The audio-first future of Muslim social media

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social media
type - big idea
Big Idea
category - society
A spokesperson for social media platform Sango, explains how audio-based engagement is fostering community for Muslims across the world

Can we begin with a brief introduction to Sango. What is the app and how does it work?

Sango is a voice-centric, social and entertainment app for interacting with friends. You can post about your personal life or content that interests you. There are different chat rooms that allow you to have discussions, join virtual karaoke with friends and send virtual gifts to each other. There's also a group section where you can find and make friends with people who have common interests – for example, gaming and sports.

Our current target audience is the Middle East and North African (MENA) market. We have plans to expand to Southeast Asia and North America, but really we're targeting the global Muslim community. Our vision is to create the largest online Muslim ecosphere.

Tell us more about the decision to focus on Muslim users specifically.

We are based in Singapore but have focused on the MENA market from the beginning, so Sango is registered in Egypt and Bahrain, among other countries. The global Muslim community is a large market and the population on the whole is very young and growing fast. Many technology companies are targeting Muslims in particular as they believe they have more free time and money to spend on entertainment and social apps. There are many Chinese gaming companies operating in the Middle Eastern market, for example, and they are doing really well.

Where does Sango cater for the nuances or needs of Muslim users, where other social platforms don't?

The company's background is in content creation and social apps for China and other regions, but before we designed and launched Sango, we undertook comprehensive research in the MENA market. As a result, there are many religious and cultural elements in the design of this app. When you send virtual gifts to friends, for example, the design is very localised, including items like luxury cars and gold watches.

The events hosted on the app also reflect different cultural or local interests. During the month of Ramadan, for example, we invited famous YouTubers such as Mo Vlogs, an influencer with more than 10m subscribers, into the app to meet their fans. We then created specific groups for them so they could engage with fans after the event, too.

Published by:

11 August 2021

Author: Abi Buller

Image: Hiba for Good Faces

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Sango

Audio-based social media platforms have become safe spaces for some users, owing to there being less regulation or fewer cultural restrictions. Is this why you focused on audio for Sango?

For sure, one of the reasons that we chose audio – and the Middle East as our primary market – is that people in this region face a lot of restrictions in their personal life due to religious beliefs and other cultural sensitivities. There is huge demand for entertainment and social media, but due to such restrictions, there is conflict between the two.

We believe the audio format can solve this conflict. In the Middle East, a lot of female users want to use social media, but they don't feel comfortable showing their faces. Through audio, they feel more comfortable and they're not challenging their beliefs. Equally, we don’t want the platform to become too political – it’s more about people having fun and feeling happy.

How have you integrated Muslim belief systems or celebrations into the app?

There are a lot of elements in this vein. One section is called Tribes – it's a fun section that gives users a storyline and a mission – but it has been created based on the Qur'an. In some of our audio chat rooms, there are themes or conversations that focus on Muslim beliefs; people read the Qur’an and interpret it together. In this way, Sango becomes an extension of their real life. In the Middle East, there is a tradition of getting together to have in-depth discussions. So, we’ve created similar scenarios online so they can recreate such social occasions, regardless of the distance and the pandemic.

Sango experienced huge growth during the pandemic. How will it remain relevant as people go back to physical socialising?

We believe that Sango will continue to be highly relevant because, even though our users are getting back into real life, they have developed new [online] habits that have lasted for almost two years. We'll also continue to develop our product to make it more culturally adept. We have plans for members of our team to move to the Middle East to provide more localised operations. While we already have local teams there, we need to do more work on branding, marketing and working with local communities.

‘In the future, the format of social media will continue to diversify. Audio will be highly relevant – it’s a trend that isn’t going to end soon’
 
 

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