4 Things I Learned at the Kuwait Social Media Summit

4 Things I Learned at the Kuwait Social Media Summit

Corey Padveen Speaker Kuwait

At any conference or summit, you’re hoping to leave having gained something valuable.

Last week, I had the great honor of speaking at the Kuwait Social Media Summit at the JW Marriott in Kuwait City. The experience, on a personal level, was a memorable one, to say the least. It is always a treat to experience a new culture and explore a new country. It was somewhat of a twofer that the experience on a professional level was equally rewarding.

Having spoken at and attended a number of these events, I can say that I am always curious about the quality of events with which I’m unfamiliar. Every so often, you arrive at a summit or a conference that is in complete disarray, and leave having gained nothing. Other times (luckily for me, more often than not) the process is fluid, the attendees and speakers qualified and professional, and the event as a whole provides a huge deal of value. The latter was what I left with after the Kuwait Social Media Summit.

Over the course of the summit, a few things really resonated with me. It’s always useful to note your greatest takeaways from any event, conference, webinar or even a conversation. These four points were the greatest takeaways I left with after my week in Kuwait.

The World is Still a Big Place

We often talk about how it is such a small world and shrinking every day. On a lot of levels, that is true. Take my experience in Kuwait, for example; I was able to communicate, on my phone via Skype, SMS and WhatsApp, with everyone I needed to speak with in Europe, the East Coast and West Coast despite being halfway around the world and several hours ahead of each of our offices’ timezones. That’s a prime example of the ‘small world’ we so often refer to.

But while in Kuwait, I really began to understand that the world is still a very large place in terms of adaptation, implementation and, of course, processes. The approach to and concept of social is vastly different in the Middle East, particularly when it comes to business applications. Of course, I could write an entire article simply on the opportunities that exist when it comes to social business in the Middle East, but suffice it to say that the research I did in order to prepare and the incredibly interesting conversations I had while at the summit opened my eyes to some things of which I was not familiar before.

‘Social Media Expert’ is a Strange Title

A lot of us have probably read articles talking about the weird (and sometimes absurd) titles people have when it comes to social media. There are ‘gurus’, ‘strategists’, ‘experts’, ‘directors’, ‘evangelists’ and everything in between. During a panel discussion with a number of government social media directors, one comment was made that really resonated with me.

A communications expert noted the fact that ‘social media’ is the only field (if you really want to call it a field) in which there are designated experts within an organization. Now when you think about that, it’s a very odd concept. Social media is a tool, it’s a portal, it’s a communications platform – why do we need designated experts for it? There is no ‘Email Communications Guru’ or ‘Print Media Evangelist’ – these are all communications platforms that are integrated into marketing, PR, IT, advertising and communications departments in general. People have become so focused on social media as a concept and not as a couple of words with a fairly general meaning; social media are any media in which communication between two or more parties is possible in some way or another. When will people recognize that and stop treating social networks as godsends?

Business Was Not Built to Change

In the opening keynote of the last day of the summit, Ihsan Anabtawi of Microsoft Gulf landed on a slide that simply read this line: businesses were not built to change. I’ve written quite extensively about the concept of Social Media Marketing Myopia. Essentially, it is the notion that businesses that see themselves as immune to the need to change and adapt to consumer behavior (i.e. transition into social businesses) are doomed to fail. The line on this slide, I felt, really added to that argument in a new way.

The statement is entirely true: historically, no one has built their core business model with the intent of changing it (especially several times in a short timeframe). Considering the fact that social, mobile and even digital to an extent are still such new media, it should not come as a surprise that so many businesses do not feel as though they should involve themselves with it. What’s more, core business models that have worked in the past are not things that business owners are looking forward to changing. No matter evidence is presented, no one wants to change something that is working (for now).What’s more, convincing businesses to be proactive when, historically, they have been reactive, makes the process even more difficult. We, as marketers, early adopters and advertisers, need to put ourselves in the shoes of these business owners before simply asking them to change.That’s not what they are meant to do.

Om Ali is One of the Best Desserts in the World

Om Ali Egyptian Bread Pudding


Photo Credit: The Taste Space

Legend tells the story of Om Ali, the first wife of Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek of Egypt. When the Sultan died, an heir had to be chosen for his throne. Now, women could not rule, but they could be guardians of their eldest sons until they were old enough to rule. Om Ali felt as though her son, the first of the Sultan’s children, was worthy of the throne. She therefore orchestrated a plot to kill the Sultan’s second wife and bribed her handmaids to do it. After a successful assassination, Om Ali brought her accomplices this dessert.

Now whether or not the gruesome tale is fact, there is no question that the dessert is delicious. It is an Egyptian bread pudding with a puff pastry base, milk and an assortment of nuts that, when mixed together and baked, is absolutely heavenly. I highly recommend finding an authentic source and trying some for yourself.

Looking forward to next year’s Kuwait Social Media Summit!


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Corey Padveen is a data-oriented marketing professional with a focus on statistical analyses of human behavior. This specialization has led him to speak and present at dozens of conferences around the world, to write for a variety of reputable online and print publications, and recently, to publish ‘Marketing to Millennials For Dummies’ as part of the world-renowned ‘For Dummies’ series. He regularly shares real world examples and findings from his research, and discusses how members of society are evolving as consumers, communicators, and a global network as a whole.

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