What drives the future of social media?

Emirates Woman taps Meta’s Group Director FMCG, Luxury, Retail & E-Commerce (MENA), Anna Germanos, to unlock social media’s evolution and innovation potential.

What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?

My day begins with a glance at my phone, catching up on messages from friends and family sent overnight, and reading the latest headlines. The morn- ing hustle then begins – waking the kids up and preparing them for school, a daily marathon of its own. I drop them at the bus and hit the gym at 7am at least three times a week. The 7-8am hour is my only time for fitness.

Tell us how you got your start in the industry.

My journey in Consumer & Retail began with an internship at Booz & Company during my MBA year. I found myself captivated by industries closely connected to consumers, leading me to focus the rest of my consulting career on consumer and retail projects across the MEA region. In 2017, an opportunity presented itself in Google’s consumer team. Leveraging both my industry expertise and engineering background, I made the transition into the tech sector. Since then, I’ve been advising global and regional clients in Consumer, Retail, E- commerce, and Luxury on their digital marketing transformation journeys.

Anna Germanos, Group Director FMCG, Luxury, Retail & E-Commerce (MENA) at Meta

How does your role impact innovation and tech at Meta?

In my role at Meta, I directly engage with consumers and advertisers, translating their needs into actionable insights which helps bridge the gap between user requirements and our product teams. These insights also play a pivotal role in shaping Meta’s innovation roadmap, ensuring our products resonate with a diverse regional audience. I also oversee the adaptation of innovations to specific markets, leveraging local nuances for maximum impact. Naturally, any innovation undergoes rigorous testing before its global launch, and in our region, advertisers frequently participate in testing alphas and betas, which help shape the end-product development.

“Innovation is also about making our technologies accessible to users of all backgrounds and abilities.”

What are the key goals to lead the change in terms of innovation in the tech industry?

Ultimately, innovation has to be centered around people. Everything we do at Meta is about breaking down barriers and connecting people, empowering them to create. The concept of the metaverse, for example, underscores the ability to facilitate profound connections through social presence and natural interactions using voice, facial expressions and gestures. Innovation is also about making our technologies accessible to users of all backgrounds and abilities. Whether through advancements in virtual and augmented reality or improved accessibility features, our goal is to ensure that everyone can participate in the digital revolution.

How has the Middle East region changed in terms of interacting on Meta platforms – has there been a shift in the way content is consumed?

There has been a noticeable shift in content consumption globally and our region is not an exception. It would come as no surprise that there has been a steady rise in the consumption of short-form video content, such as Reels, across all platforms. For instance, people spend more than half their time on Facebook and Instagram watching videos. As we have moved almost entirely to mobile first, when it comes to social media, brevity and shareability has become key. We are also seeing creators explore new frontiers through the use of AR and VR, experiment with new formats and tools, and find new ways to monetise their work. Another big shift is the growth of e-commerce on social media. While people have been using our apps to buy and sell things for years, the integration of e-commerce tools such as shoppable posts and branded content tools on Instagram, Facebook Marketplace, live shopping, product stickers and integrated chatbots for customer support has made the experience more natural and seamless. E-commerce in MENA is projected to reach $50 billion by 2025, 1.7x from 2021 with KSA and UAE leading.

How do you aim to positively drive the platforms forward in the region?

The Middle East is a hub of immense potential, both creatively and in the business realm, and we are enthusiastic about deepening our collaborations with regional partners to expedite the development of the local ecosystem. We are deeply invested in amplifying the influence of the vibrant local creator community in the region – a community rich in talent and diversity. Initiatives like Creators of Tomorrow, Creator Lab, and locally flavoured campaigns are a launchpad that celebrate these talents and we aim to continue this momentum. We’re also constantly expanding on ways creators can monetise their content on our platforms. As our creator community thrives, so do the opportunities for brands and advertisers on our platforms. The regional success stories are compelling; brands leveraging our platforms have witnessed a substantial boost in ad effectiveness and sales. For instance, with AI-driven ad solutions, Home Center, a prominent home furnishings retailer in the GCC, experienced a 40% lift in return on ad spend using our tools. Similarly, Level Shoes, a luxury multi-brand footwear retailer in the UAE and KSA, reported a remarkable 92% higher return on ad spend in KSA. In addition to growth, we are dedicated to making our platforms a safer space, especially for minors. We’ve recently announced a new bundle of protections to give teens more age-appropriate experience, and overall, we’ve developed over 30 different tools and resources to support teens and their parents.

UX/UI is at the core of Meta. How does the company approach digital innovation to ensure the content is fresh and engaging?

We want to make the most of people’s time, and we believe personalisation is the way to go about it. We prioritise content that generates authentic interactions and that people seek out and return to on a regular basis. We use a wide variety of AI algorithms to ensure users get a good mix of staying connected to their close friends, while being engaged with new content relevant to their interests. We do that by analysing different factors including history of interaction, location and the user’s activity to try and predict what they will enjoy the most. Another aspect is giving creators better tools and helpful guides to empower them to engage with their communities and produce trendy, entertaining content. Features like Reel templates, Remix, Collabs and many more are all there to ensure we keep the bar high for quality content on our platforms. We also provide global guides via @creators on Instagram and creators.instagram.com to help creators get inspiration, learn how to best monetise their content, and stay ahead of the curve. Meta is also experimenting with incorporating generative AI post creation elements.

Do you believe AI will be the defining technology of our generation or is this a passing trend?

While it’s still early days for generative AI, the visible impact it is making leaves us anticipating positive changes across various domains, from business and healthcare to the delivery of public services. Far from being a passing trend, I firmly believe that AI is a transformative force here to stay. For over a decade, Meta has been a trailblazer in AI innovation, utilizing it to curate personalised content and ads for our users while ensuring safer experiences on our platforms. We’ve actively collaborated on over 1,000 open-source AI projects, contributing to the broader AI community. The transformative potential of AI is evident in its application by researchers, accelerating anti-biotic discovery and enabling the creation of detailed MRIs with significantly less raw data. Now, Meta is extending its AI endeavors with the development of new generative AI experiences. These innovations aim to make our platforms more social, more useful, and more immersive, further solidifying AI as a driving force in shaping the technological landscape of our generation.

With social media use at an all-time high, what type of content stands out to you?

The content that truly resonates with me is usually unique and genuine. I gravitate towards creators and influencers who can either in- spire or entertain me with their authentic passion. I prefer to engage with content that is specialised in a specific genre, rather than spans multiple areas. More broadly, content such as sports, fashion and beauty typically dominate in terms of popularity, followed by music and comedy. However, in our region, cultural events often bring other genres to the forefront, such as food and entertainment shows during Ramadan. I am also very intrigued by the emerging new technology and AI generated content that truly boosts engagement, similar to what Tom Jauncey (@tomjauncey) and Murad Osmann (@muradosmann) are creating on Instagram. Ultimately, content that is crafted with sincerity and passion is the most impactful.

This is The Tech Issue – what technology has been a game changer in your life and how so?

To me, WhatsApp is a revolutionary tool. Its user-friendly interface allows even the least tech-savvy individuals to connect effortlessly; case in point: my 93-year-old grandma is on WhatsApp! It really simplified my personal life management as a working mother. Professionally too, WhatsApp’s prevalence has expedited tasks, making communication more efficient than other channels. The benefits I’ve reaped in terms of connectivity, time-efficiency, and effectiveness through WhatsApp are immense.

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