My Top 5 Productivity Tools

March 27, 2015


As an independent social media consultant, I have the flexibility of working from home (or mostly hotel rooms and wherever I am while traveling)... And while I very much enjoy that I can work in my PJs, wake up and sleep whenever I want to, work at my own pace while watching TV, and take a break or travel when I feel like it... I have to confess that it tends to get out of hand, and I easily lose focus and track of work. Try to separate work life from personal life when you work from your personal space, and your job is all about spending time online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the tons of other distracting social networks! So while my work life might look awesome on the outside, on the inside it is quite hectic, unorganized, confusing, and can get overwhelming... Up until I decided to restructure and organize it! And given how I'm all about tech, I of course turned to tech for help and began my search for tools and applications to manage and increase my productivity. Whether you work independently, or just want to make your job easier, here are the tools I recommend:

1. RescueTime

This is the first app that I found, used and was mind-blown by it... It is so simple yet very crucial! It basically tracks how you spend your time on the devices where you have it installed (I have it installed on my laptop and mobile phones) and gives a visual report of what the time was spent on with different categories, ranging from very distracting to very productive. You can set a goal of how long you want to spend on Business/Productive tasks vs Distracting tasks, and know exactly how to work towards that goal as you see where your time goes... The app has so many awesome features that you must check out, but I specifically like that it syncs across all my devices, and sends me a weekly summary, seen below, of how my time was spent, showing the most productive days, times, activities, and applications, and the most distracting apps that I need to learn to avoid (Whatsapp much?!).



What I love is that by knowing which time and day I am most productive, I can plan to have the most daunting tasks performed then where I am less likely to prone for distraction. The only issue however is that social networking sites are categorized as Very Distracting, which is realistic, but given that my work involves social media, I can not separate between the productive/business use of social networking sites and the distracting/personal use. Still, that's a problem you only have to worry about if you're in my line of work; otherwise, you're going to love it! 

2. KanbanFlow

This is a web-based tool where you have a work board with tabs to manage tasks and to-do lists. It's quite easy to set up and use, and leave open in your browser for a quick glance to stay on top of your work responsibilities. The tool has so many useful features such as adding description, tags, color-coding tasks, adding due dates, subtasks, team members, sending you email reminders when you're approaching due dates or tasks are overdue, etc... Ok you get it, it has everything and it's awesome and I love it :P It's usually the first thing I check out every day and regularly update! FYI (for your information/inspiration), below you can see a snapshot of my own workboard... 



I just love clearing out that "Do today" and "In progress" columns, and look at all the tasks I've "Done" to feel like I've accomplished something! As That itself increases motivation and productivity. The downside of Kanbanflow is that it is only web-based; it would be great to have a mobile version of it. 

3. Handle

This beautifully designed app is an integration between email, to-do lists, and calendar; so it is the perfect app if most of your work happens on or comes from your inbox! I personally didn't use it much, as I was already using KanbanFlow to organize my projects' to-do list, but I recently felt that Handle can be better suited to "handle" those small tasks that are connected to an email message, and can save me the time to manually add it to KanbanFlow with a link. So you may want to save the large recurring project tasks to Kanbanflow, and use Handle for small/communication tasks. But even on Handle, you can organize to-do tasks by project, and add reminders and due dates that would sync with your Google calendar...



Unfortunately, I seem to be having trouble adding due dates, not sure why; the other downside is that it does not have a mobile app, but rather a browser extension/desktop app ... Don't these developers know we spend most of our time on mobile rather than desktop! But we can't complain, the app is practical and free, and would sure come in handy. 

4. Toggl

This is more of a project time management tool that basically works as an automatic timer, with an option to add time manually, to track how much time you spend on each specific project, as opposed to RescueTime which tracks the time you spend on a specific application/website instead of project. It can be useful especially when different projects have different time priorities, and are costed differently based on hourly rate, to make sure that your time is spent on the most profitable/top priority projects, and you're being productive where it actually counts!



The upside of it is that there is a mobile version of this app, but the downside is that I personally often forgot to click "Start" for every task I started working on, and sometimes I forgot that I had the timer running for a task while I was not really working on it but was actually distracted or even away. Still, it can be useful if you can actually remember to use it, and it can especially come in handy where the other apps may fall short, like in tracking the time you spend on doing online research for work by visiting many different websites. You can then log in that time as "productive", when RescueTime would not recognize the significance of those sites separately and may even consider them distracting (unless you manually go change each site's categorization in the app).

5. gTasks

It's a little embarrassing perhaps to include this in the list with the others, but it is the first app I started using long before the rest. gTasks, or Google Tasks, is a simple task list app by Google that integrates with your Gmail tasks. The advantage of it is that because of how simple and easy it is to use, it saves you time and effort in adding tasks and due dates. gTasks is my go-to app when I'm out in a meeting, or moving around, and need to quickly make a note/list of things to do, before I move onto the other tools for more elaborate task management. You can also easily send the list by email, or share it in many other means; you can check tasks as done in one tap, and see everything in one place. The same developers also developed another similar app called TickTick that you can also check out if you need something like gTasks but more advanced. TickTick lets you add attachments, comments and location to your lists, as well as active links.



So this is it! That's all I need and use so far to manage my productivity and I hope you give them a try and find them as useful as I did... If you do try them, let me know what you think, and if you are using other productivity tools that work well for you, give me your recommendations below.

 

When Quitting Is Good

February 11, 2015

(Photo taken on top of Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka, after I quit climbing up the last 200 steps of the 5'500 steps; having been pushed almost half of it lol)

I have been having a lot of time lately to think about my life and where I want to go with it. I haven't figured it out yet, and I'd unlikely be able to do it by the end of this post. I've always had this philosophy, though it may not be to the liking of many, that I'd do what I can with what I already have, rather than seek to have what I may not... OK, that may have sounded too philosophical hehe... In simpler terms, I'd just make the best of comes my way instead of going out of my way to get what I believe is best for me. It may not be the best motto in life, but I've done well with it so far, I believe.
Surely there were times when I felt that that motto doesn't serve me well... In the times where I was actually tempted to want things, and felt driven enough to pursue them. Yet, in none of those times was I successful, which caused me to further believe in the validity of my motto! 
Those things were on my mind again lately... Things I would want... Things I had previously pursued but not achieved. And in the midst of my thoughts, I came across the below post by a friend on Facebook.



First it had me thinking: Is it that I didn't want it bad enough? Did I not work hard enough for it? Do I not deserve it? Am I not good enough for it?... You know... All the typical self-doubt thoughts that drag its holder to a dark deep hole of self-loathing! 
However, on the other side, are we not to believe that what is meant to be will happen? Of course it doesn't mean that we just lazily wait for things to fall in our lap, but perhaps to exercise diligence in our pursuits, hope and pray for the best while having faith that we will get what is written for us... As for what's not written for us, well, there's nothing we can do about that, except hope some more that there is something better in store for us instead! (And most people like to ignore the fact that perhaps there's nothing better for them, but let's not get into that dark deep hole now :P)
With those thoughts, I was prompted to leave my comment above, with the following questions:

"How long and hard must you go after something before realizing that maybe you're just being stubborn instead of persistent, and that perhaps it's time you focus your energy and time on something else that may be good for you too, even if you had failed to see it from start!" 

I ask that question in all seriousness... How long and hard are we supposed to pursue something before we realize that it is better to quit? A month? A year? 5 years? Perhaps the time period is more relevant to the goal itself; like if your goal is to be a talented musician, that would come with hours of practice (about 10'000 hours according to the rule uncovered in Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Outliers", which I highly recommend you read!), but isn't it possible that talent and creativity are not an outcome of practice, that even with such practice, someone can still lack the "it" factor that'd make them successful or exceptional? But I digress...

In the same theme of thoughts, and by coincidence, I came across another comment I made five years ago on a blog post titled "How To Quit Being A Quitter":

Sometimes people keep pushing themselves to do something so they don’t end up being quitters, and in the end, that makes them hate what they are doing. If you need to actually push yourself hard to do something and finish it, then you probably shouldn't be doing it! No one ever quits on something he/she loves and enjoys doing.

At the end, I am not saying that we should all quit our pursuits as soon as we feel frustrated or we run into an obstacle... This is hardly a conclusion, but rather the opening of a discussion... And I really hope that one of you readers is an experienced psychologist and can advise me on the matter: Am I wise or am I a lazy quitter? lol
 

Arab Tech Women Entrepreneurs

October 11, 2014



On September 23rd, I spoke at The Arab Women In Leadership & Business Summit in Dubai on technology-based entrepreneurship. I felt quite honoured to share the stage with amazing leading women who are ministers, founders, CEOs, chairmen (chairwomen?!), and managers of international and major brands, while I was there representing only myself as The Manalyst... That made me realise even more the importance and power of technology-based entrepreneurship. When I launched my website and online brand, The Manalyst, in 2009, it was not for the objective of having my own business, but merely to make use of the free time and internet I had in learning and sharing about the latest trends in my industry, while overcoming the limitations of being a professional in a male-dominated world (whether for being in Saudi Arabia, or generally in the business world)... I never thought that first step would lead me to be one of the influential bloggers and social media professionals in the region, covering and speaking at various related events such as this one I'm writing about, being interviewed by the media, and most importantly, having helped various brands and people with using social media to achieve their goals. 

In the 2-day event, I sat among the audience, of mostly women, listening to their stories, questions, concerns, and most of all... complaints. Some were legitimate complaints of social, cultural and work-discrimination struggles that might take long to change, yet many have overcame them; and some I found to be invalid, like the lack of role models in our Arab community... And that is what I aimed to prove wrong through my presentation, and this post.

First of all, one prevailing statistic in the Arab region is that almost over half of university attendees and graduates are female, yet that only translates to being less than a quarter of the workforce... So the problem isn't that Arab women lack the formal education or skills and capabilities to join or excel in the workforce. They're actually more likely to start their own business than to get a job, and even more women intend to do the same, yet that still doesn't transform into action.
There probably haven't been any formal studies or research of why there aren't more women in business, whether as employees or entrepreneurs, but common beliefs is that it is for one of the following reasons:

Cultural Pressures and Stereotypes, and Overcoming Women Unemployment Issues by Working from Home, with Flexible Hours

Even at this modern day and age, the role of women in the Arab world is still quite traditional... In most typical Arab families, a girl's priority is to get married and have kids. In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, women are also often not allowed to work for cultural/social reasons or due to gender segregation laws. So while the majority of adult females attend university, graduate or even get to work, they do so as long as they are single. And those who have ambitions to pursue higher education and a business career face pressures from their families, or community, to focus on getting a husband instead, and if they're already married, then they should focus on their family and household instead. And in the business community, they're mostly viewed a "flight risk", as in, if hired, they might suddenly quit once married or with child, which makes them a bad investment. An example of a woman who faced and defied such pressures and stereotypes is Yasmine Al Mehairy.



Yasmine co-founded the Arabic parenting website Supermama with Zeinab Samir in 2011. She faced many negative cultural stereotypes as a single 30 year old woman entrepreneur but was positive about the startup ecosystem in Egypt being more supportive than it is in the West, and she was able to secure funding as bias towards male founders was not yet apparent in the Arab world as it is in the West. (Source: Middle East Monitor)

These cultural and employment issues that Arab women face is what drives some into tech entrepreneurship as they get the ability to work from home, or wherever they need to be, and with flexible hours thus having the ability to tend to their other affairs (whether they're students, wives and/or moms) at their own comfort. This is what drove Tasneem Salim, programmer and gamer, to co-find GCON -
the world’s biggest and Saudi’s first girls-only yearly gaming convention and community in Riyadh-, encouraging girls to pursue careers in game development, and break the stereotypes that gaming is a boys-only industry. In Saudi, where gender segregation poses a challenge in the workforce, that consists only 20% of women, she believes that gaming can a powerful option for those who prefer flexible hours and working from home. (Source: Wamda) 



Two other ladies who also found that drive to start their own tech business are Duna AlSiyari and Hussa AlShamran; two college students who kickstarted the eCommerce site Qurtsyah in 2012 as the first in Saudi to sell stationary online, enjoying the flexibility it gives them to work while also continuing their education. They are determined to grow their business to the GCC, and continue to apply their college learnings to practical business experience and starting their own line of Arabic-style stationary. (Source: 
AlEqtisadiah)

Funding and Financing, and How It is Countered by Low Costs/Barriers to Entry 
During the event, some women were repeatedly mentioned in the discussion as role models for women entrepreneurs, such as Sheikha Moza, Queen Rania, and other prominent names... While their work is to be appreciated and admired, not all women in the Arab region have the same access to family money, status and connections to support their business initiatives. The average Arab woman has to strive to attain funds and finance her business. Either there aren't enough sources for funds in the Arab world with high competition, or there is lack of awareness in how or where to attain funds. In most cases, women who want to start their own business are either discouraged by lack of funds or they resort to financing their business with their own personal money which often slows their progress. 
That is what Hanan Khader, a programmer and mommy of 3, had to do when she launched Aqar-estate.com in 2008, a real estate digital platform for the MENA, which was a challenge in a male-dominated industry that she had to finance herself until she secured seed investment from Oasis500. 2 years ago, she also started HelloWorldKids, teaching programming to kids and inspiring them to be tech entrepreneurs.  

