About the young yet ambitious Middle East Social Media Festival & Award - An interview with Joe Ghantous
Posted on February 11, 2019 | By Ghada Azzi

Middle East Social Media Festival & Award need no presentation. It is among the most well-known social media conferences in the Middle East, and for a good reason: the conference covers a diverse range of topics over a quick, two-day period with a prominent line-up of speakers to share the nuts and bolts of social media and digital marketing. Today, MESMF is going into its fifth year, and its growth shows no signs of stopping. ArabAd caught up with Joe Ghantous Founder/CEO of Right Service and MESMF to learn about the story behind this young and ambitious event that has grown into a locally recognized name in the the social media event arena.

How did the idea of MESMF & MESMA come to be?

My story started on the 20th of September 2000, with “Right Service” as a home-based direct and digital marketing agency in my hometown Zahleh. By then, my mission was not only to present Right Service as an agency but also spread awareness about the importance of digital marketing as a new business activity, especially in our region.

In 2007 and after the booming of Facebook, I started to feel the fever of the competition especially with the rise of many competing digital marketing agencies. However, this did not stop me but only motivated and pushed me to pave a unique path originated from my strong belief that the best way to learn is to teach. That’s why I started focusing on social media marketing and evolved my skills and knowledge by organizing social media for business workshops. Year after year, these social media workshops gained traction and recognition and were the point of interest for many social media experts and trainers. 

But that wasn’t enough for me, so I tended to upsurge the number of attendees and maximize the benefits of these workshops and that’s when the idea of initiating the “Middle East Social Media Festival” came to be, as an event to celebrate social media in an educative-festive way, merging between social media experts, business people and senior university students in the aim of providing ‘higher’ level of content and dialogue based around social media.

In 2015 the first edition was launched in Lebanon. This event was a hotspot for internationally acclaimed social media experts and marketing managers from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, who shared their know-how and gave the audience a worthwhile experience. This was only the start.

In 2016, we took a step forward and launched the “Middle East Social Media Award” to support our mission of spreading the effective use of social media in the Middle East, by rewarding brands and individuals on their remarkable social media activities. All these achievements were supported by partnering with Lebanese universities with the aim of filling in the gap between the educational curriculum and the work field, starting with Saint Joseph University-USJ, Lebanese American University – LAU, Beirut Arab University - BAU and many others.

Now we can proudly say that the “Middle East Social Media Festival” is one of the few successful social media events in the region. And I think it’s about time we take our success abroad and organize this event in other Arab countries.

That’s why on our 2019 agenda we are negotiating with ArabNet, a leading Lebanese tech event, to collaborate and organize MESMF & MESMA in the MENA region.

Could you tell us a bit about the challenges faced since the start, as putting up such an event is no mean feast. How did you overcome the hurdles you encountered all along?

Starting a new event is a very challenging endeavor, and what if this new event was launched in an un-stable environment such as the Lebanese market. 

Throughout the past four years, organizing MESMF was a bumpy road with several political and financial challenges that we encountered as a team. Finding the right speakers, understanding the markets needs and partnering with the right sponsors were never easy takes, without forgetting the negative effect of these situations on the attendees’ purchasing power, knowing that MESMF is a paid event.

With all these challenges, our hard work and will had influenced notable brands who had faith in us and wholeheartedly supported our event like LinkedIn, the giant social media platform, in addition to many other leading brands similar to Uber, Alfa Telecommunications, ArabAd, Ipsos MENA and many others.

Thus, we are proud to say that our path was not easy to pave, but we believe that the destination is worth all the efforts.

This was an ongoing learning process. Each year we learned from our downfalls and weakness and each event was a more enhanced and mature version of the other. Also, through our well-defined goals and efforts we were able to acquire credibility and recognition, which made our work easier.

Do you feel there is a demand for such events in Lebanon?

Social media dominates our business and can easily determine our success or failure. So equipping people with the right spot on skills and knowledge conveyed by our renowned experts, is the only way to guide them to what is right and push them to learn.

From the first year of the event, in 2015, the attendees’ demands exceeded our expectations and we are surprised yearly by seeing a full house. This is an indicator that people want such a professional and high-level social media event joining between social media experts and influencers, businesspeople, marketing managers, business owners, and university professors & students.

That’s why, we believe Middle East Social Media Festival® is a necessity rather than a need to be held in Lebanon and other Arab countries where most of the businesses are small and medium sized ones who need to learn and gain experience from customized success case studies applicable to their culture and business size.

What’s Right Service role in the making of MESMF and MESMA?

Right Service today is a hybrid digital marketing agency that mainly focuses on the continuous growth and support of the business community in the MENA region.

All our projects hold a common purpose, which is continuously helping business people pursue growth and learning, staring with the Middle East Social Media Festival & Award, the 4Ts of Digital Marketing Operations marketing concept and going on lately with launching the Social Media Influencers Association, a non - profit organization with a key purpose of being a micro-influencer incubator and a main hub for supporting real social media influencers.