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Mohammed ‘Goes Viral’ on Facebook

Martin Croucher / 6 August 2009

DUBAI — If politicians can measure their popularity on the internet, then the Ruler of Dubai has a lot
to celebrate.

Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is now among the most popular public figures in the region, according to social networking site Facebook.  The ruler’s fan page was launched just over a month ago but has already accumulated a colossal 73,563 members. 

Within six days of an official photo album being posted onto the site, some 1,619 people had expressedtheir approval.

“When people start hearing about these groups and fan pages, it goes viral,” said Gaurav Aidasani, Managing Director of internet marketing firm Cosmos Star Consultant.

“Barack Obama gained immense popularity in his election campaign for using new media to attract younger voters. It can work for any public figure and enable them to reach outto  the public.”  The most popular public figure in the region is Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Iranian opposition leader who gained international attention of late in the country’s electoral crisis.

He has 114,283 fans, while his rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has only 9,949 fans.  The least popular public figure in the region is Egypt President Hosni Mubarak, whose fan page only has 54 supporters. Internationally, one of the most popular politicians is Barack Obama, whose Facebook page has 6.5 million fans.

Shaikh Mohammed joined Facebook as a private user, but on July 8 switched to a ‘public page’ after being swamped with friend requests.

Facebook only allows users to have 5,000 friends. Moreover, public pages do not require the user to give consent when friends wish to be added.

Husam Jandal, internet consultant for WSI, said that it was a sign that the leadership was moving closer to the people. “Social networking is the best way to stay in touch with people and keep them updated about your activities,” he said. Shaikh Mohammed also has a Twitter page, on which he recently gave an insight into why he ventured into the world of social networking.

“The relationship between the leaders and the people of the UAE is one of the secrets behind the nation’s success,” he wrote.


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