The BBC reported on a new study this week that found that WhatsApp is the most popular social network, especially for news consumption, in Qatar. It’s not that Qatar isn’t connected, though. According to the BBC report, “smartphone penetration stands at 80 percent — the same as in United Arab Emirates, and the highest in the world – while 96 percent of Qatari households are connected to the Internet.”
From the study:
Of the eight services studied, WhatsApp was identified as Qatar’s leading social media service, across all groups. Use of this channel includes the type of social media behavior found (and perhaps more expected) on more traditional networks. This includes large-scale group discussions around the news, cooking and religion, through to simple SMS replacement activities.
WhatsApp is used by 87 percent of Qatar’s total internet population (expats and Qataris) and 97 percent of all Qataris who are online.
The research also revealed that Qataris are more aware of newer networks like Snapchat (77 percent of Qatari Internet users versus 39 percent of expats) and Instagram (97 percent versus 65 percent); and that they tend to be among the earliest adopters of these emerging social media services.
This sort of research amazes me, because I can’t think of using messaging apps for anything but news alerts and texting friends. “Large scale group discussions” around current events just sounds like Twitter. Not that they aren’t using Twitter or Instagram, too. They are. But WhatsApp is the go-to. What’s the cultural difference that makes American social media users more likely to get news from Facebook instead of messaging apps? You can see some of the slides from the study below: