MEPRA, The Middle East Public Relations Association held a social media forum at the Westin Hotel in Dubai last week to discuss the state of social media in the public relations industry. The forum featured speakers who were present to deliver introductory sessions into the world of social media and its uses within the communications industry. With a room full of aspiring social media gurus, the audience was in for a treat.

Mohamad Mourad from Google kicked off the day with an interesting discussion, introducing Google’s social service offering, mainly Google+ and YouTube.As a talking point, Mr. Mourad kicked off by stating that “ Social is a core human behavior not a destination” in reference to the mass perception shift towards social media. Whilst discussing the regional social media market, industry stats were the biggest feature of the session, sparking tweets from the audience in the room. Mr. Mourad claimed that by the end of 2013, over 90% of all internet content will be video based, a major argument for Google’s massive YouTube push in the region. A video case study of U.S. President, Barak Obama hosting a Google Hangout following his State of the Union address wowed the room as many of the PRs in the room were unfamiliar with the Hangout platform and its capabilities.

Mr. Mourad wrapped up is session by emphasizing the value of rich media content (audio/visual) by showing how a timely and creative exeution can help shift brand perception, especially in the case of Toyota who at the time of creating the following video were in the midst of a mass vehicle recall crisis. The release of the “Swagger Wagon” video, helped maintain the positive brand image that Toyota has developed over the course of the last 20 years in the Western Hemisphere. Needless to say, the audience enjoyed the screening of the Swagger Wagon.

After a quick coffee break, next up was an introductory session into the world of Twitter by Fifth Ring PR’s Consumer PR Director, Samantha Dancy. The session covered the basics of the Twittersphere including Twitter terminology (hashtags, mentions, direct messages, timeline etc.) the concept of live tweeting and following current events in real time using Twitter hashtags and Tweeting on the go via mobile. This session was used as a basic guideline for those in the room that had very limited dealings with Twitter as a platform, however may also have served as a refresher course of sorts for the more experienced users in the room.

Unfortunately we had to leave before the linkedin B2B engagement strategy and facebook brand engagement sessions but you can track the event topics and discussions on Twitter by following the #MEPRASMF12 hashtag.

Key live tweets during the sessions:
@linabbas 4 billion video views on youtube every day #MEPRASMF12
@katyludditt170 million google+ users after 6 months from launch #MEPRASMF12
@fifthringdxb 1hr of the 60hrs of video uploaded every minute to YouTube every hour from ME region #MEPRASMF12
@linabbas 71% say reviews from family members or friends influence purchase decisions #MEPRASMF12
@samanthadancy +1 search on Google taking off….5 billion +1′s per day #MEPRASMF12
@fifthringdxb Arabic is the 8th most used language on Twitter – its the fastest growing language on Twitter #MEPRASMF12
@mprcc 64% of UAE tweets are in English – the most in the region
@sam_sneed 84% of people use online sources when deciding to buy products #MEPRASMF12
@msliedrecht Nice blast from the past from Google at #MEPRASMF12 – Swagger Wagon [vid]
@samanthadancy LinkedIn gets 2 new members every second people only spend 8mins per day on the site #meprasmf12
@sam_sneed Consistent user experience is key to brand activites across multiple platforms online #meprasmf12 #sm
@linabbas Create marketing activities which have a social motivator #MEPRASMF12
@samanthadancy Engagement increased 46% with introduction of FB timeline #MEPRASMF12
@samanthadancy 5 million people in UAE alone on LinkedIn #meprasmf12