DUBAI: Twitter, the microblogging service, is shaping the preferences and buying habits of an increasing number of its members in the Middle East.

Spot On PR, the public relations firm, estimated that between 35,000 and 40,000 people in the Middle East and North Africa are active on the social media property at present.

While this figure may not represent a substantial share of the portal's worldwide user base, standing at around 75 million people, it has grown from the total of just 3,000 netizens recorded 12 months ago.

Spot On PR surveyed 175 people belonging to this group, and found that 95% of participants thought brands should attempt to engage their target audience using Twitter.

Nine out of every ten contributors also stated that information they had discovered through this channel had gone on to influence their perceptions about a product or company.

Moreover, 50% of respondents had based at least one purchase decision on the comments made by – or about – a brand on Twitter.

This score climbed to 82% for those who would be more willing to buy a product they had established a relationship with on this site, and 88% when it came to recommending the item concerned to others.

Some 53% of the panel had interacted with a corporate member of Twitter about a customer service enquiry, while 36% had been directly contacted by a company after raising an issue.

Elsewhere, almost two-thirds of individuals expressed an interest in receiving special offers or coupons through Twitter.

In terms of the tactics that were most popular among this cohort, transparency, openness and taking a "human" approach were regarded as being more effective than a sales-led strategy.

"The message that brands must prove themselves on Twitter by demonstrating that they know the difference between advertising messages and social media conversations came through loud and clear," Carrington Malin, managing director of Spot On PR, said.

Data sourced from Spot On PR; additional content by Warc staff