Last week Facebook announced that they will partner with Connect Ads, a Cairo-based advertising agency with coverage of 15 vital Arab-speaking regions, to better engage advertisers in the Middle East. This is part of Facebook’s push to ensure that global advertisers have easy access to get their brands and ads onto Facebook. Last year, Facebook worked with iHub as their partner in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, and rapidly grew to be the dominant social network in the Asia-Pacific market. Facebook currently has 10 million regular Facebook users in the Arab market, and plans to repeat the same successes in the Middle East as in Asia-Pac.
Facebook has been steadily reaching for international users over the last few years, and has been quite successful their pursuits. In January of last year, we covered Facebook’s battle against local social networks in areas like Holland and Germany. The battle was fierce, but Facebook has continued to prevail, recently opening an office in Hamburg to continue the ongoing expansion. As if to highlight their international operations, Facebook sent us a note which referenced their Paris, Madrid, and Milan offices when commenting on the new Hamburg operations. We also reported last year about the Facebook brand being advertised in Sri Lanka as part of a Mobitel television advertisement. All of these efforts appear to be similar to the latest partnership with Connect Ads.
Connect Ads also handles sales for Microsoft’s MSN regional portals in the area. There doesn’t seem to be any connection between Microsoft and Facebook despite working with the same company, but it raises the point that Microsoft would certainly help Facebook in this area were they to work together. Specifically, the basic viral nature of Facebook is enough for it to keep its growth strong, but when it comes to developing strong business relationships with advertisers to support that, Microsoft’s helping hand could definitely accelerate them.
Also, Facebook recently announced that they have 10 million users across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: “Across the MENA region, we have ten million active users from a total of 400 million subscribers worldwide”. That is significant, but still a small chunk of the 400 million overall Facebook users.
Online information is still heavily censored by a central government in many areas of the Middle East, and this move helps Facebook not only get closer to advertisers, but closer to insiders that can help convince central authorities that allowing Facebook is good for Middle Eastern business. Connect Ads and Facebook declined comment about the financial details of the transaction.