 

With the low cost and barriers to entry of tech-based industry, in case of most businesses, many women have taken up to the internet to start their own small businesses, starting from scratch depending on whatever knowledge or skills they have, and financing their business further with the earnings, until they're able to make some steady income from it... Which is the case with Farihan Amin, owner of Simplecious, an instagram-based home baking business. 

The Need for Women-Focused Support Network, and What YOU Can Do to Help!

It is safe to say that women can never be equal to men, we may want equal rights but at the end of the day, we will always be different, especially in the Arab/Muslim world because we believe in our role as housewives and mothers, even if we weren't all born to have that typical life or if we wanted to be businesswomen on top of being wives/mothers. So the aim is to have a business ecosystem that understands the characteristics, requirements and challenges of Arab women entrepreneurs and support them through their journey & in their lifestyle. That's not saying that Arab women can't already compete, succeed and flourish in the current ecosystem among men! May Attari, a Palestinian student, has certainly accomplished that, along with her peers, through her university's leadership program "Qiyadat", by co-founding Fadfid, an online psychotherapy platform that connects patients seeking expert psychological advice to specialists across the Arab world.  



Think of how many more innovative startups we'd have, in addition to the economic benefits, if more women are supported and encouraged to become entrepreneurs! You can start encouraging them from a young age, by raising girls to overcome negative stereotypes and explore their interests in a gender-neutral environment, and learn tech skills from resources like: Scratch; Hackety; Khan Academy; Code.org; Tahrir Academy; The Little Engineer
Female students can also be encouraged to aspire for an education & career in tech by nurturing and developing their innate skills, and using educational technology to teach and inspire them, from resources like: Khan Academy; Code Academy; TechGirls; EdSurge.
And as entrepreneurs and business owners, share your experience and knowledge with them, support their entrepreneurial activities and intentions, and welcome opportunities to mentor and guide women with entrepreneurial activities/intentions, through platforms such as Wamda Mix n’ mentor; Arabnet; Wamda 4 Women; and various Linkedin Groups.
And lastly, as part of the community, support them, enable them, encourage them, share their stories, give them feedback… You can start by sharing this post or its presentation below, in hope that the women I mentioned here can serve as inspiration and role models for others out there who are just waiting for the right motivation to rise and flourish!
  


 

Why Women are Better Than Men

August 7, 2014



Men, before you start sending me hate comments, the title is just an exaggeration of some aspects in which women are better than men, rather than a factual generalizing statement that all women are better than all men :P Now that we cleared that out, you can put your chauvinistic pride aside and read on! (Relax, I'm just teasing you lol)
As I was trying to sleep, I decided to listen to something useful, and the podcast below by Freakonomicstitled “Women are not men” (DUH!), caught my attention... The episode covers research results of studies done on the differences between men and women from an economic and social stance, and it got me thinking...




To summarize what particularly caught my attention in the podcast, and on what my title is based:

Women can be more competitive than man, but aren't!



(Credit: ollyy via iStock)

But that’s only because they are brought up in cultures with male-dominance, such as liberal Western societies as well as African tribes where women have absolutely no rights (and where a woman is worth 10 cows!). However, in cultures where women are treated as dominants and have superior rights, they tend to be more competitive than men, even at a higher percentage than men in male-dominant cultures.

So the conclusion is: Competitiveness isn’t particularly a matter of (male) nature, but rather an effect of nurture.

The question is: Do we really want women to be more competitive? Wouldn’t competitiveness trigger aggression?

Women are not so happy in this modern world


(Credit: Loyall Sewall/www.jupiterimages.com)

Although women, in most liberal societies, are now having more choices in life and more rights, and enjoying more benefits from the improvement of their academic, social, professional and economic status, they are less happy than they were before the liberalist/feminist revolution in the 1970s. Logically, women should be happier as they have achieved a higher/freer status than they had in the past, but they are not, and no one knows why. Some researchers speculate that it is perhaps they are still making less money than men, even at the same jobs, because they don’t negotiate for better salaries, and as previously stated, they don’t compete as much.

So the conclusion is: Women were happier in simpler times, with fewer choices and less confrontation.

The question is: Would more money make women happier? Is it not believed that money doesn't buy happiness, yet rich people tend to be happier than poor people?

Women are catching up to men, except in crime

In so many aspects, women are finally enjoying the same life as men, and having similar rights, yet they are far from committing as many criminal offences as men. In the US, 75% to 80% of criminal offences are committed by men, and only two criminal offences have more female offenders than male offenders… Can you guess which two?! Well, prostitution (go figure!), and runaways (juveniles reported as having run away from home). There is still no explanation as to why women are committing less crimes than men… Or is it perhaps because they are too smart to get caught :P.

So the conclusion is: Even though women are becoming more like men, in the way they live their lives, they are still far less likely to commit crimes.

The question is: What is it that drive men to commit crimes, and that women seem to be immune to?

Before you answer any/all of the questions above, let me leave you with some other research results that were shared in the podcast:

  • Men are less likely to do favors for others.
  • Men are less likely to wash their hands.
  • Men are less likely to answer a question with “I don’t know” when they really don’t know the answer.

So, is it just me, or do women seem to be better than men?! And guys, do me a favor and go wash your hands, and then answer my questions only if you know :P


If you liked reading this post, then please subscribe, share and comment below! I would appreciate this turning into a conversation outside of my head lol

 

A Day in My Life on Bayt Blog

March 13, 2014

I never really thought of how I spend my work day, although many did get curious of what I actually do as a social media specialist, until Bayt, the #1 Employment site in the Middle East, asked me for a "Day in the Life..." feature in their blog. You can read the Bayt version with their own edits here, or continue to read mine below with links to my own resources:
 
As an independent Social Media consultant, my work days are finally how I’ve always wanted them to be. I have honestly never been a morning person, but to work for a living, that can’t be avoided in most typical cases… But I am far from wanting or enjoying what’s typical, and that’s why I love my work in social media.

Waking up between 9 and 10 am, first thing I do is check my phone’s notifications to see what I missed during sleep… Not a good habit, but I believe most of us are guilty of it; at least I get to justify it as part of my work!

While most people can’t kick-start their day before their sacred cup of coffee, I’m wholeheartedly a green tea person. Lately, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking my breakfast outside, in the sun and beautiful weather, with some relaxing uplifting music, to start the day with a good mood. It doesn’t make sense to me to rush out of bed, right into work, without taking that little time to get myself ready to have a good productive day.

During breakfast, I start planning the day ahead by checking my GTasks mobile app, or my Planner Plus iPad app, to see what tasks I have listed for the day, and to list any new tasks I got from the notifications. I prioritize my tasks according to ease, urgency and time required to finish... Starting off with light tasks like responding to emails, social media notifications, writing formal documents such as reports and proposals, and leaving the heavy tasks that require creativity, researching and brainstorming to produce output for later in the day. Although flexibility is one of the major advantages of working independently, it can also be a drawback if you can’t organize yourself and structure your work and time effectively. So I make sure to set myself deadlines and reminders, and even enlist the help of a friend in some cases, to keep my progress on track.

In between tasks, I take 10 to 15 minutes to scroll down my Facebook newsfeed, or my Twitter/Hootsuite timeline, interacting with people, and seeking interesting content to read and share. I also love using Feedly mobile app to curate content, read, share and bookmark for later reading. To make sure that I don’t overshare during my reading slots, I use Bufferapp (available on web, chrome extension and mobile) to schedule sharing content across Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin in different times. It’s quite an indispensable tool in my personal as well as my work arsenal.


Although it might not work for most people, but I love to mix business with pleasure; in fact, I almost can’t work, or even eat, if I am not entertained at the same time. That’s why I always work in front of the TV, watching something in the background that keeps my mind lively, or alternatively listen to music. To me, having fun is as important as working, and I keep a balance by getting both aspects fulfilled. I guess it’s very befitting that I work in social media then, where the lines are blurred between what’s work and what’s personal. Reading and sharing content, engaging with the online community, internet browsing for inspiration and creative input, traveling and meeting people are all a major part of my personal life in terms of what I enjoy as well as work life in terms of what I do for my current clients, or how I reach new clients.

You might have guessed that, given I am not a morning person, I am a night owl! My creativity and productivity kick in late night where I work on the heavy tasks, until my mental energy starts draining out around 3 am... I can’t possibly sleep if my brain hasn’t been entertained or worked up enough! So I end the day how I started it, with a cup of green tea and checking my GTasks, to cross off what I’ve finished, and get to sleep with a sense of accomplishment.

 

Happiness is Regular Treats

February 23, 2014


I saw that at a costa coffee stand at the airport in Dammam, after a trip to Riyadh that had its highs and lows... And it got me thinking:

I have been recently feeling unusually happy... Not for a specific reason, but rather a general mind state of accepting my life and liking the way it is heading, including the unknown... Waking up to a cup of green tea and breakfast in the sun with good music (I seem to be stuck on the track below, try to listen to it while reading this... It's worth it!), and a good conversation, all do wonders for my mood too. Small things like that can make you happy when you just feel like being happy. So is happiness more of a state of mind or due to events of life?


The costa coffee motto sort of decoded it for me. Happiness is regular treats... It needs to be "regular", so not too often nor too rarely, and not a constant state, or it would become the norm and would feel too plain for the mind to enjoy it. It must come as treats... Beautiful interruptions of the usual normal state.
Like treating yourself to something you've well earned: a relaxing break after working hard for hours, or a delicious piece of cake after dieting for days...
Or someone treats you to what they believe you deserve, a sign of love or affection or appreciation or just a mere random act of kindness... Not necessarily a gift; more often getting someone's genuine undivided attention is the most pleasurable treat, for someone to look at you and actually see you and ask "How can I make you happy at this moment now?". Sometimes just the intention of treating you, without the act of treating, is rewarding enough and can make you happy...
And the third and most important form of treats that can make you happy is when YOU treat someone else... Why wait for someone to treat you and leave your happy moments at their control when you can take the initiative and make someone else happy and feel good about yourself in return!

Happiness is contagious... That is not just something nice to say; it's been scientifically and psychologically proven that our brains emulate the emotions they perceive, caused by the mirror neuron... If you look at someone smiling, you are instinctively driven to smile... And if you yourself start smiling even as a forced emotionless act, you will start to feel happy. Just see the video below and try it, and if it made you happy, then pay it forward and make me happy by sharing my post :P

 

5 reasons yoga is good for you... Lenovo Yoga!

February 9, 2014



Starting your day in a healthy active way is a must to ensure the rest of the day goes well… Perhaps you wake up early, work out, take a warm shower, and have a nice breakfast before you head out to work. Ideally, that’s how most of us want to start the day, but chances are, like many of us, you start your day with your phone or on your laptop!

As a social media professional, I start my day and spend most of it using my laptop, and in the brief moments I have to step away from it, I stay connected using my smartphone. Needless to say, the devices we use are an integral part of our day, and can help “make it or break it”… Well maybe not as dramatic as that, but I can’t imagine anyone having a good mood using a laptop that is slow, and keeps freezing and crashing! I know that too well from my previous experience with the Macbook White, even after upgrading its RAM from 2GB to 4GB, it was slower than Saudi customs officers. (Sorry, I had to sneak in this joke :P haha)

But fortunately, about 2 months ago, and after the news about the rise of Lenovo, I switched to Lenovo Yoga 13.

