Lent 2015 – Day 02: Love God

God is our strength. Whatever your day looks like, and no matter what troubles you face, put your faith in God. He is always there for you. Love God not because he will love you back, but because he always loves us all. 

http://youtu.be/bjjszGWj50Q

–jack Rabah

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Tell Your Story Today!

As humans, starting thousands of years ago, we used narrative and stories to communicate. From people in the streets to prophets, stories were one of the most effective ways religion was preached to the masses. As I look back, I find that the most influential people in my life are all good storytellers. No matter what the story is about, good stories—and the people who tell them—stick with you for a lifetime. From my early childhood days I enjoyed stories: stories I heard, stories I read, and stories that took place around me. Little did I know that this simple yet completely human means of communications would dominate media thirty years later.

Storytelling is a natural way to communicate and engage the public, which is why corporations around the world—with varying degrees of success—have been attempting brand storytelling. Corporations that manage to connect stories with their brand’s core values are reaping the biggest rewards.

Given these new revelations in the world of marketing and communications, social media marketing provides a practical and cost-effective solution. Social media marketing is taking centre stage as corporations hire brand evangelists to tell their story rather than marketers to sell their products or services.

Social media provides the best tools for storytelling including social interaction on Facebook, microblogs on Twitter, photo stories on Instagram, videos on YouTube, and virtual reality experiences. There are so many social media tools out there that we can put to our use as long as our target audience is using them. Take a look at the following table for a small subset of the social media tools out there and their classifications:

Social Media Classification

Classification Sample Sites
Social Networking Facebook, Google+
Publishing WordPress, Blogger
Photo Sharing Flickr, Instagram, Pinster
Audio SoundCloud, iTunes
Video YouTube, Keek, Vimeo, Google Video
Microblogging Twitter
Livecasting Live365
Virtual Worlds Second Life
Gaming EverQuest
Productivity Applications Google Drive, Office 365, SurveyMonkey, zoho
Aggregators Digg, Reddit
RSS Google FeedBurner, RSS 2.0
Search Google, bing, Yahoo!
Mobile BBM, WhatsApp, Tango, SMS, iMessage
Interpersonal Skype, FaceTime
Check-In (Marking) Foursquare

Source: The Social Media Bible (2nd Ed.) by Lon Safko

Firms that are following a digital business model approach social media marketing strategically in contrast to other firms that are still using social media as an alternative for offline soft marketing. A key issue which is still unclear to many is how to measure the success and the return on investment (ROI) for their social media marketing efforts. Many objective and subjective methods are being put to use starting with counting “likes” and all the way to tracking real leads and/or actual sales generated. However, this part of social media marketing still needs much more development and research.

A Local Perspective

When considering the applicability of social media for marketing or even storytelling as a branding approach in our local Palestinian context, a number of questions come up: How much is the local consumer ready for this new era? What about the businesses? What about the infrastructure?

I would like to share some figures below from a recent telephone survey I conduced of 616 Palestinians, age 18 and above, from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem. I hope it will shed some light on this issue.

In recent years, the basic telecommunications infrastructure has significantly improved in Palestine, and this is noticeable from the results (see Figure 1). While 86% own a mobile phone, 73% have Internet at home or work, and about 63% use the Internet. On the other hand, we notice that there is still some more development needed to improve e-commerce in Palestine as only 16% of respondents have credit cards.

Figure 1: Access to telecommunications infrastructure 

Untitled-1

Furthermore, we can see in Figure 2 that while Palestinian consumers like to engage in online conversations and comment on others’ posts (78%), most have fears about purchasing online (47%), and only 5% have ever purchased anything online using a credit card.

As for Palestinians’ perceptions of social media marketing we notice that Facebook advertising could be the most effective social media marketing tool in Palestine, with 77% who claim to click on advertisements on Facebook. Furthermore, half of them actually bought a good or service after seeing its adverting on Facebook, compared to only 9% who bought a good or service after receiving advertising via email.

With 20% having already purchased something online, it is an encouraging indicator that there will be a stronger future for e-commerce and social media marketing in Palestine.

Figure 2: Profiling the Palestinian Consumer

Figure 2

As for local businesses, an extensive online study of around 300 local businesses indicates that about 62% of the companies investigated have a website, although most need updating and activation with fresh content and tools. As for social media tools, companies with an active Facebook page (23%) constitute a small percentage of the companies investigated. In addition, other social media tools are used even less, with active twitter accounts at 6% and active LinkedIn pages at 7% (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Palestinian Private Sector Usage of Social Media Tools

Figure2

As for the type of content local businesses are publishing on social media, we notice that it is an assortment ranging from trivia and contests to promotions and offers. There are limited serious attempts to engage audience through a well-planned social media strategy. As for storytelling, there is definitely a chance to make a unique mark in this area, as it is quite underdeveloped.

On a professional level, I have been toying around with storytelling for some time now. One of the accomplishments I am proud of is the creation of the Amti Tooteh character, who as of last year become the voice of the Birzeit Heritage Week. Amti Tooteh became the storyteller of Heritage Week, announcing the program, driving the bus to bring our Palestinian brothers from Golan, and calling upon our youth to return from abroad and join in preserving our heritage and developing rural Palestine. Amti Tooteh reminds us of the importance of our heritage, of our traditional costumes, and of our beautiful traditional songs.

