and iPad without any extra steps.

Microsoft did not wait around for long, however, as the Redmond giant released Windows 11 at the end of the month. Unlike Mac OS Monterey, the newest Windows OS does bring major visual changes, including a redesigned Start menu and dark mode. Interestingly though, shortly after the announcement, Microsoft got into a bit of a problem as the minimum requirements to run it were exceedingly high, leaving out many modern devices.

Global tech experts and Gulf enthusiasts called into question the rationale of the restrictions, pointing out that Apple’s latest update would be supported by desktops as old as eight years old and laptops as old as six years old. In contrast, Windows 11 could leave powerhouses like the 2018 Surface Studio, an iconic pro device announced with much fanfare, without the update. Since the minimum requirements are tied with the processor’s specifications, has Apple just showed that making their own silicon was the right move after all?

Platform Updates

Social media platforms are constantly changing and launching new features. We’ve compiled all the relevant updates for your business so you don’t have to look for them yourself—if you’d rather learn more about new features insights on a recurrent basis, you can also subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

The latest updates to social media platforms include:

Facebook:

  • Releases Messenger API for Instagram, allowing developers to integrate Messenger for IG into their own applications and workflows
  • Adds ‘Smart Crop’ video tool to Creator Studio, enabling users to use AI to maximize the aspect ratio of their videos
  • Introduces an AI text style mimicking tool to copy and replicate any text style including handwriting
  • To display public comments on Stories, as a potential driver for public discussion

Instagram:

  • Will add Reels audio search, for users to explore and find videos via music clips
  • Launches ‘Drops,’ a new shopping tab to promote the latest product releases
  • Adds new engagement insight data for both Reels and Instagram Live broadcasts
  • Updates its Branded Content tools enabling users to tag two brands in a single piece of branded content, among other useful features for creators
  • Expands e-commerce tools for creators including ‘Affiliates’ sponsorship feature and ‘Personal shops’ e-commerce tool
  • Launches ads on Reels globally
  • Introduces Group Fundraisers, building on the success of personal fundraisers

Twitter:

  • To bring emoji reactions to tweets, including likes, cheers, hahas, and hmms
  • Launches ‘Twitter Blue,’ the platform’s first subscription service bringing premium features and perks
  • Begins testing ads on Fleets
  • Enhances Spaces features, including layout changes and the ability to edit scheduled Spaces
  • Adds feminine Arabic as a language setting

TikTok:  

  • Announces a new ‘Preview’ option, allowing users to see exactly how their videos will show in the app, including text and button overlays
  • Launches #CreativityForGood campaign, calling for creators to create unique ads for non-profits

YouTube:

  • Beefs up copyright protections for creators, including a tool that allows users to prevent other accounts to upload exact copies of their content
  • Streamlines video add-on features allowing the addition of midroll ad breaks, end screens, and info cards among others, while the video is still processing
  • To ban political ads on premium mastheads, as well as any promotions related to gambling, sports betting, and alcoholic beverages

LinkedIn:

  • Introduces ‘Boost’ content promotion option to promote top organic posts without the need to create a new ad

Google:

  • Revamps Business listings features and accessibility, allowing users to advertise services alongside products and update their catalog from Maps and Search
  • Announces ‘Search Console Insights,’ an analytics center for users to find data on their website’s traffic and best performing content

WhatsApp:

  • Speeds up voice message playback, allowing users to increase the speed of voice notes up to twice as fast.

*This article was originally published by Communicate ME as a two-part piece. Access the trends part here and the platform updates part here.

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