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Ahead of World Cup, influencer ‘Mr Q’ lifts veil on Qatar

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Khalifa Al Haroon, known to his followers as Mr Q, has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil on World Cup host Qatar

Khalifa Al Haroon, known to his followers as Mr Q, has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil on World Cup host Qatar – Copyright AFP KARIM JAAFAR

Raphaelle Peltier

At a time when prickly questions are being asked about Qatar and its hosting of the World Cup, Khalifa Al Haroon offers a smile, a sigh and a shrug as he seeks to explain its mysteries.

Known to his growing number of followers as Mr Q, the 38-year-old has become a social media hit by partially lifting the veil over the tiny but mega-rich Gulf state that describes itself as a “conservative” Islamic country.

The first World Cup in an Arab nation has put a spotlight on Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers, gender rights and even the use of air conditioning in stadiums.

Haroon’s cheerful #QTip videos broach everything from saying “Hello” in Arabic to the right way for men to wear the flowing ghutra headdress. There is also an edition on labour rights.

With less than 60 days to the November 20 start of the tournament, he now has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram and more than 115,000 on YouTube. And the numbers keep growing.

Qatar has dozens of online influencers on topics ranging from “modest” but expensive fashion, to the latest sports car being imported into what is now one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

Haroon carved out his niche by elucidating Qatar’s unknowns to its growing expat community — and now the hordes of football fans expected for the World Cup.

Haroon — who was born to a Qatari father and British mother and spent 16 years in Bahrain — said he was first confronted by global stereotypes about Qatar and the Middle East while studying for a law degree in Britain.

He had wanted to become an actor, but instead launched his social media presence in 2008 with a blog.

“I was in the perfect position because I was a Qatari who has never lived properly in Qatar,” he said.

– ‘Trust your own eyes’ –

“In essence, I was like a foreigner in my own country and so I had the same questions that foreigners did, and so it just made it easy for me to start putting together information.”

Haroon said there has to be a distinction between “negative news” and misinformation about his country.

“When it comes to fake news, obviously, I think everybody understands that it’s not true and so the only thing that I could do is show people videos and pictures and show them what we’re really like because you can trust your own eyes.”

Some people, he said, have told him they decided to move to Qatar after watching his videos.

Haroon, who is now a consultant to the Qatar Football Association and an eSports entrepreneur, said he is excited about the World Cup “because people can now come here and experience it for themselves and make their own judgements instead of just believing what’s written”.

His main grouse is how outsiders see something negative about Qatar and then believe that all Qataris “accept it or we all agree with it”.

Many supporters of the 31 foreign countries who will play in Qatar have raised concerns, however, about the welcome awaiting them. Can they drink? And what will happen to same-sex couples in a country where homosexuality is illegal?

The government has insisted that beer, normally restricted, will be available and that everyone is welcome. Haroon wants outsiders to experience “real Qatari hospitality”, with its food and coffee culture.

“Of course there are going to be certain social norms,” said Haroon. “What we are asking for is just respect the country. And of course the country will definitely be respecting everyone that comes.”

“Some people might make mistakes because they don’t know what the rules are and that’s OK,” he added.

“The point is our culture is all about intention, our religion is about intention, so as long as you have good intentions and you want to do the right thing, you have nothing to worry about.”

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Meta Could be Exploring Paid Blue Checkmarks on Facebook and Instagram

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Meta Could be Exploring Paid Blue Checkmarks on Facebook and Instagram

It seems like Elon Musk’s chaotic management approach at Twitter is having some broader impacts, with more companies reportedly considering lay-offs in the wake of Musk culling 70% of Twitter staff (and keeping the app running), and Meta now apparently also considering charging for blue checkmarks in its apps.

Yes, the Twitter Blue approach to making people pay for verification, which hasn’t proven overly popular on Twitter itself, is now also seemingly in consideration at Meta as well.

According to a new finding by reverse engineering pro Alessandro Paluzzi, there’s a new mention in the codebase of both Facebook and Instagram of a ‘paid blue badge’.

Paluzzi also shared a screenshot of the code with TechCrunch:

That does appear to refer to a subscription service for both apps, which could well give you a blue verification badge as a result.

Mets has neither confirmed nor denied the project, but it does seem, at least on the surface, that it’s considering offering checkmarks as another paid option – which still seems strange, considering the original purpose of verification, which is to signify noteworthy people or profiles in the app.

If people can just buy that, then it’s no longer of any value, right?

Evidently, that’s not the case, and with Twitter already bringing in around $7 million per quarter from Twitter Blue subscriptions, maybe Meta’s looking for a means to supplement its own intake, and make up for lost ad dollars and/or rising costs of its metaverse development.

It seems counter-intuitive, but I guess, if people will pay, and the platforms aren’t concerned about there being confusion as to what the blue ticks actually mean.

I guess, more money is good?

Meta has, in the past, said that it won’t charge a subscription fee to access its apps. But this, of course, would be supplemental – users wouldn’t have to pay, but they could buy a blue checkmark if they wanted, and use the implied value of recognition for their own purposes.

Which seems wrong, but tough times, higher costs – maybe every app needs to start digging deeper.

Meta hasn’t provided any info or confirmation at this stage, but we’ll keep you updated on any progress.



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YouTube Shorts Exceed 50B Daily Views, Meta’s Reels Doubles Plays 02/03/2023

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YouTube Shorts Exceed 50B Daily Views, Meta's Reels Doubles Plays 02/03/2023

YouTube Shorts and Meta’s Reels are both making
headway in the intensely competitive video shorts sector.  

During Alphabet’s Q4 earnings call on Thursday, CEO Sundar Pichai reported that YouTube Shorts has surpassed 50 billion
daily views. That’s up from the 30 billion reported in Q1 2022.

However, it still …



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Podcast Marketing Statistics for Businesses [Infographic]

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Podcast Marketing Statistics for Businesses [Infographic]

Podcasts have become an increasingly popular content format, providing on-demand, topical material covering virtually any subject that you can think of.

Indeed, according to estimates, over 130 million people will listen to podcasts monthly in the US this year, which could also provide significant opportunities for marketers to tap into this captive audience, and reach them with relevant ads and offers.

If you’re considering getting into podcasting or podcast advertising, this will help. The team from Spiralytics have put together a collection of podcast consumption stats and notes, which could help guide your thinking around the format.

Check out the full infographic below.

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