Nov 4, 2013 | I switched from Mac to @Lenovo with #Windows8. #tech #apple #pc #microsoft by TheManalyst on Keek.com

After a couple of years of using a Mac, it was a bit uneasy migrating back to a Windows device, especially since the Windows 8 was quite different than the earlier Windows OSs. However, after a little of getting used to it, the experience was quite pleasing… Without getting too technical, since you can find tons of technical and specs reviews through google, here’s why Lenovo Yoga is great for me and would be good for you too:

1. Light weight, heavy multitasking:

I travel around often, so I need something easy and light to carry with me that won’t take much space in my luggage or add too much weight. Smartphones and tablets might be a substitute but they can never fulfill all my requirements: multitasking between internet browsing, working with documents, while also watching a movie/TV series (sometimes all together!). At 1.5 Kg, a 13” screen, and Intel® Core™ i5, Lenovo Yoga 13 fits the job perfectly!

2. Long battery life:

Stressing on the importance of a light-weight heavy-multitasking device, a long battery life goes hand in hand, if you don’t want to have to carry the charger with you, and desperately seek and get stuck near power outlets. Lenovo Yoga 13’s battery will last up to 8 hours, so it is quite efficient when I’m out and about for the day. I know that it at least lasts for the train trip between Dammam and Riyadh, which is over 5 hours. Yes, that train is even slower than Saudi customs!

3. Multitouch Screen:

Touchscreens have become the norm, rather than the trend. I sure dreaded when smartphones quit tactile keyboards and turned all touchscreens; typing is one of my main activities and it’s just not as easy on touchscreens. But then you get used to touchscreens, and depend on them on your smartphone, and your tablet, so it only makes sense that your desktop PC or laptop joins the club! Using the touchscreen on the Lenovo Yoga makes multitasking easier as it gives you faster control over the task at hand, since you can just reach for what you need.

4. Different Modes of Use:

Lenovo Yoga is called so because of its flexibility, and the different modes (positions) it can assume. I use these modes depending on my need, flipping from full mode (typical laptop with keyboard) for heavy tasks to tablet mode for light tasks. It certainly helps to have one device fit for both roles, so I don’t need to also carry my tablet if I just wanted something sleek in my hands to browse through.

5. Windows 8 OS:

Although many may point out the flaws of Windows 8, I haven't experienced any of them yet, fortunately. The OS is fast, and even with my HD almost full, tasks have been running smoothly, with no major crashes as I recall. Another notable feature is the InstantResume; I'd be watching something, pause it, put the laptop to sleep, and when I awaken it, it takes barely 10 seconds, and I can resume watching directly like the system was never interrupted! To someone with my impatience, seconds make a world of difference :P

So this has been my personal experience with the Lenovo Yoga so far! If you have any specific questions, post them in comments below. And subscribe to the blog to follow my updates about it or any other cool gadget I get ;)

 

Highlights of Arabnet Riyadh 2013

December 10, 2013


Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Arabnet Riyadh conference and it was a great experience as I anticipated, as I have attended almost all of of Arabnet's conferences so far, and have written about them in my blog, and it was always worth it!
If you have attended the conference, you would've benefited from the great connections you make during as well as the useful content and knowledge you learn. If you didn't attend, then you would have probably benefited from the live coverage via Twitter through the hashtag #عرب_نت. If you also didn't catch up with the live coverage, then you can at least get to know what went down in the conference by reading my article on Wamda: Women's entrepreneurship and social media: the two hottest trends at Arabnet Riyadh

Did you attend Arabnet Riyadh? What did you think of it? What other conferences have you attended and liked? Leave your opinion and recommendations below, and please share this post for your peers to pitch in as well.

Thank you for reading and subscribe to stay updated!
 

Yes, your mind is playing tricks on you!

October 1, 2013


I read this article, titled "8 Common Mistakes in How Our Brains Think and How to Prevent them", and the number one common mistake was: Confirmation Bias...

Away from psychology jargon that you may not be interested in as I am, confirmation bias is "when we proactively seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs". That hit me too closely that I had to tweet about it:
If when we believe in something, our brain only let us see what further supports our belief, how can we even call ourselves "open-minded"? Which lead me to this other quoted tweet:
I have always been fascinated with the world of psychology, with understand how the human mind works and how to take advantage of its strengths and avoid its pitfalls... More than anything, like any one of you I assume, I am interested in learning the tricks of the mind, which would allow me to live life happy and not fall into a trap where I am my biggest enemy and make my life miserable while being convinced it's just my bad luck, instead of actively trying to overcome my own mistakes.

Our minds play tricks on us, and it's most destructive when we don't realize it. But once we realize it, shouldn't that automatically make things better and make us overcome those tricks? Remember back to when you were a kid and saw your first magic trick... You were probably amazed, puzzled and believed it's more of magic than an actual trick. But once you grew up, and learnt how that trick is done, the "magic" was gone and you can now see things for what they really are... An entertaining and simple demonstration is seen in the following video:



But apparently, the mind is more treacherous than we realize. It is stubborn in sticking to its bad habits, even when we have come to acknowledge how bad they are. Then what we need is not only to know what the trick is, but why we choose to believe it in the first place... That underlying cause/motive/drive is the key to it all, and it's not something that can be easily uncovered... Some people spend years and years in psychotherapy in order to uncover such truths, and even then, the road to recovery is difficult and lengthy.

Without further rambling on, I want to commit to myself that:
1. I try to seriously look at the pure facts, instead of what my mind interprets of a happening. 
2. I separate myself from my mind in the times it tries to play tricks on me, and acknowledge the tricks even if I can't stop them from happening. 
3. Eventually, hopefully, perhaps, I trick my mind into not tricking me!

Is your mind playing tricks on you? And how are you trying to overcome them, if you are?
 

Just be yourself... or Don't?!

July 30, 2013


I was having a conversation with a friend about all the things that make me “me” and how it affects my life, perhaps adversely. His advice was “just be yourself”; an advice often given in such situations, but does it often work? Sometimes, you feel you have been yourself long enough but it hasn’t resulted in what you need it to. So I started thinking:

Anyone who has ever dealt with people -long enough to form a relationship, any kind of relationship like friendship, neighboring, business, etc., and even in our relationship with our family- understands compromise. We often give up pieces of ourselves, in order to comply or fit in with others, voluntarily. As simple as an outing with a group of friends, perhaps everyone wants to see a romantic movie, which you don’t like, but you go along anyway so you don’t end up watching an action movie on your own. There is no right or wrong about this, things are just either the way you like them (which is often ideal and improbable) or they are a compromise to something that all parties involved can “accept”. Is there a point to being yourself all the time, if it means that you don’t come to terms with anyone else most of the time?

Another thing to consider when being “yourself” is: what if you are a despicable jerk? Hehe ok I am just being dramatic, but let’s say that the whole of you include many bad habits that alienate people, or if you don’t care about alienating people, then at the least hinder you from achieving your ultimate goals, whether happiness or success, or inner peace. Does trying to be better go against “just being yourself”? Would it make a difference if you decide how you’d like to be better or if others told you what you should change? We can certainly change ourself to better in order to be happier and have people around us like us, but wouldn’t it mean so much more if we are accepted and liked for who we are, without stressing ourselves out to change?

There are definitely many questions in my head when it comes to self-identity, but as a main theme, I’d like to ask you:

1- Would you rather be yourself, to be true to yourself, or control who you are in order to fit in generally?

2- Should you accept yourself as you are or try to change for better? 

Let me hear your own thoughts below, and don’t forget to subscribe and share if you like what you read!
 

Who thought of it first?

July 16, 2013



I just read a status that my friend, let’s call her Sarah, wrote that was a “sort of a” deep reflection on an aspect of life. The thought in the status was more or less the same thing that another mutual friend I have, let’s call her Linda, had been repeating recently. Now, Sarah and Linda know each other well, and they have engaged with each other more lately. And the thought expressed by Sarah, whom I am familiar with pretty well, didn’t seem like something she would say... So I started thinking:

Whether we realize it or not, many of us are very impressionable. As social creatures, we tend to look for things in our surroundings to guide us in the way we think or act. Yes we often reflect on things on our own, but even that solitary reflection is often spurred by something we saw or someone we heard. Many times, we see ourselves repeating in our heads something other people had said. Whether we are agreeing to it, or denying it, the fact remains that we are driven and affected by it. Maybe it was something we were subjected to today, or maybe it was many little things we were subjected to over a span of years that we don’t even remember anymore, but they are there in our heads, guiding how we think.

Being impressionable is a double-edged sword... It can be used for good or for evil. For example, we want children to be impressionable by good behavior, to deduce their own thoughts of “we should be/do good”. But likewise, they are vulnerable to bad impressions and can end up with "bad" thoughts. Think of it in terms of trends... How trends come to happen is that one or a few people create or think of something, which leaves a very big impression on so many highly-impressionable people, and they follow it and spread it around. (Read more about this here: Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point”). But even those who seem to have “originated” the thought, were mostly inspired (got the impression from) by someone else who got it from someone else, and so on and so forth. So I ask:

1- Do you believe that there is anything as an “original” thought anymore, or are all our thoughts just bits and pieces from others here and there?

2- Which do you think travels faster: a good thought or a bad thought? And how can you motivate a good thought to travel while refraining a bad thought from traveling?


Please share your thoughts to the questions above in a comment below. And if you have enjoyed reading this, I hope it "impressioned" you to subscribe to my blog, and share this post! Thank you ^_^

 

Should I get a Lenovo PC?

July 14, 2013



According to the press release below, Lenovo has been recently announced as the number 1 PC supplier, 
de-throning HP after a long time of being n# 1.

Now I have been using Macbook white for the last couple of years, and I've been really suffering with it lately, which is making me consider shifting back to a less-premium Windows ultrabook. Lenovo was one of the brands that I saw, but didn't consider, since, as most consumers, I thought: Low price = bad quality. So I was going for an HP or a Samsung. Now I am definitely reconsidering... What do you think?

 


Lenovo Statement on PC Industry Rankings


Riyadh, July 14th, 2013: According to the latest industry figures reported today by IDC and Gartner, Lenovo has become the number 1 PC supplier in the world. IDC reported that Lenovo reached 16.7% global PC market share in 2Q 2013, up from 15.0% in 2Q 2012, one year ago. Gartner stated Lenovo reached 16.7% share this quarter, up from 14.9% last quarter and the same 14.9% from 2Q 2012, one year ago. This marks the first time that Lenovo has been the clear global leader in PCs according to both of these widely accepted reports.

The following statement can be attributed to Yang Yuanqing, chairman & CEO, Lenovo:

“We are proud that Lenovo has become the clear world leader in PCs, and we are grateful to our customers and to our global team for this success. Even in the toughest PC market ever, Lenovo has not only gained share, but we have steadily improved profitability and introduced even more innovative products for every market segment. The battle for PC leadership could certainly still go back and forth. But I am fully confident that there remains substantial room for profitable growth and groundbreaking innovation in the global PC marketplace.

The PC market is changing, but it still represents a $200b opportunity. Lenovo can capture more of this opportunity than our competitors because we have built great balance over the last 4 years. In our traditional strongholds -- China and global commercial PCs -- we have continued to gain share and build sustainable profit engines. Meanwhile, we have built scale and improved profitability in global emerging markets (where we are the leader) and global consumer PCs (number 2 overall). Balancing growth and profitability across our entire PC business is our focus going forward.

PC leadership is just one milestone in a longer journey to become a true leader in the “PC Plus” market, which includes tablets, smart phones, smart TVs and other “smart connected” devices. Already, we have made great strides in these areas. Today, we are the number 3 “Smart Connected Device” maker in the world. By continuing to focus on our formula for success – a clear strategy, innovative products, great execution and a diverse global team – I am confident that we can continue to drive profitable growth in our core business, and achieve the same success, over time, in the fast-growing PC Plus marketplace”.


Historical Performance from 2012-2013 05/23/13 Earnings Report: 

In Lenovo’s fiscal year ended March 31, 2013, IDC said that Lenovo had achieved a record global PC market share, expanded faster than the overall PC market for the 16th consecutive quarter, led the market in three of the seven largest PC markets – China, Japan and Germany – and reached double digit share in 39 countries.

More than half of Lenovo’s revenue then comes from outside of China. While delivering significant volume and revenue growth, the company’s profitability reached record heights with earnings up 34% last year.

