An American Digital Marketer Lost In The Middle East: Social Media Adventures

Posted on September 25, 2012

It’s 7:30am as I write this and flight announcements are being called over the public address system in Arabic and occasionally in English. In this early morning crowd of travelers waiting for their planes at Lebanon’s Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport I suspect that I’m the only one who doesn’t understand both languages.

Most Lebanese speak Arabic, French and English. Often switching between languages in rapid succession with a comfortable ease. I listen amazed, but then again I’m an American. I speak, well, one language….

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I am fortunate to have many wonderful offers to speak to some very interesting people from different industries and places. I love to meet people who are excited to be moving their company or organization into the digital marketing age. The opportunities and the challenges are equally exhilarating. I love problem solving with bright and motivated business leaders and marketers.

Because of client demands I’m unable to accept unpaid engagements anymore. So, I speak only every month or two if my schedule allows it. When a new speaking or training engagement comes in I am something like a little kid who finds out he’s going to Disneyland, because I know an adventure is in store.

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Al-Iktissad Wl-Aamal’s DGTL#U – Beirut

My trip here to Lebanon has been no disappointment. Al-Iktissad Wl-Aamal’s  is a major pan-Arab business and economic publisher and conference producer. While the publisher has been in the conference business since the early 1990’s, I was honored to be selected to speak at their first digital marketing conference DGTL#U – Beirut. The city is bustling with growth, entrepreneurs, and new highrises are sprouting up like fields of wheat. Beirut is the perfect place for Al-Iktissad Wl-Aamal to launch their new digital marketing effort in the Middle East.

The audience was filled was banking and finance, advertising agencies, real estate, and many other industry market leaders. Many had some social media channels under management, but like most of their worldwide counterparts they are struggling to move from likes and fans into a cogent social marking strategy.

The Conference Attendees

The conference was at a 5 star hotel on the edge of the Mediterranean sea. When not distracted by the beauty of the region I tried to talk with as many attendees I could. I wanted to learn about their personal challenges with digital marketing. Real estate firms selling business offices to entrepreneurs, a pesticide and food safety company (with 90% market share), fast food franchise companies, and a number of advertising agencies trying to adapt to the quickly changing realities of the social web.

While I was the clean up act closing out the conference, the opening keynote was delivered by a friend who I had meet via social media: Jeff Bullas. Jeff is from Australia. We both laughed at the fact that the first time we met in real life was in a place so far from our respective homes. I should note that we did this while we sipped cocktails and watched the sun set over the Mediterranean sea from the roof top bar of our hotel. What would I do if I had to get a real job?

A Bittersweet Farewell

As I get ready to board my plane, I sadly leave so many wonderful new friends from among the attendees, sponsors and event organizers, and having had an experience I’ll always remembers. The Al-Iktissad Wl-Aamal team was exceedingly professional and went out of their way to make sure I had such a delightful time. For both Jeff and myself we could not miss the fact that this was only possible because of social media. The digital world is indeed getting smaller.

About Steve Farnsworth @Steveology

Social media, communications, and content marketing for technology companies. Strategy and implementation that generate leads, builds customer loyalty and word-of-mouth buzz. Contact 650-331-0594 to increase your market position and sales.