On a personal level, I have been experimenting with storytelling as a means of sharing bits of our Palestinian heritage and culture.  I have been writing a number of short pieces and publishing them on my personal blog. Visit the blog if you want to know why one of the lions in Al Manara Square is wearing a watch, or why you should go visit the Dar Al Tifel Palestinian Heritage Museum in Jerusalem if you can get there!

A final note of encouragement: there is great potential for storytelling in Palestine and in the Arab world in general. For centuries, the Arabs have been the sources of legends, fables, and tales of the adventures of kings and warriors. For generations, the tradition of oral storytelling was a powerful medium for narrating the drama inherent in these tales. Finally, the storyteller who represented the collective genius and fantasies of his people would, with his way with words, breathe life into the heroes of history, bringing a piece of the past to life for his avid listeners. So, what are you waiting for? Start telling the story of your brand today!

— Jack Rabah

This article was first published in the August, 2014 of This Week in Palestine periodical.

Spring smell in the air…

A couple of weeks ago, and after a few days of rain, I was driving back home from my MBA class and I really didn’t feel like being inside. The weather was not too cold and it was mostly clear, only a few drops of rain every now and then. I stopped by home to pickup my camera and drove downhill towards Ein Qiniya, a village close to where I live in Ramallah.

Most of the early blossom that came out too early this year had withered due to the weird changes in the climate. We went from a snow storm to nice spring like weather and back to winter weather and heavy rain storms. Anyhow, walking around snapping some pictures here and there of trees, rocks, and flowers just made my day. I was so glad to have this hour to relax and get some fresh air.

Enjoy the pictures and give me your feedback!

— Jack Rabah

IMG_1712 IMG_1687 IMG_1684 IMG_1681 IMG_1675 IMG_1671 IMG_1669 IMG_1668 IMG_1651 IMG_1635 IMG_1634 IMG_1624 IMG_1622 IMG_1617 IMG_1615 IMG_1597

A little magic wouldn’t hurt …

I finally got around to reading Harry Potter book series. The books have been collecting dust on my shelf for a bit less than a year. Fortunately, during the month of Ramadan we have a reduced work schedule and we go home early. I’m taking this opportunity to get some reading done rather than watching boring TV series or facebooking 🙂

Besides enjoying the books immensely, I have been wondering what it would be like if we had magical powers and how we would use them. I can think of a few things 😉 On the other hands, how can we have a little magic in our life, even without magical powers?

I say, smile .. smile .. smile! No matter how grim things get, a little smile on your face makes you feel a bit warmer inside and has even a bigger effect on people around you.

Enjoy your day, and don’t forget to smile!

— Jack Rabah

Amti (Aunt) Tooteh

Amti Tooteh

Amti Tooteh

A while back I wrote a post about preserving the oral heritage and traditional songs in specific. In the recent weeks I have been working on a project that is both fun and in at the same time advances one of the causes dear to my heart. Towards the end of this month, the sixth installment of the Birzeit Heritage Week will be launch at the old city of Birzeit. For the second year in a row I’m happy to be involved in developing the week’s public relations and social media campaigns. The week is an amazing effort to preserve our heritage and bring through further development to the Palestinian country side.  Whether it is the traditional wedding held during the opening of the festival, or the newly introduced Palestine dress competition, the week’s activities bring Palestinian heritage to the spot light.

This year however, another important element comes to play. Amti (Aunt) Tooteh is starring the show! The cartoon character is based on a real old lady from Birzeit who participates yearly in the heritage week and especially in the traditional wedding and songs. Amti Tooteh will be used to introduce the festival and its activities to facebookers and other Palestinians through Palestine TV. She is featured on the week’s poster and will be part of all the festivals and memorabilia. Amti Tooteh was an instant hit from the minute we posted the first clip of her telling her long gone neighbor about how the old houses have been renovated with the spirit of the youth who volunteer and work day and night to make the festival a success.

Most importantly, for me, Amti Tooteh recites verses from our traditional songs in different poses posted on the facebook page and encourages participation of Heritage Week followers to post versus from songs they now. I have posted a few myself 🙂

For those of you who know Arabic, you can get a better idea about this by visiting the Heritage Week facebook page here, and be sure not to miss the heritage week activities if you are in Palestine between 26-30 June, 2013.

— Jack Rabah

Juma’a Mishimshieh

Literally, Juma’a Mishimshieh means an Apricot Week. Apricot fruits become ripe quickly and within a couple of weeks, if not eaten, they fall off and rot. So, people with apricot trees end up getting stomach pains trying to enjoy their apricots before they finish or fall off the trees.

This morning my daughter woke up with a stomach ache from eating too many apricots last night at her grandfather’s in Jifna. Jifna is most famous in Palestine for its apricot fruits. I’m not sure what factors are at play here, but Jifna apricots are the best.

So, back to the title of the post which is actually a proverb used in Palestine meaning you should take the opportunity while the window is still open, even though it may cause you stomach ache 🙂

Following are  a few Jifna apricot shots from yesterday:

— Jack Rabah