In a study undertaken by the Northwestern University in Qatar regarding social media usage in the Middle East, it was found that of those who use social media in Bahrain, 61% use Instagram. In isolation, this may not seem particularly impressive, especially given that the same study discovered that 93% are Facebook users whilst 72% are advocates of Twitter. However, compare this 61% against the rest of the region and you find that the next closest country in terms of Instagram uptake and usage is Qatar at just 17%.
Apart from demonstrating a clear opportunity for brands in Bahrain to communicate with target audiences on a platform that is clearly popular, what do these figures tell us? Why are the residents of Bahrain so enamoured with Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger’s billion dollar photo app?
The name Instagram is a mashup of the words Instant and Telegram. This juxtaposition of the immediate, always-connected, corporate and considered world of today and the more ‘gung-ho’, frontier expansion, self-reliant world of the telegram could be considered as an accurate description of the developing SME business environment in Bahrain.
In a country with no income tax, small enough to drive from top to bottom in just over an hour, with three major mobile networks all vying for our business and an educated population who have grown up in a cosmopolitan environment developed due to Bahrain’s historic importance to international trade routes, it’s likely that a number of factors have contributed to our position as ‘most likely to use Instagram’ in the Middle East.
However, putting the pieces together and connecting these factors could point towards the early adopters of the platform; cottage industry style entrepreneurs such as Tala Bashmi (previously known as Baked by T) and Rocky By Rose along with start ups such as Canvas.bh and Raw Candy.
Leveraging Instagram as a mobile friendly, networked brochure along with either Email, SMS, WhatsApp or the more recently introduced direct messaging feature, these vendors are able to quickly and effectively publish their goods or services and take orders, delivering and collecting payment – all on the go and on a platform that encourages sharing and engagement.
Recognition of Bahrain’s ‘Instapraneurs’ has come from both the government, through awards such as the egovawards and local franchises of international brands such as TCBY, who launched unique flavours of their frozen yoghurt developed in collaboration with Baked By T for Ramadan last year.
It’s fantastic to see the entrepreneurial spirit supported by tools that help ideas materialise into effective businesses. However, one area that has, until recently, held Bahrain-based eCommerce back has been the ability to take payments online. Although established methods do exist in the form of the Credimax and Benefit gateways, these can appear somewhat daunting to individuals trying to run a business without IT support and have to be integrated into an existing website.