The untapped power of social media in the Muslim community

As part of our  “Tribe” newsletter on multicultural marketing, Fireside chats are a series of interviews in which OMG Ethnic meet the experts within our network to understand their perspectives on specific ethnic communities.

In this edition, we speak to Foreda Begum, who specialises in social media within our Omnicom network, to discuss some of the key trends that she has observed within the young Muslim community (68% of the UK’s Muslim population is now aged under 35).

Instagram

Advertising plays a key role in society by influencing attitudes and impacting on the diversity debate (the ongoing conversation around super skinny and plus size models is a good example). Although we’ve seen some progressive efforts from brands celebrating multiculturalism (from Samsung collaborating with Sikh blogger Singh Street Style to H&M applauded for being the first brand to use a veiled model in their ad) and with social media enabling deeper insights than ever into audiences, talking to ethnic minorities still seems to be quite niche in marketers’ comms agendas.

H&M

Ethnic audiences are changing the game by creating their own identity; one that is not dictated by beliefs or enforced by their own culture. They challenge their cultural limitations and take charge of the canvas, depicting themselves how they would like the world to see them –  fashionistas for some (#beardgame and strong contour skills to name a few), artists or foodies for others.

As a Muslim myself, I still feel we are underrepresented on social media – with an untapped wealth of talent, strong sense of community and identity that could be beneficial to many brands – celebrating multiculturalism and shining a light on our diverse society.

The key question now is how should brands approach this space?

Muslim influencers can build brand trust voice within their community

Towards the end of last year, modest fashion influencers wearing the headscarf (or Hijab) made their mark in high street fashion advertising; Uniqlo introduced a modest clothing line by vlogger Hana Tajima, whilst Swedish brand H&M featured Instagram influencer Mariah Idrissi in their ads. Both brands were hailed for their contributions towards diversity and their commitment to normalise the hijab, so often stigmatised in the media. It has not only given these brands a strong insight around a niche community but also notoriety – influencers offer brands an adequate platform to speak to a community who may not have taken notice of them before.

The wealth of talent is a force to be reckoned with in the Muslim community and social media has finally provided a platform to showcase it. From beauty, fashion and henna to photography, these home-grown talented Muslims often turn their skills into a mini-empire.

Take Dina Tokio for example (365K YouTube subscribers)- she went from doing tutorials on the different ways to tie a hijab to launching her own line of modest clothing and styling scarves for Liberty London. Her popularity also caught the attention of BBC Three for a documentary about the Muslim Miss World competition last year. She’s rapidly become the Tanya Burr of the Muslim community, with many girls looking up to her for fashion and life advice.

YouTube

And she’s not the only one; 5ive Pillars are a unique clothing brand selling contemporary street wear inspired by Eastern Art. They essentially built their support and fanbase on social media first.

These influencers (who have mostly drawn inspiration from their faith) have built a dedicated and highly engaged followership. They epitomise the hybrid lifestyle most British Muslims experience on a daily basis and open the forum for identity questions. The Muslim youth relates more to these figures as they are treating subjects that are more relevant to them (whether it be fashion, arts or even politics).

Redefining social stereotypes using new media

Many Muslim youths feel they have a personal responsibility to dismantle misconceptions about their identity, especially with new stories negatively depicting  the community at large every day.  As a result, the community has banded together and started counteracting these headlines with funny clap-backs to change sentiment and perception.

Tweet

What we’re now seeing are hashtags such as #IstandwithAhmed, #1in5Muslims and #YouAintNoMuslimBruv being shared by not only the Muslim communities but wider society proving that online collaboration sometimes is more powerful than sensational  thirsty media. However, behind the jokes, the hashtags send a strong message that the Muslim community refuse to be stigmatised.

Social platforms have been key to create a space for the different voices in the community, but also to listen to their needs too. Snapchat and Twitter have been exemplary in the way they respond to the needs of the Muslim audience.

Snapchat

Years before the personalised branded emojis we use today, Twitter introduced the moon emoji to welcome the month of Ramadan.

But not all platforms were as proactive. Muslims petitioned to Snapchat last year to include a Mecca story on the platform and within days Snapchat release a ‘Mecca Live’ encapsulating the spirit of Ramadan. As a result, over 300,000 people expressed their gratitude – for a lot of Muslims, it was the first time they saw a true representation of their faith. Snapchat was applauded for its efforts in shifting negative perceptions of Islam. Outside the Muslim community, people from other backgrounds felt that they too learnt something from the Live Story.

Tweets

All the above proves that brands, platforms and celebrities who engage with the Muslim community to depict them rightly and in a positive light will activate the community as a whole and very likely to be praised for their efforts (on and offline).

A special thank you to 5ivePillars, Jahied Ahmed, Kapil Mahmud and Thahmina (Golden Tiffin) for contributing their images to this blog. Make sure you check them out on Instagram and on their blogs for more amazing posts!

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About Author

Josh Chi

Josh works in OMG Ethnic, a multicultural marketing consultancy that works across all Omnicom Media Group agencies. Being a keen traveller, Josh has a great interest in understanding different cultures and the implications for brands.

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