Skift Take

Dubai's branding efforts are at a crossroads. It's built its reputation as a mega-city but needs to add the arts and culture that, in the end, differentiates all destinations.

Search the #Dubai hashtag across social media and you’re likely to find photos of iconic buildings against blue skies and very few people actually engaging in the community.

A social media initiative started by the Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and now sustained by Dubai Tourism, is hoping to change visitors’ at-times cold perception of the city state by highlighting photos of residents and visitors interacting in a city full of superlatives.

The initiative, which asks locals to share photos of themselves with the hashtag #MyDubai, was launched in January 2014 and quickly crossed the one million milestone by July.

The prince and Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing were surprised to find that the hashtag quickly caught the attention of visitors who started posting their own images.

“#MyDubai started off just being an initiative for local residents to share their experiences and the agenda was simple: to create an autobiography of a city through the eyes of its residents. The power of it made people realize that to really see what Dubai is like, they could go to the hashtag #MyDubai,” explains Dubai Tourism CEO Issam Kazim.

“The fact that tourists are using it and that we can see where they’ve been with the IP address, shows you there’s been a great return on what this platform was created for.”

In an effort to capitalize on the content and growing awareness of the hashtag, Dubai Tourism is seeking to extend the reach and impact of the campaign.

One method for doing this was to share the images across the actual city. Images from the campaign are currently being shown on a large screen next to the Dubai Fountains, a highly trafficked area outside of the Burj Khalifa.

This is part of a broader trend we’re seeing in which social media posts are being turned into physical products, whether that’s images across a screen or a physical calendar.

Dubai Tourism then took the initiative one step further by creating a 12-episode travel series with local social travel experts Mohamed and Peyman Parham Al Awadhi.

For the series, Dubai Tourism and Qabeela New Media invited twelve international Instagrammers to experience Dubai based on an itinerary created by a local social media personality.

The itineraries were specifically curated to feature local activities such as kitesurfing and marketplaces, not just a ride to the top of the Burj Khalifa or around the man-made islands.

Below are two examples of the resulting social media posts:

The series will air later this year.

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Tags: dubai, social media

Photo credit: His Highness Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum visits local hamburger spot Moylos Burgers. MyDubai / Instagram

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