UAE Digital Marketing Interviews – social media with Alexandra Maia

As 2016 draws to a close, I’m ending the year with interview #6 in my UAE Digital Marketing Interview series. I’ve talked to folks in SEO, PPC and Digital Marketing in general (even talked to myself for a bit!) and I’m rounding out this year’s series on a topic I haven’t yet covered til now: Social Media

My guest today is Alexandra Maia who is the delightfully bubbly founder of House of Social. I attended a workshop hosted by Alex at SMWi Dubai (an independent event as part of the Social Media Week series) and have been following her ever since (you should too – she’s always dishing out great social media tips!) She’s super passionate about social media, has brightly coloured hair and I’m glad to have her on the blog!

Alexandra Maia

How did you get started in social media? and how long have you been working in the field?
It’s coming up to 8 years now, I gained a lot of my experience working agency side in a variety of media, branding, digital & advertising agencies setting up social media teams, delivering creative social strategy & training talent. I started doing social media marketing back in its early days being a early adopter and starting from ground zero has given me a lot of experience in the field. My background is performing arts & acting with psychology studies and the connection with Social Media was immediate, being able to connect through a variety of platforms that take the shape & nuances of human behavior is pretty interesting to me!
What do you love most about social media over other aspects of online marketing?
Being able to connect on a 1 to 1 personal level. Develop these relationships & nourish them long term. No other medium allows you to do that. This gives brands immense power if deployed correctly!
What’s the biggest challenge with social media in the region?
So many!!! Massive skills gap! Hence I launched House of Social to close from all levels, students, recent graduates, industry professionals up to senior level management that don’t have the right skills and experience to execute good quality social media work. Then you have to rewire backwards and understand the ‘climate’,  most people overseeing this work don’t have a good level/experience of understanding social media marketing so there is no telling that the work deployed is of low quality because there’s no benchmark. The result over the years is a lot of bad social media work being deployed, and people without the right skills sets to execute.  But… if you rewire even more there is not much available in terms of classes or training in Dubai, of course everything is available online for you to learn but even figuring that out on your own can be hard. Social Media moves fast but the educational / training aspect for people to get the right skills or to optimize their existing teams is still lacking. You have to understand what is good social media creative strategy, what is good talent to deploy and how to keep learning to constantly optimize!
How do you handle multilingual social media campaigns?
It can be tricky and they are challenging. But the great thing about leveraging Facebook Ads or Instagram promoted posts is that you can deploy a variety of posts targeted at each of the demos. So yes, if you want to target Emiratis for example, your post should be fully in context with that and ensuring the targeting behind it is fully optimized. Then you might run a Instagram Ad targeted at expats for example because you know that is where your other demos are at for your campaign. The look and feel of the campaign should be consistent but adjust the message for the appropriate context. There is still a lot of ‘one size fits all’ type of content and still not enough A/B testing. And that is because a lot of business are still using social media as a distribution channel. Your key visual that you might have spent a lot of money on might not work on social media. Creating content in the right context is everything and utilising the power of Facebook Ads if done well is super powerful.
 Obviously creativity is a huge part of successful social media campaigns – how do you break through a creative block and stay creative?
Creativity, I think you have to inherently have it as a skill and enhance it more and more everyday to keep finding out of the box ideas or fine tuning what is working well.
But if you not naturally creative doesn’t mean you still can’t be creative I think you just have to apply yourself more, learn & read about good creative campaigns, mainly surround yourself with super talented creative people! It’s super important to have self awareness of your full skills set so you know what talent you might need for support or what you need to study more to fully understand it.

 How different is social media marketing and social media usage in the region compared with the rest of the world?

The appetite and penetration is more and less the same, what really is different is the quality of content available on social media here and what are type of content consumers are used to being exposed to in this region versus the West.
Got any pro tips for anyone looking to get into social media?

Oh yes so many! But, I’ll share my top one!  You have to be in it, doing it, applying! I still meet with so many people who say they want to be in social media but are not out there experimenting, learning, being in it day in and out. Set up a blog, go on, learn every single thing about this game! Get on it! It’s not theory but proactive!


Anything else you’d like to add about your experience with social media? either in the region or in general?
Yes, I would love to leave with a note of encouragement for anyone that is reading this blog: social media is super powerful if done well! You have to deploy stand out creative content, have a good talented team, with a variety of kick ass skills set and be able to move and adapt fast with your business social strategy. Doing good social media is not easy! Social media is a people’s place, consumers move and change fast and you need to do the same if you want to succeed at it! Lastly, you can track so much with Social Media analytics versus spending big on traditional media like an expensive TVC. Mobile is your TV! You can track your social media advertising & spending fine tune it and track return so why are businesses still reluctant to invest more on digital?!

Learn more about Alexandra Maia:

Alex’s passion is to empower, educate and help build business through social media. She recently founded House of Social which is a hybrid social media business & education provider.

Her mission is to make House of Social (aka HOS) a go to source for companies & individuals to find social media education, consultancy & insight. She aims to provide the necessary knowledge to help close the social media skills gap in a highly competitive digitized world.

Alex has over 8 years experience under her belt working agency side, heading up Social Media teams across London, Singapore & Dubai & Qatar and she’s got some impressive clients in her portfolio: Intel, Disney, Bosch, Johnson & Johnson, MasterCard, GE, Bloomingdales, Qatar Tourism Authority, Dubai Tourism, Emirates NBD.

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