Further, Lenovo has accelerated its transformation to become a top competitor in the PC Plus era, capturing a 5.9 percent share of the global market for “Smart Connected Devices” and becoming the third largest supplier. The company is the number 2 smartphone and number 2 tablet company in China, the world’s largest PC+ market. Further, more than 10% of the company’s revenues now come from hot growth segments such as smartphones and tablets.


 

How do you evaluate yourself

July 10, 2013


I had a long thorough job interview, after which I was trying to assess if what I reflected was good, good enough, or not good at all, and if what the interviewer thought of me how I thought of myself, and it brought me back to many similar situations where I wondered how I see myself as opposed to how others are seeing me, then I started thinking: 

How we evaluate the things we do and say is based on our own mentality and understanding... Sometimes that’s good, because we are able to reflect on our own actions and adjust as we see fit until our actions reflect our intentions; and it helps us shut the negative false assessments of those around us. Yet sometimes it’s bad, because if we can’t account for how others think of us then we will just be trapped in what we think is best, rather than what actually works, and we won’t be able to make use of the true assessments of those around us that can actually help us be better.

What makes it even more complicated is also how we view ourselves as opposed to how others view us. There are people who are self-conceited, thinking that everything they do is perfection, disregarding the flaws that others keep pointing out in their thinking and actions. And there are those who are self-conscious, always feeling that they don’t measure up to what everyone else think of them... They don’t think they are smart enough, pretty enough, brave enough, thin enough, etc. If they are always left to evaluate themselves, is it a wonder that their assessment is always negative! 

A recent psychology study showed that we tend to be happier if we think we are good looking, rather than if we actually are in fact good looking. So basically, how we evaluate ourselves is what sets our future actions, how we live our life and how we feel. So I ask, how do you evaluate yourself:

1- Do you just reflect upon your own actions and determine whether your performance is good or bad? Then how do you make sure you don’t fall into the faults of your own thinking?

2- Do you listen to people who know you and discuss your actions with them so they’d help you evaluate your performance? If so, who’s to say that they are the best evaluate you?

Let me hear your thoughts!
 

What's the value of attendance?

July 6, 2013




I was attending an online class, part of a course in my MBA, simply because there is a grade penalty for missing classes... And I started thinking:

Attendance is a crucial part of the grading system in many educational systems, which is understandable given the importance of the teacher-student relationship in relaying/consuming knowledge. It is understandable when we are in elementary school, intermediary school, even in high school where most students are prone to be careless towards studying, and attending classes can motivate them to make an effort. It is even understandable why attendance can be important during first years of college, where we are making a jump from high school to a different learning style.

But at some point, we outgrow teaching... At least I believe so. At some point, the teacher’s presence is merely a formality, and a justification for educational institutions to charge loads of money. When we reach a certain level of knowledge and awareness, it should be easy for us to read the materials in a book and understand it on our own or make an extra effort to research it through Mr. Google. We don’t need to attend a class where a teacher is merely reading the text in a book and conjuring up examples we can get in a single Google search, with multimedia showcases.

As the world goes digital, education is slowly following the trend, with virtualization of classes and digitalization of knowledge. So as final thoughts, I ask:

1. What is then the value of degrees if most of what we learn, in most areas, is outdated by the time we graduate and thus we rely on the internet to bring us up to date?

2. And what is the value of attending classes when we are old enough to understand and learn on our own, limiting the role of the teacher to guide, supervise, and grade?

Let me hear your thoughts!
 

Goody's Social Media with Nouf AlQethami

May 12, 2013



Nouf AlQethami was recruited as a Community Manager by Goody back in 2010, when that  position  was  still  very  new  unfamiliar  in  the  region.  In  years,  her  job responsibilities grew with the rise of social media marketing, to become in charge of all of Goodys digital activities.

In her role, she focuses on achieving Goodys goals of building brand loyalty among existing customers, raising and increasing awareness about the companys large variety of products, and building a community that maintains a good level of engagement among its target audience which is Saudi females, between 20 and 45, single and married, who are cooking enthusiasts. Based on the brands goals and target audience, she developed the social  media  strategy  after  brainstorming  with  the  brand   manager   and  marketing department, researching  competitors  and  studying  the  Saudi  market. After  thorough assessment, she concluded that Saudi females extensively search for recipes from expert chefs in the region and also  from peers in their networks, which were mostly forums. The young females also thought of Goody as a “mommy” brand, something that moms used that is ancient and not modern. Therefore, there was need for a local online community that can meet these females’ requirements, and building a community using social networking sites would help the brand communicate with the young females and create a “trendier” image.

She realized that building a community will take a lot of time, effort and resources, and the company  was willing to invest and commit to that. The first step in building the community was opening a Facebook Group, in March 2011, as a small-scale experiment, then in January 2012, a full-fledged Facebook Page was launched. A twitter account was also launched earlier in November 2010 but was only activated this past year. The brands youtube channel was also created in September 2010, but only activated about a year ago. Nouf stated that, due to lack of knowledge in those times, it was important to just join these  social  networks,  listen  and  experiment  until  she  develops  clear  content  and communication strategy. She continues to experiment with social media as she adds relevant new and upcoming social networking sites into the mix, such as Instagram.

The brand  had  ready  content  since  it  was  already  maintaining  an  offline  cooking magazine  as  well  as  website  filled  with  local  recipes;  the  website  was  recently remodeled to be “social”, and  the content was used to build conversations and engage with the target audience around what recipes they like and use or like to learn, and drive them to the websites community. The brand focused then on creating valuable content that encourages the audience to engage with it and share it, rather than on pushing for product promotion in a direct and uninteresting way. The content strategy was also supported with a communication strategy that aimed to enable cooking enthusiasts, and support them by  giving them space to showcase their cooking skills in The Goody Kitchen community, to turn them into brand evangelists. Its important to note that the brand uses only the Arabic language in its content and to communicate with its target audience.

Nouf has utilized a mix of tactics to achieve the brands goals, ranging from online to offline. She leveraged the Goody Cooking Academy, which offers cooking enthusiasts 5 free cooking courses, to fuel  content as well as connect with its audience on a more personal level and reward it. She also  maintains  regular social media competitions on Goody  Kitchen Facebook  Page,  as  well  as  third-party  platforms  such  as  Yahoo! Maktoob, with prizes ranging from electronic devices, to Goody products, or a feature/ shout-out in the brands new magazine “The Goody Kitchen”, which is a very  good example of integration between traditional and digital media. Nouf believes that such integration is very important in the Saudi market because there is a big percentage of the brands target audience, mostly the older ones, who do not use social networking sites or have preference for traditional mass  media such as newspapers and magazines. She believes that having digital and traditional media  support each other is a good way to convert the offline audience to online, and to give the online audience something tangible they can keep and value.

Nouf  has  also  used  some  one-of tactics  to  increase  fans/followers  growth  and engagement, such as product placement of Goodys fava beans in an episode of a popular Saudi youtube show called “Masameer”, which targeted young males who are the main buyers of this product. This tactic did not only just achieve the best results in terms of views, likes and virality, seen below, but it has  also  created a big buzz in the Saudi online population on the topic of product placement in Youtube  show, i.e. the commercialization of social shows. After the success of this tactic, she was encouraged to also  test  it  on  Twitter  by  getting  sponsored  tweets  from  HawaaWorld,  the  largest community of  Saudi females online, and WAM (Women Appreciation Month) that is organized  by  femi9,  the  fashion  brand.  These  tactics  are  great  in  increasing  reach; however, when it comes to increasing engagement, Goody Kitchens own Youtube Videos with Chef Sumaya and featuring fans’ own recipes are the most engaging.


Video can be found here: http://youtu.be/QOZHWcMbS2w

When it came to measuring the results, Nouf translated its brand goals into metrics: brand awareness meant reach and fans/followers growth, brand loyalty and community building meant engagement, and social2web conversion meant traffic. To measure these metrics, she used tools such as Facebook Pages  Insights, Klout.com for Twitter, and Google Analytics,   and   used   competitors   such   as   Shahiya.com YumYummy.com   and SahawHana.com for benchmarking.

This post is part of my MBA thesis, titled "Leveraging Social Media Marketing in Food and FMCG Industry in Saudi Arabia". To stay updated with the rest of the thesis, subscribe to my blog!

 

2013 Most Exciting Events: Arabnet Beirut & The Digital Summit

December 19, 2012
 

 
I've attended quite a handful of Social Media and Digital Events so far, and ArabNet events have always been the most I look forward and they just announced their upcoming events in 2013 as follows: 

Building on the success of ArabNet Cairo, ArabNet Riyadh and our annual Digital Summit, today we are happy to announce ArabNet Beirut, a 3 day event which will take place on March 20-22 and feature more than 80 top speakers from the region and beyond to tackle the latest and greatest in the web and mobile business[...]
 

Furthermore, the ArabNet Digital Summit 2013 will be held in Dubai in late May and will tackle the hottest trends and opportunities in the regional and global digital industry. As always, the summit will be a prime location for entrepreneurs, executives, investors and the media to meet, mingle and learn.

In addition to forum days, the Digital Summit will include the Industry Day, which will delve into how digital technology is revolutionizing traditional sectors, like education and travel / tourism.  It will also showcase the most promising entrepreneurs from ArabNet Riyadh and ArabNet Beirut, as well as the awaited grand finale of the ArabNet Developer Tournament.

You can find the complete information about the events here on the Arabnet Blog.

You can also get a copy of that motivating 2013 calendar here. As this might be my last post in 2012, I'd like to wish you a happy new year, and may 2013 be as fantastic as you hope it to be!

Thank you for reading and sharing my post, and for subscribing to my blog ^_^ now that I thanked you for it, you should feel obliged to do it :P see what I did there! hehe

See you in 2013... 
 
 

Munch Bakery's Social Media with Baker Sartawi

December 5, 2012

 
Baker Sartawi is an ex-creative director who has worked for advertising agencies for 12 years, then in 2009, decided to quit advertising and start his own company “Brandwill” that specializes in digital and social media marketing. As the co-founder and digital strategist in Brandwill, he manages many clients such as Munch Bakery, Activia, Mollinex and recently Memories Biscuits, with the support of his team. His approach in handling brands’ digital marketing is very top-level, as his strategy is comprised of 3 axis: Web (a brand’s own website) + Online (Third-party web portals and blogs) + Social (One-to-one communication channels).

He believes that having a social website is key in any social media strategy, because the website is the only platform that a brand can own in its social media mix, while any pages and accounts created on social networks, and the data of the fans/followers on them, can not be owned. Therefore, before he develops a brand’s strategy, he conducts a digital brand assessment to verify if the brand has an existing website and then he tests its functionality, and analyze its sociability, SEO strategy, technicality and background data.

Then, he develops a social media strategy, that is comprised of a technical strategy and a content strategy, that has the goal of migrating fans/followers from social networks to the brand’s website where he can build a database of loyal customers. The technical strategy explores and determines what social networks and channels to use, how to integrate them, what posts goes where, and includes the communication policies and measurement parameters. A part of the technical strategy as well, he designs data centers for the brand to host content and store customer data in a centralized database which he believes is key in the technical success. For example, the application that is developed for Memories Biscuits’ website is the same that will be deployed on its Facebook Page, allowing the app to redirect fans from Facebook to the website to gather insights in one database without duplication.

As for the content strategy, he believes that it is where creativity comes, where he studies if the brand is commercial or social by nature, and develops content that gives the target audience a good reason to “like” a brand’s page. He studies the brand’s products and services to find a common ground between the brand and its target audience that is not commercially-related, i.e. social, to fuel content that can drive them from social networks to the website (Social2web). He stated Munch Bakery as a successful example, saying that it is an emotional and colorful brand, that makes it easier to connect with its target audience using content that is visually appealing and engaging on a personal level; however, they are still in the process of redesigning Munch’s website to make it web 2.0 friendly. The essence of Munch Bakery’s strategy that Baker aims to achieve is “The Munch Obsession”, which communicates the message “We are cake bakers because we love it” through creative content and product display.

