Pakistan’s Social Media Summit 2011
On June 10 and 11, Ong and myself shared a story about how Indonesians have utilized social media in Network!!: Pakistan’s First International Social Media Summit in Karachi. Around 200 Pakistani bloggers participated in the event: from fashion bloggers to political bloggers, from developers to activists. The event, initiated by US Embassy in Pakistan and PC World Pakistan, was intended to ignite discussions among Pakistani bloggers on how they can utilize technology and social media for positive measures. Though the summit was conducted in The City of Bright Lights, Karachi, bloggers from other big cities in Pakistan like Lahore and Islamabad were also flying in to participate.
Pakistan has more than 4 million Facebook users and 6.2 million Twitter users, and the number is increasing everyday. US Consul General in Karachi, William Martin, said that Pakistan is one of the fastest-growing nation in terms of Facebook and Twitter usage. Official data revealed that Pakistan is the 9th nation in the world which uses Twitter the most. There were around 3 million bloggers in Pakistan at the moment. Popular blogs include political, activism and technology blogs. Most of them blog in English, since Urdu wasn’t available in various blogging platforms until only recently.
According to Khaver Siddiqi, a social media manager from a Karachi-based agency, brands and companies in Pakistan are slowly beginning to realize the importance of social media. “The users are mostly youths, and Facebook is still the most popular social media channel.”
The way brands/companies adopted social media don’t differ much from what we’ve seen in Indonesia. Brands are mostly using Facebook pages. Some of them are also developing YouTube channels, though they are still using it in traditional means. “For example, if a company uses YouTube, they would rather upload a traditional TVC rather than using it for viral purposes,” said Khaver. Brands are doing better with Facebook pages, as they are starting to create engagement with applications and games.
A few days after I got back from Pakistan, I realized that the timeline of my new Pakistani friends were filled with tweets about “Coke Studio”. When I asked Khaver what would be one of the best example of how brands/companies are using social media in Pakistan, his answer didn’t surprise me. He said, it would be Coke Studio. The program had grown steadily for the past four years, and now stands as the most popular social media channel/entity in Pakistan.
Coke Studio itself is a Pakistani TV series featuring live music performances. The program focuses on a fusion of the diverse musical influences in Pakistan, including eastern classical, folk, and contemporary popular music. The show provides a platform for renowned as well as upcoming and less mainstream artists, from various genres and regions, to collaborate musically in live studio recording sessions. The official Facebook Coke Studio page has more than 680.000 fans, and one of their YouTube video was viewed over 400,000 times in the first five weeks.
“Although they initially targeted youth in Pakistan, they quickly found over time that there was a vibrant Indian/Pakistani expat community that was enjoying the sufi music from around the world,” added Khaver.
On a separate occasion, I also got a chance to talk to Gibran Ashraf, the sub-editor for The Express Tribune, Pakistan, about media landscape and being a journalist in Pakistan. Below are some of the insights he shared with me.
Media landscape in Pakistan
The media industry in Pakistan is growing at an electric pace at the moment. For decades the media outlets were suppressed, with various restrictions either enforced through law or via practice had left Pakistanis starved of news.
While the entertainment sector has always remained vibrant, the news side of media truly saw an explosion at the turn of the century when military dictator, Pervaiz Musharraf following his campaign of enlightened moderation allowed private television networks to start operations. The subsequent revolution brought on by the media was truly witnessed in 2007 when a lawyers movement, supported by the private television and newspaper industry helped tip the scales against the dictator, Musharraf.
With the advent of, and penetration of mobile phones news dissemination has increased. Radio has seen a revival as mobile subscribers close to 100 million in a country of 180 million. Pakistan has the fastest mobile penetration and among the highest subscriber rate in Asia.
Internet, social media and free speech
The Internet has promoted free speech among Pakistanis. Despite limited penetration and usage of Internet, especially when compared to mobile phones. Despite this, there is a growing urge among Pakistanis to use to up-and-down nature of the Internet to learn and to express themselves in the best way they can. Social media such as the antiquated Orkut and the more modern Facebook and Twitter have been a motivation for more and more people to come online and express their thoughts. More and more Pakistanis are going to YouTube, not just to view video content made by other people, but share their creations with others around the world.
The ultimate use and success of social media in Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that more and more people are using social media like Facebook to launch projects and businesses. Even artists like Bilal Khan – who was recently a featured singer on Coke Studio, too started his musical career by posting songs on Facebook.
How traditional media see social media
Social media presence is being recognized as a necessity by the local media in Pakistan. As it was with the internet dimension till a few years ago when many companies had long boardroom meetings on whether to stake out a budget on creating a website, now companies realize that it is imperative to not only have a web face, but also have social media presence to capture the attention of their customers.
At the moment, however, much of social media utilization by the conventional and mainstream media is one-way traffic, much the same way they deal in their day-to-day ‘main’ media affairs. However, this is not a symptom specific to Pakistan, as many media outlets around the world are still trying to get a hang of what social media is.
Most news organizations engage their subscribers or followers by posting regular items of news featured on their channel or paper and post a link from their web site or upload content directly to the social media streams, apart from one or two media organizations that have tried to make their social media more organic and up-and-down traffic on their social media outlets.
More insights from Pakistan Social Media Summit can be seen here:
1. Citizen Journalism: International Bloggers Network in Karachi at First-Ever Social Media Summit
2. Social Media from Egypt’s Revolution to Karachi
3. Young Pakistanis blog, tweet to push for change