Analysing Facebook usage in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region – specifically Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen - SpotOn PR found that 39% of the combined 39+ million Facebook users access the site using its Arabic interface – which translates to 15.6 million users.
That puts Arabic ahead of English, which now accounts for 36% of the Middle East’s Facebook users, while French comes in third with 23%.
The report delves much deeper than just looking at average rates throughout the region, highlighting a very important point that marketers need to bear in mind – and that is not to treat the MENA region as one lump.
Egypt has the most Facebook Arabic users, with 60% of its over 10 million users opting for their native tongue, but the country with the highest rate of users who actually prefer Arabic over English is Yemen, sitting at 82%. In Iraq, 60% of its users prefer the Arabic interface, while the number jumps to 74% in Libya, and 75% in Palestine.
While the use of Arabic online continues to grow rapidly in the region, Arabic hasn’t sped ahead in all countries in the region. In Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman and UAE, Facebook users still show a preference for the English interface, while in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, that accolade goes to French.
As more users in the region are coming online, with an obvious desire to access sites in Arabic, there is a rising demand for content that appeals to them, and quite a few social media sites are trying to meet that demand.
Arabic is one of the fastest growing languages on sites like Twitter and Wikipedia, and with Yahoo having just licensed the technology behind smart transliteration tool Yamli, it is becoming increasingly easy for Arabic speakers to interact in their mother tongue online.