To reach Munch Bakery’s goal, Baker employs various tactics, the most successful of which was the sponsorship of Esh Elly episode. Esh Elly is a very popular Youtube show in Saudi Arabia, whose episodes get millions of views within days of their release. In exchange of the sponsorship on Youtube, Munch Bakery also got the chance to have one sponsored post on Esh Elly’s Facebook Page and one sponsored tweet on their twitter account. Baker decided to take advantage of that by making new creative content which was a video of the baking of a cake made for Badr Saleh on his birthday that was designed with his face on it. In 2 days of uploading the video on Facebook Videos, 1’500 fans were converted from Esh Elly’s page organically, and the video had over 400 share, 300 likes and 500 comments on Facebook, and was retweeted about 80 times on Twitter. The video also went viral as an anonymous fan re-uploaded the video on youtube, which, alone, go over 120’000 views. However, Esh Elly’s sponsorship, although highly successful, is very costly. He advises to use such sponsorships only to “test the waters” and increase awareness sharply to drive more people to a brand’s pages where it can engage them using cost-effective content. A great example of that, he shared, is using the Questions feature on Facebook to ask Munch Bakery’s fans what flavor they would like them to bake for Ramadan. The question resulted in over 6’000 votes, but what’s more valuable is that the brand gained really useful insights on new product ideas (what flavors their customers would buy), and it also made their customers feel valued because their opinions matter.

Baker measures the success of his strategy by setting Key Performance Indicators according to brand goals and using various analytics platforms such as Hootsuite Analytics, and Klout. He also uses Hootsuite for listening, moderation and community management. Although he measures audience growth rate and engagement rate, he feels that the best KPI of social media is “virality” as it is a good measure of how great the content is based on how many shared it to their own networks.
 This post is part of my MBA thesis, titled "Leveraging Social Media Marketing in Food and FMCG Industry in Saudi Arabia". To stay updated with the rest of the thesis, subscribe to my blog!
 

A Synopsis: Webit Congress 2012

October 20, 2012
 

 
In October 10 and 11, apart from the amazing time I spent in Istanbul, I had the pleasure of attending Webit Congress. Seeing many professionals from across Europe & the Middle East gathered in one place for the purpose of sharing and exchanging knowledge of the digital world was quite refreshing.

Here are some statistics about the 2012 Congress, as stated by Webit Expo:

Visiting countries72
Number of speakers187 (see all of them here)
International and local exhibitors50 (see list)
Worldwide supporting media and partners130
With the strategic support ofIAB Europe, EACA, EGTA, OPA, Arab ICT Organization, European Commission

HE Minister Binali Yildirim (Minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications of the Republic of Turkey) opened the Congress on 10 October together with Plamen Russev (Chairman of eAcademy/founder of Webit), Alain Heureux (President and CEO IAB Europe), Dominic Lyle (Director General EACA), Dr. Tayfun Acarer (BTK Chairman) and other officials.


The major conferences within the Congress were:
- Marketing and Innovation Conference
- Entrepreneurship Conference
- Telco Conference 
- e-Commerce Conference and e-Commerce SEO Master Class
- Apps Development Workshops
- Free Seminars on Digital & TechnologyThe only global Webit Awards Ceremony for digital marketing effectiveness and technology excellence for the Word's New Digital Markets also took place on 10 October.  

I was of course mostly interested in the Marketing and Innovation Conference, particularly the social media stream which came first. I got in half way through, Facebook's Regional Directory, Diego Oliva's presentation on the future of Social Media where he spoke of the importance of Facebook Fans and their friends to brand pages, calling them "real fans" given the value they present to businesses in terms of sales. The image below showcases some of the percentages of sales from Facebook fans and their friends for big brands on Facebook pages.
 



 
It was Guillaume du Gardier, Head of Digital Media at Ferrero, whom I really liked. He firstly disagreed with Diego on the statement that Facebook fans are real fans, considering the number of inactive, fake and duplicate accounts. He urged for a feature that allows brand pages to discover fans who haven't been connected with a brand in the last 3 months by hiding the updates from their ticker/feed, not visiting the page anymore, and never interact with it, and allow them to automatically take these fans off the page as they failed to provide them with an attractive brand experience. He urges brands to care about active fans, not about "accounts". He explains that having thousands of fans is not as important as having a "scaled" number of fans. Scale is the percentage of fans from the number of consumers reached through sales. So, for example, having hundreds of thousands of fans on your Facebook page is not that impressive if your weekly sales are per millions. He also suggested that Facebook introduces a way that allows brands to connect with fan-made pages in a way that is mutually beneficial for both of them.

Among other interesting seminars at the conference, I quite liked the concept of Wakoopa as presented by its CEO Piet Hein Van Dam, compromising of allowing it to track our own digital footprint (websites we visit, apps we use, ads we interact with, etc.) in return for rewards. Many websites already track our digital footprint and sell it for huge profits and we got nothing out of it. Through Wakoopa, we control what it tracks and when, and we benefit from it.
 

 

One presentation I very much enjoyed was by the energetic and lively Rina Onur, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Peak Games, who spoke about the importance of gaming in our life and how it's getting more and more integrated in other sectors like business and education and will continue to grow into more sectors in the future.

All in all, it was a great event with many valuable seminars, some of which were running at the same time so it was hard to follow up with all of them. It was only brought down by the terrible internet connection which made it difficult for bloggers like me to enjoy the event by live-tweeting and connecting to others during it. It's certainly an experience worth attending though.

Follow Webit Expo on Facebook or Twitter to stay updated with when they make the presentations available for download. However, I think they would only be available for those who have already been registered, in which case I'll be able to get them for you. You just have to remind me and ask me fo them! Be sure to keep on following me for more updates on future events like ContentArabia, which I will be speaking at on November 7th in Amman, Jordan.

 

Interview with Ahmad Kamoun: The Axe Middle East Social Media Case Study

September 1, 2012

 

Ahmad Kammoun is the Creative Director at Saracen Advertising, responsible for idea creation and strategy of social media marketing for various brands, including AXE Middle East. Axe Middle East started its social media marketing with a Facebook page on June 27, 2011. Efforts were focused on the entire of Middle East, but earlier this February, they adopted a more specific approach for Saudi Arabia, lead by Ahmad.

Ahmad stated that Axe found more interactivity with its audience online, through social networks, since its clientele is highly mobile & cyber. Being a “fun” brand, it found a cost-effective way to humanize and personify the brand for its target audience.

Axe’s goals from using social media for the Saudi market are:

  • To increase brand awareness,
  • To engage and interact with its target audience,
  • To support its traditional marketing campaigns,
  • To increase its sales by diversifying its clientele.

The brand defined its target audience as: Saudi men between the ages of 18 and 35, single and married, interested in learning about attracting women, tech savvy, and care more about having an attitude rather than just looks.

To achieve these goals, Ahmad kept focus on Facebook as its young adult male-dominated network makes it ideal. It is important to note, that the Facebook Page is managed by different admins for the various countries in the Middle East, but Facebook’s feature of allowing Pages to target specific countries with each post makes it possible to keep content and fans’ engagement separate for each market. His approach is to keep Facebook fans engaged with continuous campaigns that vary between traditional campaigns driving traffic to Facebook or inviting Facebook fans to take part, online campaigns that extend to offline activities, and sometimes separate online & traditional campaigns that don’t have the same message. Ahmad believes that a mix between traditional and Facebook campaigns works best for its audience to see the brand’s “face”, and get them to interact with it, giving 80% for online activities and taking 20% of it offline as to keep costs low while still keeping in touch with the audience.

Ahmad’s content strategy for the brand is to create his own content, rather than depend on sharing third-party content. The approach is to focus on the fans’ interests, such as college days, cars, football, etc. 

For example, when Eurocup 2012 was running, the page’s content focused on teams, games and scores, such as in image below, where Axe Middle East asked its Saudi fans to vote for the football team they support in Eurocup. The question resulted in 150 votes.

  
Axe Middle East engages its fans with Questions. 

Ahmad also tried to maintain the level of engagement by launching photo contests; however, it wasn’t very successful so he rectified the tactic by “taking it offline” and inviting fans to visit Axe booths where they can have snapshots of themselves and get a free Axe deodorant in return, which salvaged the situation.

He also successfully used the fact that photo posts has higher engagement according to Facebook insights, and created mini-game posts such as “Spot the differences (between 2 photos)”, and puzzle photos that increased the virality of the post by asking fans to “share” them if they find the answers. The image below is an example of a post that got 23 shares.

 Axe Middle East Increases Virality with Photo Puzzles.

Another example of highly-engaging posts are challenge posts, where fans were challenged to post 20 comments without being interrupted by another comment, and it resulted in over 400 comments.

Nonetheless, Ahmad primarily believes that the best tactic to drive engagement is creating and using “apps”. In the beginning of March, The Axometer App was launched, where fans can play online or join an Axe booth at malls to play, and measure their level of awesomeness and ability to attract women. Even without prizes, the campaign resulted  in an organic increase of 19’000 fans in a month and a half. Therefore, he plans to have 6 apps per year, that are supported with offline campaigns.

He also included Twitter in the social media mix, starting June; however, it didn’t get as much success even when he tried to convert Facebook fans to become Twitter followers and offered incentives. He believes it did not work because Facebook users and Twitter users speak different “lingos” and therefore, the majority of those who prefer Facebook, do not understand Twitter. He realizes that mere experimentation and engagement does not work on Twitter, and that a separate customized strategy should be developed to succeed on this network.

The main challenge that Ahmad faced the social media marketing of the brand is the cultural limitation in Saudi Arabia. Globally, the brand’s essence is “the mating game” that revolves around helping guys attract and hook up with hot women through using Axe deodorant. This called for re-adjusting the brand’s essence to respect the local culture while still trying to maintain harmony with the global brand image.

Another challenge that Ahmad faced are the seasonal drops in engagement, for example, during exam times where the majority of the young fans spend less time on Facebook. Ahmad tried to overcome the drop by sharing content focused on aiding fans in the occasion such as studying tips. 

Ahmad knew that the key to strategy success is continuous measurement. He used Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to set targets for 2 important Facebook metrics: Fans’ growth rate, and engagement rate. He tracked those KPIs using Facebook Insights solely, with no aid of third-party measurement tools. The effectiveness of the apps was measured through analytics provided within the apps that measure what features were used most and what weren’t, which provides guidelines for the future apps. Lastly,  consumer insights and reflect on sales were used to measure the success in increasing sales (brand goal) by having promoters at offline activities gather data from/about customers.  


 This post is part of my MBA thesis, titled "Leveraging Social Media Marketing in Food and FMCG Industry in Saudi Arabia". To stay updated with the rest of the thesis, subscribe to my blog!

 
 

Preview of: Leveraging Social Media Marketing in Food & FMCG Industry in Saudi Arabia

August 7, 2012

 
After a long research, which you would have probably heard me complain about keeping me up all night for a month, it's finally done!

I'm still working on editing and perfecting the thesis, but to not keep you any longer, I published a preview of the abstract and table of content.

Although the thesis, as the title implies, focuses on social media marketing for Food and FMCG brands in Saudi Arabia, it provides a universal framework for building a social media strategy for most brands in any market.

The thesis also includes references to various links and resources that form a great reading list necessary for you in building your own customized strategy and understanding of social media marketing and communications.

And of course I'll be here to answer your questions or welcome your feedback, so go ahead and start by going through the preview below and leaving me a comment afterwards. 

Don't forget to subscribe to my blog to stay updated once I start publishing the full thesis! 
 

Arabnet 2012: The Afterthought

April 9, 2012
 
Do you follow me on Twitter? Then I must have spammed you a week ago for five days tweeting about the largest digital event in the region: Arabnet Digital Summit

I had the pleasure of attending Arabnet 2011, and a greater pleasure returning to Arabnet 2012 as an official blogger among some other great bloggers. This year’s event was bigger, with more workshops and talks, and more focus on details! Read on to know what you've missed ;)

Starting with the Developer Days on March 27 – 28, there has been a great focus on the mobile industry. It’s not a surprise since the world is going mobile, more precisely 80% of the world already owns a mobile phone and 84% of them use it for internet browsing and 59% of them use it for social networking. Other interesting statistics can be found in The Smartphone Usage Statistics 2012 [Infographic]! And according to Google’s 12 Mobile Prediction for 2012 at Arabnet, one million small businesses will go online with a mobile website, and Arabnet made sure it included enough talks and workshops to help pave the way for them. 
This year’s Developer Days were better planned with more room for more people and better networking, at the Metropolitan Palace. The most interesting workshop was The Facebook Developer Garage: Open Graph and Mobile Apps by Stephane Crozatier, Partner Engineer at Facebook who gave the developers some hands-on tips and answered the audiences’ question regarding the social networking giant. Stephane was clearly pushing for less fake accounts, but sadly, it doesn’t seem that Facebook has yet developed a strategy to combat that. Which leaves you wondering: Of the 800+ million accounts on Facebook, how many are the real users? Most of the friends you know have probably more than one account, not to count the dozens of brand accounts that agencies create, and the fake accounts that prize hunters create to vote themselves up in a Facebook competition. The first day ended with an Overnight Developer Competition that encouraged developers to compete over the course of 12 sleepless hours to build a web application or a mobile app.  
  
