‘Beirut is going digital’ is a trending slogan within the Lebanese online community today, in accordance with the first edition of Beirut Social Media Awards. The SMA Beirut competition was inaugurated last February by Online Collaborative, a students’ club in various local Lebanese universities specialized in Internet and social media.
The club was first established at the American University of Beirut three years ago by Mr. Mohammad Hijazi, before branches of the club were formed at several other universities. Moreover, the registration of Online Collaborative as a local NGO in Lebanon is in process.
Hijazi, who is the chief organizer of SMA Beirut and a member of its judging committee, explains, “the aim of the competition is to shed light on the users who demonstrate a proper and effective way of using social media.”
This proper usage is designated by being present online continuously, updating the available material on a regular basis, offering useful content that serves the aims of the particular account, and dealing properly with negative comments. These measures, as Hijazi clarifies, have been considered aside to several others in the selection of both the judging committee and the finalists of the competition.
The twelve judges of SMA Beirut come from several backgrounds and fields including politics, marketing, media, and graphic design. Of the most famous members of the committee is the Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui, the British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher, the stand up comedian Nemr Abou Nassar, and journalist Octavia Nasr. In this regard, Hijazi asserts, “to ensure the reliability and credibility of the competition, those who are part of the judging committee, the organizing team, and Online Collaborative have been either disqualified or disallowed to participate at the first place.”
By the end of the competition, on the 29thof this April, the winner in each of the 32 included categories will be announced in an award ceremony at Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut. The categories have been developed by the judging committee to encompass as much social media outlets as possible. They include for instance: blog of the year, best media personality on social media, most creative Instagram account, most engaging YouTube channel, and best Facebook application.
The 32 winners will be selected from the 207 finalists in various categories, with each category including between 4 to 7 finalists. Same finalists have been selected in more than one category, and Hijazi explained that the rules of the competition allow the same user to be crowned winner in more than a single category. Such finalists include TedxBeirut, the technology and entertainment Beirut conference, Cheyef7alak, a social awareness campaign, and Gino’s Blog, the personal blog of a young university student.
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The 207 finalists were selected from a list of around 1,000 nominated accounts, of which 400 were disqualified for not meeting the terms and conditions of the competition.
“The final results will be based on the number of votes to the finalist, and the evaluation of the judging committee, each accounting to 50% of the final mark,” explains Hijazi. The Lebanese online community is way engaged in the ongoing voting, with more than 70,000 votes received within the first week of the voting phase.
It is expected that the award ceremony will be attended by key figures in the Lebanese society and online community, with around 750 attendees. The main host will be the Lebanese actress Pierette Katrib, who is herself a finalist in the category ‘the most engaging celebrity on Twitter’.
Bayan Itani is a Lebanese freelance writer and researcher. You find her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Middle East contributor Marina Chamma is nominated in the Best Personal Blog Category.