Twitter and YouTube have become so relevant to the public discourse in Saudi Arabia that there is now a bi-weekly YouTube show solely dedicated to what Saudi users of Twitter are talking about. The new show is simply called “What Happened in Twitter” and the first episode was published today.
Numbers support that. Saudi Arabia has the highest consumption of YouTube videos per capita in the world, said ArabNet CEO Omar Christidis, according to Saudi Gazette today. Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, told the Los Angeles Times in July that “Saudi Arabia is the fastest-growing country with 3,000% growth” on the service during June 2011.
You need another example to show Twitter power in the country?
Blogger Fouad al-Farhan received an anonymous tip Wednesday morning telling him that Khaled al-Tuwajri, Chief of the Royal Court and Private Secretary of King Abdullah, now has an account on Twitter. He was properly skeptical at the beginning because there have been many fake accounts pretending to belong to al-Tuwajri, a secretive man who never speaks to the media and who is said to have a wide influence over government policy.
However, the account had the checkmark next to the username, which means that the account is actually verified by Twitter to belong to al-Tuwairi. People started to follow him at an astonishing rate. When al-Farhan checked the account in the morning, it had only 65 followers. Ten hours later, the account now has more than 32,531 followers. More than 25,000 of these followers came in the matter of two hours between 7-9pm KSA time.
Those followers were in for disappointment. Saud al-Qahtani, a journalist with connections at the royal court, said that al-Tuwaijri does not plan to tweet anytime soon. The account has been reserved and verified to prevent impersonation that has become very common on the service.
Using the social search site Topsy to check, it seems that al-Tuwaijri has actually used the Twitter account to send four tweets before deleting them. Whether he ends up actively using the account or not, the fact that the elusive al-Tuwajri found it necessary to verify his presence on Twitter is a testament to the popularity of the social network in Saudi Arabia.