What was different this year was the addition of Industry Day on March 28, which had workshops and talks covering 4 industries: Healthcare, Education, Travel, and Banking. Although I loved the micro-focus on each industry separately, but it made things confusing for me and other people I talked to at the event because it was difficult to choose which industry workshop to attend, given that we can’t be in more than one place at the same time. However, following the hashtag did make it easier to get bits and pieces from all workshops. I personally attended some Travel and Education workshops, the most interesting of which was Leila Khauli’s case study of The Use of Social Media in the Classroom. Check out the hashtags of her classrooms to see how she helps her marketing students apply their social media skills in their class: #mktg225 #mktg350b

The Forum Days on March 29 – 30 are usually the most important and most crowded, especially since it featured the Ideathon competition where multiple contestants presented their ideas to appeal for funding and of course the Arabnet prizes. Winning first place was Mahmoud AlDwairy with his Influsense idea which you should ask him about because it’s interesting :D It’s mostly like Klout but with a gamified competition where influencers need to perform certain tasks to get influence points in certain topics, making it easier for brands to target them as promoters. The Forum Days were filled with too much great content for me to restate here! But just to recap, some of the presentations that stood out were The Social Bakers’ Measuring Social Media with Jan Rezab and the Augmented Reality demo by Omar Tayeb Gilles Fayad. 

Overall, a prominent feature in this year’s Arabnet was Sociatag which allowed attendees to register their Facebook accounts on a Sociatag card that they could use in various checkpoints in the event to “check-in”, “like” a workshop, or take a photo and post it to Arabnet’s Facebook Page album which is fun to browse even though the image quality is a disaster hehe

On a side note, Mike Butcher, a correspondent from TechCrunch and a feature speaker at Arabnet, co-hosted a meet-up (#TCBeirut) alongside Wamda and AltCity. I was looking forward to that event like many others. To my disappointment, the meet-up, which was supposed to be a gathering of intellectual minds discussing the future tech in the Middle East and the digital ecosystem in Lebanon, took place at a small pub in Hamra where drinks and loud music buried any potential for intelligent conversations. In my humble opinion, which I am sure is supported by the general global professional standards, a meeting with any valuable input should never be held at venues that do not facilitate networking and discussion, and certainly does not defer most of its conservative target audience. The meet-up should have taken place at a more appropriate bigger space where everyone could have enjoyed it and benefited from it, then, those who wanted to grab a drink could have gone altogether afterwards… Just my two cents! 

Keep on the look out for the coverage from the other official bloggers on Arabnet’s Facebook Page and Twitter account, and leave your questions and comments to me below :D
 

Arabnet Digital Summit 2012 Agenda

March 9, 2012
 

Over 100 leading global and regional ICT professionals are set to take the stage at the ArabNet Digital Summit 2012 to share their expertise on the latest trends and topics in the field of online business.

The dynamic line up of speakers will include respected professionals from well-known organizations such as Osama Bedeir, Vice President of Payments at Google; Shervin Pishevar, Managing Director at Menlo Ventures; Amina Belghiti, Head of Platform Partnerships, New Markets EMEA, Facebook; and Barry Wacksman, Chief Growth Officer at R/GA. Presentations will provide in depth insight into a wide spectrum of topics such as entrepreneurship, investment, the future of media and advertising, interaction through social media platforms, and the affect of the latest technology trends on the digital market.

“We are creating a platform for the exchange of ideas between individuals at all levels of the industry with the aim of generating true forward movement for the many strong public and private sector initiatives shaping the region’s online markets,” stated Omar Christidis, Founder of ArabNet. “The region is seeing remarkable growth in the online space and major new opportunities are opening up daily. We’re aiming to harness that energy at the Summit.”

Over the span of the five-day summit, speakers will focus especially on fields such as commerce that have witnessed major shifts to online, and adopted new models in order to keep pace in an increasingly digital world.

“E-commerce in particular has developed at a stupendous rate over the past year. Websites like MarkaVIP and Jadopado have been experiencing remarkable growth both in terms of customer acquisition and revenues” explains Christidis.

The region has also seen the proliferation of vertical sales websites like Mumzworld, an e-commerce site dedicated to mothers, and Run2Sport, the first online sports apparel shop in the Middle East. The latter alone secured a 2.5 million USD investment from Souq.com, a Jabbar Internet Group company.

“Of course the Telecom industry remains a key player in the tech sector, with mobile operators looking to increase and expand their revenue streams through creating and monetizing content” adds Christidis.

The ArabNet Digital Summit 2012 is garnering huge interest from the Telecom industry. This year Saudi Telecom Company (STC) joins ArabNet as a Strategic Partner in addition to Bank Audi and MBC Group, with Lebanese Mobile Operator Alfa sponsoring the event. The Summit will also host a Telecom Executives Panel that features speakers from STC, Vodafone Egypt, and Oger Telecom.

The future of media will be addressed as well in light of the latest developments in web, placing special emphasis on the convergence of television and online media, SmartTVs and on-demand content, and the evolution of news reporting through crowd-sourced information and citizen journalism.

 

What Startups Need: An ArabNet Community.

February 10, 2012
 

 
When you work in the social media field like I do, it becomes inevitable to run into startups that are eager to launch the newest idea, the most tech-advanced service or the best-specialized network. As a startup, it is perhaps important to believe that the product you’re developing will be a success, will bring you fame, and help you cash in, hopefully sooner than later.

I do not claim to be an expert on entrepreneurship and startups, but if there is one thing that I can deduce by common sense, it’s that every successful business needs a COMMUNITY! An interesting definition of a community is by Michael Wu, the Principal Scientist of Analytics at Lithium Technologies Inc.:
A community (both online and offline) consist of people from all walks of life that seem to have no relationship at all but is a very robust social structure. What holds a community together is common interest. It maybe a hobby, something the community members are passionate about, a common goal, a common project, or merely the preference for a similar lifestyle, geographical location, or profession. People join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community (source).

Building a community may or may not be a long daunting task depending on what your product is, but it is a known fact that it is never as easy as “Build it and they shall come”. Growing Facebook from a small college community to the largest global community did not happen in a day. It wasn’t that the idea of Facebook was so revolutionary, in the simplest terms, it succeeded in capturing a fraction of a community with common interests (college students who wanted a social way to get to know each other), then gave way to that community to create other sub-communities with other common interests that others joined in, until everyone else felt they MUST be part of that community. According to Matthew Shampine, a serial entrepreneur, as a startup founder, you should not “be too focused on your product, because if you’re not building a community for it, it may never get off the ground.” He gives 2 successful case studies on how building a community the right way can help your idea or product (Source).

 As a startup in the MENA region, your best chance is to find opportunities where early adopters, fellow entrepreneurs and potential investors... For you, that means the digital MENA event of the year, ArabNet Digital Summit. It’s the biggest event for web and mobile in the region! Last year’s summit brought over 1000 attendees, 100 speakers, featured 18 panels and 17 talks, in addition to 20 entrepreneurs pitching their ideas and startups. And this year’s summit is less than 2 months away so you better start working on your pitches and hone your skills in building your community! This year’s event is going to be even bigger. Cutting-edge panel discussions, specialized workshops, exciting competitions, focused networking sessions, social activities and more, spread over 5 action packed days including:
  • Two Developer Days with technical discussions and workshops for programmers. Even though I am not a developer, but I did enjoy this day as you can read in my post from ArabNet Digital Summit 2011.
  • An Industry Day about how web and mobile are transforming traditional industries like healthcare, travel, education and banking.
  • Two Forum Days, the largest gathering of digital business leaders in the region featuring over 100 globally renowned speakers covering the latest trends and technologies in web and mobile.
  • A Community Day raising public awareness about the the power of digital.
The Digital Summit will also include ArabNet’s annual competitions: the Ideathon and Startup Demo. The Ideathon aims at turning bright ideas into functional products will introduce the top 20 entrepreneurs and startups in the region, exposing the latest in digital entrepreneurship and giving entrants the chance to win big cash prizes and the attention of investors, incubators, and developers, not to mention the media! You’ll for sure have a better chance at exposure if you actually participate in the Ideathon. So you put your entrepreneurial hat on and get ready to network!

As one of the official bloggers of ArabNet Digital Summit 2012, I'll be bringing you more news about the conference and will be live covering it from March 27 till March 31. So don't forget to subscribe to my RSS, and follow me on Twitter if you aren't already ;)

(Image source) 

 

Lessons of Engagement on Facebook Pages

September 26, 2011

 
A Facebook Page for your brand is almost always an obvious must-have in your social media platforms. Despite the contrary belief, or what some so-called online marketers would try to sell you, having a facebook page is not about the number of fans you have… it’s about attracting your true target audience and engaging them in effort to achieve your business goals.
Your target audience is easily your customers, potential customers, or any entities you’d like to get a message to. Reaching your target audience and getting them to “like” your page & be active on it are also a result of engaging the fans. Think of it as a cycle: You get fans, you engage them, the message reach other potential fans that, then, become fans to participate in the engagement. 

For the purposes of clarification, engagement in terms of Facebook is wall posts, comments and likes in the literary sense. In a much more comprehensive sense, engagement is the collection of fan feedback that carries a value, be it negative, positive or neutral. In my personal and professional opinion, I’d classify the types of engagement per value (according to their attributes in the right table), from lowest to highest, as: 
 
 

 
Now that we’ve got introductions out of the way, we can get straight to the points:

Personalize Engagement
.
It might be common sense to be social in your engagement with the fans since you are on a social network, but personalizing it is a whole different level. Teach the fans to communicate with the brand through a person, not an admin! Talking to an admin is formal & eerie, no matter how social that admin is, because at the end of the day, the fans are talking to someone who they have absolutely no idea of. Therefore, it makes it harder to build a closer relationship with them & get their trust. Yes it is that dramatic. By giving your admin a name and personality, you paint a picture of him/her in the minds of the fans that allow them to cross intimacy barriers. The character communicating with the fans needs not be a match of the person who is really managing it. You can be a female college student who is managing a brand page that requires you to speak as a businessman because that’s whom your target audience will relate to. That’s why, if you work in an agency that handles social media for different clients & brands, you need to be trained to understand each brand fully & mimic different personalities and speak a language that is inviting to the fans of each page. 
Creating a personality for the admin of a page might not be an easy task if the target audience varies in gender, age and demographics; but even in the worst cases, there will be a set of common characteristics between them and that is what makes them all fans of your page. Find those common characteristics & inject them in the page’s personality. If it helps, you can even create more than a persona to manage the page, and be sure to make that clear to the fans by including the name of each persona with its related post. For example, let’s say you are running a brand magazine page with posts about men fashion and women fashion. You might want to create male and female personas and announce it to the fans that, for example, John is the expert on men fashion & is the one behind the related posts, and Jane is the female fashion expert handling those postings. Signing the name of the different people behind each post is common recommended practice for pages that are handled by a team of admins for real. 
In some cases, the strategy of having a personalized page or different personas per page might not be recommended, so if you’re unsure whether it fits your brand or not, drop me a line below & I’ll help you with that! 

Don’t Get TOO Personal. I don’t mean to confuse you or contradict with the first lesson, but there are limits that you need to keep so you can maintain successful engagement. While you want to humanize the brand and personalize communication, you do not want to dissociate the admin from the brand. While you want to get close to your fans & create a bond with them, you do not want to creep them out by getting too personal because at the end of the day, you are representing a brand & a company that is legally accountable if it infringes on the privacy of its fans or acts inappropriately. So for example, it would be okay for you to pass a general comment asking the fans about the well-being of their families, but you do not want to dig deep into their network & friends’ updates to ask a fan about how her niece’s surgery went. Sure you might be asking that from the kindness of your heart, but to the fan, you would just seem like a stalker hiding anonymously behind a brand name, or even a company that is invading her social/personal turf.  
Another lesson in not getting too personal is to avoid letting your own personal issues slide into the admin’s character/brand spokesperson. There might be fans who are offensive, stupid, intolerable, and annoying, but keep in mind that you are representing a brand at all times, and to a brand, respect is due to everyone with no discrimination. So do not comment when you are feeling emotional: agitated, pissed off, depressed, or even too excited where you might say things in a rush that would hold the brand accountable. No matter how cool or personal you want to portray the admin’s persona, always keep a respectful tone because no brand is in the business of insulting people or alienating them! Learn to handle negative comments diplomatically as a role model would; you will have to be a perfect communicator all the time, if you feel any less than perfect then step away from the page & come back when you do.


