Social Media Marketing in Abu Dhabi - Does it Differ from Dubai?

Shannon Correia December 19, 2020

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both home to the UAE, and if you're going to be doing social media marketing in the emirates, you may be wondering what sets these two apart. This is a great question to be asking, as marketing in this region requires localisation to understand each area's culture and norms. In this article, we'll be sharing what differs between these two and how your business can be useful with its social media in the capital city, Abu Dhabi.

Various factors influence social media landscapes, and the locality is one of them. Some people commute between these two cities often or even daily, working in one and residing in the other. Therefore there will naturally be many similarities between these two major cities within the UAE for social media marketing purposes. However, as mentioned, there are many nuances to be factored in, with various differentiating factors relating to each city. As such, let's take a look at the UAE, followed by each emirate to see how this applies…

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest city due to its oil reserves. It is also the largest of the seven emirates, with much of its landmass attributed to the desert. The population here resides on the Arabian Gulf, a group of islands. Abu Dhabi is made up of this coastal city, as well as another city which is situated further inland. The residents here generally have higher net incomes, enjoy a quieter lifestyle and have areas of interest relating to arts and heritage. In terms of business, Abu Dhabi upholds traditional values, where business dealings take time and trust. Investments made here are seen as long-term solutions, with a developing financial centre and growing real estate market.


Dubai has made a name for itself globally as a smart city that is both business and tourism-friendly. It is technologically driven, with solar power, blockchain, autonomous transport and large scale 3D printing. With many international businesses operating from Dubai or having their regional offices based here, the values and business culture are more westernised. It is a busy city with endless entertainment and is known to have relatively high living expenses.

social media marketing Abu Dhabi

Social Media Marketing Abu Dhabi

So, what does the aforementioned indicate about social media marketing in Abu Dhabi? Well, it's a reflection of the way of life in this emirate. Here's a quick look at how it all ties into social media marketing:

  • Higher-income earners and a wealthier city: The wealth factor will implicate which kinds of brands, products and services the residents of Abu Dhabi need and want. There is a market for mid to higher-end luxury products, with people willing to pay for high-quality goods that bear status. This needs to be communicated via social media and appeal to those desires.
  • Lifestyle is quiet and art-based: Social media strategies should fit in with the way of life. Appreciation for culture will go a long way in reflecting the values of this city. It is also less busy as Dubai, which would affect the scheduling and timeliness of posts.
  • Abu Dhabi is the capital: It holds more of the political power, hence it is noteworthy to mention that apart from enforcing specific social media rules and regulations to follow, there are also some social media apps which have been blocked, either in their entirety or certain functions of it. While there are ongoing talks to amend this, it is essential to note that certain video and voice messaging services have been barred. While this may not directly affect a business, it does affect its target audiences.
  • Traditional values: Business in this region should reflect the values of the desired audience, and that needs to be built into the social media marketing strategy. There are specific rules and regulations to adhere to, as well as customs that marketers need to be aware of.
  • Long term investments: Social media strategies in Abu Dhabi should also be seen with a long term view, as it will take time to build trust and credibility online. This is the best and likely only way to break into the market, knowing that the rewards once you reach that level are very alluring.

Marketing in the UAE

It is important to note that many agencies are based in Dubai, catering to several audiences that include those found in Abu Dhabi. By having a strategy based on the general values of the GCC and personalising marketing techniques where possible to each city, social media activities will be effective. That is unless you're in Dubai and catering only to residents in Dubai, or foreign markets. Working with the top tier agencies will ensure that you are marketing as optimally as possible, banking on their specialist teams and in-depth knowledge of each city.

According to the Global Web Index:

  • 99% of the population in the UAE uses social media, 86% of which are active participants
  • People have an average of 10 accounts per person and spend just under three hours on social media per day
  • The UAE's demographics comprise a youthful population with high literacy rates and a majority of males
  • Almost all of the UAE residents have a smartphone for social media, messaging apps, entertainment and shopping
  • 31% of people discover brands through social media advertising, while 25% rely on comments or recommendations
  • Social media ad spend increases yearly, with the latest figures showing $467 million spent in the UAE
  • Advertising reach is as high as 95% on Facebook, 53% on LinkedIn, 44% on Instagram, 35% on Twitter and 28% on Snapchat
  • The most popular social media networks, rated in order are: YouTube, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat, with TikTok growing rapidly

Social media rules and regulations in the UAE are strict, with the consequences of not adhering to these being fines or imprisonment. These rules include:

  • No posting photographs of people without their permission
  • Privacy and confidentiality of people must be respected
  • Defaming, offensive or invasive posts are not allowed
  • It is forbidden to use illegal channels that have been blocked
  • Posts need to align with Islamic morals and values which are modest
  • No unlicensed donations, defaming of rules, hate speech or inciting violence shared on social media

According to HubSpot, findings on social media in the UAE suggest that:

  • 73% of marketers effectively use social media as a marketing channel
  • 71% of people who have a satisfied customer will recommend it online
  • Many people use social media to research an item before they make a purchase and many use it as a source of inspiration
  • Despite almost full social media penetration that is well above the global averages, social media usage and advertising in the UAE continues to grow

Wherever your base is for your social media marketing, reaching the Abu Dhabi audiences require time, effort and a well-rounded set of marketing activities based on a highly detailed strategy. The delivery and management thereof are just as important to follow through with. Social media presents businesses with the opportunity to build an online community and improve your SEO - it can be thought of as building trust and credibility online in a city where those two values are paramount.

That wraps up our roundup on social media marketing in Abu Dhabi and how it differs from its sister city, Dubai. By having insight into each city and what makes it tick, as well as the landscape of the UAE overall, your business will be on its way to developing highly effective social media marketing strategies.

Work with us at Nexa

Nexa is a creative digital marketing agency based in Dubai. We have clients from all over the world and have extensive experience marketing in the GCC, Abu Dhabi included. Book a meeting with us to find out more about what we can do for you.