Mazen Nahawi is the president of News Group, an organisation focused on serving the communications and PR industry. The company includes several strategic businesses, including CARMA (a global media intelligence leader), SocialEyez (a social data and engagement practice), and Interactive (a software development company focused on eGovernment services).
Mazen started his career 15 years ago as a journalist at Dar Al Khaleej. He then worked as a senior manager at a regional public relations firm before founding Media Watch in 2002. His deep belief in using actionable and measurable information as a catalyst for modernisation and progress in emerging markets is the driving principle behind his work.
In an interview with MarTech Vibe, Mazen speaks about social media trends that will dominate the market in 2020, the importance of engagement metrics and the role of the CMO evolving with the advent of technology:
Could you tell us about your journey into technology?
I first worked with technology in my freshman year at Northeastern University in 1991, where we were introduced to News Groups which functioned as collaborative chat boards on the internet – there was no worldwide web at the time.
After that, I worked in a newspaper where I wrote heavily about technology and used publishing technology to file stories and images. I then worked in PR where I worked with many tech-focused clients and then moved to join one of them, Accenture, as a full-time consultant. My experience working for Accenture in MENA and the US was formative and established my world-view of how to plan, develop and deploy technology, and how to keep learning to understand its constant evolution.
What attracted you to start News Group International? What were the challenges faced by the PR and communications industry then and how have your offerings evolved over the years to constantly keep serving existing as well as new clients?
I established News Group because I wanted technology to transform PR & marketing research from a slow, expensive and analogue exercise, into a modern, fast-paced and insightful function driven by digital technology, and so we launched CARMA.
I also want to change how marketing was done by focusing on social and digital approaches to everything, and SOCIALEYEZ was born.
How can we use data and technology to anchor, execute and evaluate PR strategies in the age of integrated communications?
Technology allows us to capture millions of pieces of content from social and traditional media quickly; that is a vast improvement on the faxed clippings of the past. However, tech cannot provide genuine qualitative metrics which require human intelligence.
What is social media monitoring and why are more using it?
Social media monitoring involves tracking, capturing and understanding key conversations generated by the public and influencers; there is a lot of non-impactful conversation, and good quality social monitoring and analysis allows you to filter and focus on what matters.
How can Government institutions use intent analysis to understand public sentiment?
People express opinions, desires and hopes across a broad range of issues relevant to governments. This includes everything from education and healthcare to security and economic development. Important trends appear in social media about such topics and governments must monitor them to engage quickly and effectively.
You’ve mentioned earlier (in one of your articles) that one must get rid of vanity metrics. What exactly are these? Why should content marketers not rely on them? What would be a good campaign measurement alternative, according to you?
Vanity metrics include ‘Potential Reach’ and ‘Impressions’ – these are algorithm-driven numbers which theoretically measure how many may have seen your content. The problem is ‘potential reach’ simply does not tell you the truth of who actually did see your contact and what they think of it. Engagement metrics are far better, but they too include major credibility issues because social platforms like Facebook and YouTube measure engagement, such as video views, in ways which are not transparent not credible. For example, if you scrolled on a video for just a few seconds, it counts as a view even if the clip is several minutes long and you may have not actually engaged with it all.
What are the top 5 trends in social media technology in 2020?
- The biggest trend is the start of disintermediation: big new platforms like TikTok are coming out of places like China. More will come and the Facebook/Instagram monopoly will diminish.
- Specialisation – more people want platforms which are specific to a particular interest and not mega platforms for all things and all people like Facebook.
- Anti-trust: EU regulators will likely move to break up monopolistic platforms. I would not be surprised to see What’s App, Messenger and Instagram becoming independent companies.
- Long-form video content is becoming increasingly popular as people want to balance bite-size viewing with more meaningful segments.
- Privacy: Once again EU regulators will push for much stronger protection of data rights and this will continue to limit free access to data & analytics by corporate entities for advertising and research purposes.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
I try and show them that it’s easy to take up, fun to work with and impacts their daily life and work in a very positive way.
How do you see the role of a CMO evolving with the advent of technology?
Without mastering technology across things like digital press releases, micro-targeting, audience research, media buying, social content etc. no CMO can do their job properly. The CMO of today must be a tech-geek as well a brand-geek.
Any advice for young entrepreneurs entering the technology space?
Understand if your product has real and sustainable demand – and that it’s not just a cool idea in your head. If you are sure of that, stick to it, believe in what you are doing and never give up through good times and bad. Also, keep your costs low and customer engagement high.
– Shalaka Nalawade for MarTech Vibe.