This concludes my first two lessons and surely there are more to come. If there is anything specific that you’d like to ask about or you would like a review of your own Facebook page, leave a comment below.
 

Memories in Gold… with Nokia Oro

August 19, 2011

 
  


There’s nothing like spending a week in Lebanon hanging out with friends and having fun… except commemorating it with a golden mobile phone, the Nokia Oro… A phone that’s easy to use and easy to carry, with no compromise on beauty or elegance. 

18 carat goldpremium leather and a sapphire home key were surely attention-grabbers every time I held the phone to use it. My friends had a few good jokes about taking it & running away with it :P
 
 

The phone has 3 customizable homescreen as you see in the photo above. And although I’m not a fan of touch-screen phones that don’t have tactile keyboards, but the QWERTY touch keyboard on the Nokia Oro wasn’t bad at all. Unlike the Pink Nokia N8, the Nokia Oro had a full keyboard in both landscape and portrait mode, making it easier to sms, chat and tweet all day long.

  



 
As most people can guess by following my twitter or from my Facebook albums, I like taking photos of everything, everywhere I go so it’s critical that the phone’s camera is of great capabilities. The Nokia Oro is equipped with an 8 megapixels camera and face recognition software, making it ideal for photo taking as you see in the some of the photos I took below.


 

 

& As I had hoped of any Nokia phone, the Nokia Oro had a really useful photo editor that I miss in my HTC Desire Z. I’m a fanatic of editing photo’s color balance, contrast, and exposure until I get real vibrant colors in my photos… the Nokia Oro’s phone editor gave me exactly that and more. You can see the difference in one of the photos I edited below.

The Before


The After


As a positive change, the Nokia Oro sports a Micro USB connector and charging. It’s compatible with the typical USB cable that you’d use for any of your other digital devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players, and new mobile phones. You don’t have to worry about keeping many chargers with you at all times, you just need to carry one USB cable & look for a USB slot to plug it in & fill your battery up :D This saved me from a dying battery so many times!
 
I don't want to get into apps in details because as you already know, you can get most of the apps you want through the Nokia Ovi. However, one game app (that was pre-installed in my Nokia Oro) that really caught my attention and I enjoyed playing is Climate Mission. It's a fun educational game with an ecological environmental message! You can check out the trailer below to know more about the game. I hope we get to see more of these games especially ones that are targeting children instead of most of the crap they play these days!
 
 

To conclude, while I’m not too big on showing off, it feels nice carrying a mobile phone that not many other people carry. There’s just nothing special about a mobile that everyone you’ll ever meet carries (Yes, I’m talking about iPhone & Blackberry). So if you fancy some uniqueness and you’re just down right fancy, you’ll definitely love a Nokio Oro! Case in point, my very classy & upscale aunt (she's so classy & upscale that we call her Hajje Calvin Klein) loved the phone & intends to get one ;)
 
   

 

HOW TO: REALLY LIKE TWITTER

August 6, 2011
 I live in the Middle East and you don't need statistics to know that people here are more of Facebook fans, probably because we tend to be very talkative and 140 characters simply doesn’t cut it for most of us. Or perhaps because FarmVille doesn't have an account on Twitter (for which I'm really grateful).

I asked some friends about that, and read some other people's opinions on it, and barely any of them seemed to really like Twitter. But I kept seeing it everywhere online and was curious enough to try it, and finally took the leap about 2 months ago. After spending all that time interacting with people on Twitter, learning about it and from it, I really liked it and even became addicted to it! So I figured that liking Twitter or not liking it depends on your understanding of it, your experience with it, and basically how you start on it! 


Facebook Vs. Twitter

Seriously, stop comparing between these two. I've been on Facebook for many years now and for almost 2 years on Twitter but I knew they are completely different from my first day on Twitter. I was told that Facebook is much more fun than Twitter and that the latter is basically only updating your status. WRONG! I've had more interactions and more fun on Twitter than I've had in years on Facebook. Facebook is really great when it comes to keeping in touch with your family and friends easily, and checking out their photos, and sharing things with them. But Twitter is like having the entire world on wheels that keep the fun coming your way. I was also told that Twitter is lame. WRONG AGAIN! I said it before and I say it again now, Twitter is only lame if you're following lame people (and dare I say, if you're lame too!). In one hour on Twitter, you will learn more things than you would in a week on Facebook.

If you really learn how to use Twitter, it can be the best thing ever (until something even better comes along in the future, it will for sure, but for now Twitter is doing just great). Now here are some answers that would help you start on Twitter (they're also good if you've already started but not really doing well!): 


What Do I Use Twitter For?

Before you decide to use twitter, you need to know WHY you want to use it. Do you have a blog/website that you want to promote? Do you have a business that you want to grow? Or do you just have a lot of spare time and you want something new and cool to have fun doing? If it's the latter, then you've come to the right place, because I tweet for fun mainly. Sure it doesn't matter to anyone else why you want to be on Twitter (unless you're a spammer, in which case STAY AWAY!), but it would help you to know what your goal is to know where to go from there. In my opinion, there is no wrong reason to be on Twitter, there are just wrong uses of it. If you're not sure what the experience is going to be like, then read some posts about it first, but the experience greatly varies from one person to the other. Some people are addicted to it, some people think it's very useful, and others just can't understand it and even hate it. So I say the best bet is to just go ahead and try it for yourself! 

Tips: If you want to learn everything about Twitter, you can start here with Mashable's Twitter Guidebook (who you should follow as well).

Who Do I Follow?

There is no general rule here. There are people from everywhere tweeting about everything all the time (Yes, all the time!). So you can decide to follow whoever you want to follow and that depends on  your goal as per the previous point. Basically there are different types of tweeters, and you can learn about them from Guy Kawasaki's The Six Twitter Types or Mashable's The 10 Users You'll Meet On Twitter. You might want to follow people in your niche so you can get the scoop on all the related news if you want to use Twitter for professional goals, or follow interesting people who tweet about anything that you can find online, or maybe specialized people (or brands) who just focus on one topic like technology, politics, movies, celebrity news, etc. You can follow all the celebrities you love, if you're into that sort of things, to keep up with their latest updates, the most active and interesting ones being Ashton Kutcher and Alyssa Milano. And there are non-celebrities but really amazing people that you would want to follow like Guy Kawasaki (He has the greatest stuff but don't expect him to talk to you though), Diana Adams (The most lovable person on Twitter with lots of interesting links and will reply to you),  Blair Semenoff (He keeps the interesting links coming, and he still stops once in a while to thank you for a retweet or retweet something interesting you shared),  Scott Stratten (this dude is hilarious, enough said!) and many others (you can just check out my VIP list to see who I personally like). 

Tips: You can start by following people based on their interests or professions by checking out sites like www.listorious.com or www.wefollow.com; and you can also follow people from the blogs and websites you like. 

P.S.: Don't go on a following frenzy and follow everyone you see. You are only allowed to follow up to 2,000 people at first, until the number of your followers is right about that much (The rule is you can only follow 10% more than the number of your followers once you get to 2,000). 


Who Would Follow Me?

Unless you are a celebrity, you will probably suffer with that a bit. Don't expect the number of your followers to skyrocket anytime soon, and that's OK. Don't worry because you will get followers anyway. But the number and quality of your followers will greatly depend on your tweeting skills. Just expect a lot of spammers (people promising you lots of money or followers), bots (accounts with numbers in their names and pictures of hot chicks, especially if they offer you porn) and marketers (basically the same as those who call you up at inconvenient times, or send you junk emails) to follow you in the beginning. And whatever you do, PLEASE don't fall for those telling you they can get you thousands of followers. I know we all want to have thousands of followers to brag about, but soon enough you'll know that getting followers who are really interested in YOU and love what you do is much more rewarding than a huge number of followers who don't really care about you. 

Tips: If you really want to reasonably increase the number of your followers then start by following back those who already took the time to follow you, and also look for others who often follow back but make sure they are worth following (as mentioned in the previous point). 

What Do I Tweet?

Of course that's also your business and no one should tell you what to do with your own account, but if you simply want to tweet about meaningless things in your day (like what you had for lunch or dinner, what your mom just said to you on the phone, how upset you are about something, the color of your PJs, etc), don't expect people to care enough to follow you. Apart from that, you can tweet about anything you like. You can share interesting links you find online, you can share various news, quotes, your blog posts (if you have one), jokes, etc. It all depends on what kind of followers you want, and on what you enjoy best. In my opinion, it would be best to include a bit of everything, that way you know that no matter who is following you, they would at least like some of your stuff, and that would get you other followers as well. And surely it matters what your followers like because you're not there tweeting "for your eyes only". The whole point about Twitter, the way I see it, is that you share things you already know and enjoy with others who you think would enjoy them too. So yes, it is (or at least should be) about sharing! Now the best thing you can share with your followers is a conversation. Make sure you always engage with your followers by initiating conversations with them, commenting on their tweets or answering their questions, retweeting the ones you like, or thanking them for retweeting yours and replying to them as often as you can. Always, ALWAYS, make time to talk to people. It's not called a "social" network on a whim, you are expected and you should socialize with people. 

Tips: If you're not getting many followers, it might mean you're not a good tweeter. Try to see what others are tweeting and learn from them. You can also see what your current followers like and retweet, and tweet similar things. 

P.S.: When you engage in a conversation with someone, make sure you move that to the Direct Messages so you don't annoy the rest of the followers, unless you think they'd be interested in it. Also, if you initiate a conversation with someone and they don't answer you back, it's not the end of the world!  (I've come to learn that personally, and I was even featured in a post for it). Perhaps they are very busy, or maybe that's just their style and they don't like to talk to people. If you get too irritated with it then you can always unfollow them, unless they really tweet valuable things which would redeem their lack of sociability.

When Do I Tweet?

Practically whenever you want and whenever you have time. Once you get the hang of it, you will probably find yourself addicted to it and browsing the net from site to site to find interesting things to share all the time. But I'm sure you have a job or an actual social offline life, and you can't afford to tweet at all times. But take note that the frequency of your tweets is related to how many followers you get. If you rarely tweet, then you probably won't get as many followers as you'd like. So just make sure, if you can, that you would tweet at least a couple of times a day. But seriously there is no rule here either, it all goes back to what you're comfortable with. Just don't stress over it. If you can make time to tweet interesting things every day, then do so and you will see the difference it would make. If you can't, then it's not a big deal, but just make your time there worth it. 

Tips: You can use services like Hootsuite to schedule your tweets to a later time. So if you have some free time now, but you know you will be busy the next day or so, you can tweet a few extra things and schedule them to when you would be offline. One thing I personally do is that I reschedule the really interesting things for 6 hours or 12 hours later so that followers who missed them the first time can check them out the second time when I am offline. Just don't overdo it and keep the repeated tweets at least 6 hours apart and schedule them for the peak times depending on where your followers are. 


Of course, there are a lot more things that you need to learn about Twitter and you can find them everywhere online written by much more experienced tweeters. But the 5 things above are what will directly affect your Twitter experience, the rest are just techniques that would make your journey easier. 

If you're still hung up on the 140 character limit, just remember that some of the best things come in small packages… Just look at how small the iPhone is! Or kittens… those are really cute too. 

Now name other great things that come in small packages, or share your own Twitter start-up experience with us. And if you like this, don't forget to retweet it and subscribe to my RSS feed or follow me on Twitter if you aren't doing so already.


Thanks to Cute-Death for the really cute picture I used!
 

Pink is Freedom: The Nokia N8

June 20, 2011
 
My favorite colors are red and black as someone who've always sought out passion and power. However, when I was designing my personal brand about a year and a half ago, red and black didn't feel to have the right touch. In a shocking twist, it was pink with black that felt very inspiring to me, I say "shocking" because everyone who knew me knew that I was an anti-pink girl. Ever since I launched my website, my branding identity and my online activity, I experienced growth more than I have ever imagined, reaching a state of independence and… freedom.

Being also a branding fanatic, you bet I like to make sure that everything about me reflects my personal brand. That's why I was excited about getting hold of the new Nokia N8, priding itself on being pink. It's been the lightest device I've owned and it's been very easy carrying it around and using it for hours. And look how awesome its picture looks in my blog :P it looks even better with my business card!

As someone who is addicted to taking pictures with my phone wherever I go, the N8 has been quite practical to use as a digital camera especially with its 12MP camera and many photo editing tools. Compared to the HTC Desire and Desire Z that my friend and I carry for personal use, the photos of the N8 had much more vibrant colors and were sharper and more detailed. For photography hobbyists, such as my friend @flopjoke who carries the older (blue) N8, the mobile camera is just amazing to use in different conditions to get great results and memories that lasts. Below is one of his photos with the caption: "Just spotted a blue BMW Z4 in Khobar. The large sensor in Nokia N8's camera helps a lot in low light!"


The N8 was also easy to play games with because of its practical size and weight, and it came equipped with a free version of Seasons Angry Birds, i.e. hours wasted in pig bashing :P. I must say my friends also kept bugging me about borrowing it to play Angry Birds and Need For Speed which was very amusing to play with this phone. In terms of applications, which is a critical part for me when it comes to mobiles, N8 Pink comes equipped with the basic apps from Ovi. The most app I was looking forward to having again in a Nokia phone is the Nokia Email Messaging where I can add multiple Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo email accounts in the same app. Otherwise I have to set up each email account in a different app and it gets really annoying to update all of them and remember to check them all.

The phone is also great to use for social networking but only if you intend to just browse around and read updates because personally I wouldn't depend on just a touch phone for heavy typing, messaging and social updating… and I'm a heavy social updater so I can never disregard having a tactile QWERTY keyboard. It would be a bit more appropriate to at least have a QWERTY touch keyboard which you only have in landscape mode of the N8 but not the portrait mode. Typing in portrait mode with the old style keyboard just brought up bad memories of hours of key pressing in the old days lol

Now let's talk about the key issue here: The Pink Nokia N8 ad…
 
   

 
WTH is up with that?! The funny thing is that on the same day that I saw that ad on youtube and was thinking how weird it is, I got the mobile. The ad is trying to communicate a powerful or liberated image of barbie girls, maybe to embrace their womanhood and eccentricity… and that's what the phone is all about?! Correct me, if I'm wrong, with a comment!


 

PERSONAL BRANDING: THE ART OF BEING YOURSELF – PART 2 YOUR BRAND NAME AND AVATAR

April 7, 2011

As you've read my previous post on the importance of personal branding (hopefully); I'm sure you've been waiting for the second part of my tips on your personal brand name and logo/avatar (hopefully). So without further ado, read on...  

 
Your Brand Name: 

In its simplest easiest forms, this can be your own name. However, the thing is your name might be special to you, but it would mean nothing to most other people. Unless you're creating your brand to make your family name recognized and popular, perhaps also for business use, I do recommend that you get yourself a witty nickname. Take mine for example, "The Manalyst". You won't believe how many times I got really great feedback over the way I used my name to create a brand name that represents who I am ingeniously. They also ask why I called myself The Manalyst and where it was inspired from so think of it as a conversation starter. Now imagine if I plainly used my own name "Manal Assaad"… What comment can you actually pass on that?! Okay I have some really nasty comments that I can say about my own name spelling in English, such luck I have. So think of a creative way to represent your name. Some personal brands I came across of and liked are "Zenology" and "AskAaronLee" both on Twitter. 

You have to really think hard about this one, because whatever you choose, you need to stick with it for a really long time and use it across all social networks whether in Names, Nicknames, email addresses, or profiles URL. 

Your Logo/Avatar: 

Here is where you can actually get visually creative and might even have to do some designing. Most importantly, you need some really good clear shots of your SMILEY face. You might be lucky and have some photographers in your friends and use them to take some good shots of your portrait, otherwise a camera phone works out fine –that's the only thing I use actually and so far I got no complaints :P–. 

Let me stress this enough here: NO MUG SHOTS OR PASSPORT ID PHOTOS OR NAUGHTY PHOTOS IN YOUR BEDROOM! I hope it was clear… Also, don't use generic pictures of nature, kids, celebrities –unless you are that celebrity, in which case: hi, can I have your autograph!–, etc. because people need to see the person they are interacting with in order to build trust. 

It's best to use friendly pictures of you being casual and comfortable. If you really want to get creative, then choose a photo theme and stick to it. I'm known to have only pictures of myself wearing big sunglasses. People might think that I'm just showing off my wide collection, but actually It came by chance as I wanted to use some picture that didn't show my face clearly –for personal reasons, and no, I'm not a wanted criminal– and the only solution I could find was putting good pictures of me in big glasses, and it worked really well as a theme. Now when people meet me in person, they wonder who I am until I tell them I'm the girl with the big sunglasses and they ask me why I don't have my sunglasses on… even at night lol. 

Another alternative to having your own personal photo if you are not comfortable with it is to use a photo of an item that represents you very well. Like choose something that you really like and have passion for, or have a certain meaning to you… but the connection has to be very obvious or publicized that your own name will be coined with that photo… Think in terms of how tissues actually mean Kleenex to almost everyone. 

Third alternative, which is mostly for professional use, is to have your own logo. Here if you don't have any designing skills, try to get a friend who could help you with it, someone who knows you and understands you enough to get it right or who you can torture until he/she gets it right. If you want to take this very seriously, you may also pay a freelance designer to help you with it. 

Finally, whatever you settle on, you use it on all social networks at the same time. You may change them all periodically but better keep them in sync. 


Now that you have your brand name and logo/avatar, last thing to add to the mix is your own personality, and here I recommend strongly that you just be yourself. However, if you're an offensive obnoxious jerk, you might want to work on changing your personality… unless you're funny, because surprisingly that works for some people! 
 

PERSONAL BRANDING: THE ART OF BEING YOURSELF – PART 1 WHY YOU NEED A PERSONAL BRAND

April 7, 2011


You don't have to be in the marketing field to understand what a brand is. Most probably, you have been a brand all your life and you don't even realize it. Whether you are the cool funny person in your family, the geek in the office, the go-to guy or girl in your click, or the troublemaker in your neighborhood, chances are you have been branded with some label… quite possibly some people have even branded you behind your back with labels I can't point out here...

Those brands were usually just known among our family members, friends, and people who are in our social or professional circles. However, now with our social and professional circles reaching as far as the world can go through our online social networks, you can actually get the chance to present your personal brand the way you want the world to see it.

Keeping the technical terms to a minimum, the key features of a brand are the name, image and personality. Here, I try to give you a few tips on how to make your personal brand -aka yourself- into an art, with a purpose of course because let's admit that as much as Picasso's paintings are a form of art, probably most of the normal population have no idea what the heck is going on in those paintings… But I digress.

In part 1 of my post about Personal Branding, let me point out some of the reasons you need to brand yourself for:

  • A unified online existence. This way it would be easier for people to find you on the various social networks -given that you want to be found!- and be able to recognize you on any channel online from the first glance. It gives you a unique character that is YOU and you won't have people mistaking someone else for you -unless it's someone very rich, good-looking and important in which case you should be flattered :P… Just kidding-.
  • A testimony of expertise and professionalism. Even though you, yourself, are not a company, you are still selling something: You're selling your expertise, your professional services, your work attitude, and all the other traits that get you the job/salary/benefits/business deals you want.  As a job seeker, it is not a secret that recruiters and employers are now digging into your online profiles to make a final decision of whether to hire you or not, and seeing conformity and originality in your online existence will surely give you an edge. As a professional, people who are deciding whether to work with you and trust your opinions and expertise will firmly build their judgment of you from the way you express yourself online and convey your image.
  • A good base for future benefit. You might still be just a college student and think it's way too early to concern yourself with a personal brand, but this is just another reason to start now! Just imagine how much credibility you would gain if you were actually able to successfully create and maintain your own brand. You might think it might never come in use… but hey, what do you have to lose! Everything is basically free. It doesn't really matter what profession you'll end up in, because almost every career in the world requires a distinguished personality.
  • Simply because it's a fun and creative way to express yourself… and that's that!

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I give tips about how to choose your brand name and avatar/logo.


If you liked this post, be kind enough to comment and/or share it with others who might like it.
 

ArabNet 2011 Shift Digital Summit: Developer Day Recap

March 23, 2011
 
The much-awaited event of the year in the Middle East, ArabNet, kicked off on Tuesday 22nd of March with its Developer Day, or as ordinary people like me call it “Geeks Day” because of half of the technical stuff that flies right over our heads!

The turnout for this day was completely unexpected as most professionals in the region would be more interested in the Forum Day 1 & 2 that host many astounding speakers with talks on digital trends. The crowds in the hallway & the two conference rooms indicated an interest increase in mobile & web development whether as a career or as a business investment... or perhaps it was an indication that the space was very very small with not many chairs.

I unfortunately missed out on Omar Christidis, founder of ArabNet, opening the summit, and most of the first panel with Ghassan Chahine, Gilles Fayad, Rob Jones, & William Kanaas discussing the various Mobile Platforms and trying to answer the question: Which mobile operating system should app developers build for?
To any Apple freak, the answer is easy: more Apple apps! And considering the rise of Google Android, to a point that surpasses the iPhone market in the US, it is without a doubt a priority to developers. I’d go ahead and add RIM’s Blackberry considering I live in Saudi Arabia and Blackberry is a MUST (No I don’t carry a Blackberry, thank God), but I think the reason it wasn’t much discussed is that Blackberry as a phone is under par with mobile phones like iPhone, HTC, or Nokia and the only reason BBs are popular is their BB Messenger. I bet you that most of Blackberry users have no idea what other apps are there for the device or a motivation to use them. 
Worthy of mention: Nokia felt very left out (http://twitter.com/GinoRaidy/status/50111528757755904)

Two parallel “Starter Talks” sessions were DJango (Photo Below) & RubyOnRails... My summary: too technical & uninteresting to me, I was out in the lobby chatting with great tweeps like: @sdarine, @solidd_swa @dubayan @anasonline @GhaidaZahran @Farah_Nakouzi @shireen_h @krikor and many many others!

What I was really interested in was the session with Sebastian Trzcinski-Clement and Building On HTML5, and I was right that it would be quite interesting & engaging! He showed us a lot of cool tricks using HTML5 & there’s no doubt that it’s going to be the future of the web.
The other parallel session was Microsoft Silverlight with Ms. Asli Bilgin, and since unfortunately I can’t be in 2 places at once, I missed that.




Next sessions were on Product Development, and Yahoo User Interface with Mr. Alaa’ Ibrahim, which was too technical & an aesthetic crime (deep purple font on a black background, imagine the contrast!). Perhaps Mr. Alaa’ would have used some tips from Mashhour Dubayan (Photo below) who, as many tweets testify, had by far the best presentation at the summit, with tips on User Interface & User Experience and stressed on adopting a Design Hierarchy of Needs.


For me, that concluded Developer’s Day as it was enough geeky stuff for one day! You can catch up with the review of the rest of the sessions from other bloggers & tweeps by following the hashtag #ArabNetMe on twitter.

Behind The Scenes: For *annoying* reasons, I had to stick around the conference hall a lot longer than the public but that gave me the opportunity to get a sneak peak of the preparation for the Forum Day. You can not believe how much hard work is put behind every little detail that people don’t really notice even though they make a big difference in the overall experience. Worthy of mention: the organizing & registration team deserve really heartfelt thanks & applauds for working for really long sleepless hours. At 9 pm, after having been there since 7-8 am, they were literally lying around on couches in the hope of getting a nap for a few minutes to power them for hours more. So be nice to them when you see them!


Follow me on twitter, or the hashtag #ArabNetMe for live coverage on the event.
 

About The Manalyst


Manal Assaad I'm Manal Assaad, aka The Manalyst, a Branding Fanatic, Marketing Enthusiast, and Media Addict. By profession, I'm a Social Media specialist with a strategic marketing sense, a keen eye in design, a quirky style in communications, and avidity for publicity PR. By passion, I'm into psychology, sociology, mythology, movies and TV series, technology and gadgets, music and dancing, languages, art and culture, fashion designing and styling.

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