Why We Need To Change The Online Conversation About Lebanon

It’s slightly long so we created an outline if you want to skip the background info and our mission (but we encourage you to read it!):

  • Our Mission
  • Future Plans
    • Diaspora: New Diaspora section + FB groups
    • The961 Insiders: New group to help us get feedback
    • For Businesses: What we plan to offer businesses
      • Directory: New Business directory system
      • Marketing: Business-friendly digital marketing & web design
      • Brands: Ability for brands to advertise with us
    • Future Goals: Plans to become a Nonprofit and offer scholarships

Our Mission

Today marks our one year anniversary since launching The961. It’s been quite the adventure arriving at this point and we’ve gone through plenty of changes and faced many challenges. Today, The961 has become the leading English website for Lebanese in Lebanon and abroad. Our website is among the most visited sites among the Lebanese people. We initially launched The961 to create a connection between Lebanon and the Lebanese diaspora. But we quickly noticed that we had a bigger problem to address. We had to change the conversation about Lebanon. With most of the international news portraying Lebanon in a negative way, to local Lebanese bloggers constant putting Lebanon down and having a generally condescending tone about Lebanese people, we knew we had to change our mission and address it. We turned the sails of our mission and focused our efforts and resources on showing a more positive perspective of Lebanon. When you search Lebanon on Google, you will see negative news headlines. When you check the image sections, you will see images of either destruction or very low-quality images of Lebanon. This is what people are seeing and reading when they look us up – and we’re all responsible for it. We have bloggers who think Lebanon is facing some sort of epidemic where we’re the only ones in the world who have murders or face corruption. Every time you share their content, you are reinforcing this image and narrative of Lebanon. We’re not denying that these are not a big deal. Of course, we have our problems and we need to shed light and address them. But this is not who we ONLY are. There’s more to us than crime and corruption. Every country in the world deals with what we are dealing. Because Lebanon is small and is basically an oversized village, everything is amplified. One someone is wrongfully shot, the entire country gets involved (then forgets about it in a couple days). Quebec is facing a whole inquiry called the “Charbonneau commission” to investigate corruption and bribery. Several mayors across the Canadian province have resigned. Members of the mafia have confessed to bribing officials. Every sector including Government, Education, Construction and Medical have been dragged in and somehow involved. South Korean Prime Minister was just kicked out because of corruption. Or what about the United States? Every presidential candidate has been accused/investigated for corruption/conflict of interest. When you keep telling someone that they are wrong, sooner or later, they will start to believe it. We are constantly being told we are s***. Not by others, by fellow Lebanese. People are believing it. So much so, when something good happens, it gets put down. When someone proposes new ideas for improvements, they get laughed at or are dismissed. What’s dangerous is that now more than ever, online conversations are influencing mindsets and behaviours offline. That is why it’s crucial that we keep showing the positive of Lebanon, addressing the negative, and shedding light on the progress and improvement – regardless of how small or slow. The same negative conversation has been taking place for the past decade by the most prominent Lebanese bloggers. This is why I believe The961 was able to grow as fast as it did. The Lebanese people need a breath of fresh air. Some positivity and hope. This is why, in just 6 months from launching, we outgrew all the local blogs. Thanks to you supporting us and sharing our content, in the past 12 months, we were visited 3.5 million times. 3.5 million. I’m still trying to absorb it. Millions of people have resonated with our content. We have exposed our positive and light-hearted content to millions of people. We aren’t the only ones doing this. Influencers play a major role and we’re happy to see people like Ghayd Chammas, from

El 3ama

, and

Wissam Kamal

bringing laughter and positivity to their audiences – but also tackling issues in our society through their talents. I’d love to say that our mission has been accomplished – but it has truly just begun. We still have a lot we want to accomplish!

What now?

To celebrate, we just moved our website over to its new design as you may have noticed. This is our 3rd new look in just our 1 year of being around. We like to keep it fresh. We are focusing our growth on the following:

Diaspora

The interest of the Lebanese diaspora to Lebanon through The961 is growing quite a bit. We’ve helped hundreds of Lebanese descendants begin the process to reclaim their Lebanese citizenship. We’re offering more content catered for the Lebanese living abroad and can be found in our

Diaspora Section

. We also launched a new Facebook page for the

Lebanese Diaspora

. On top of that, we have launched Facebook groups specific to locations where there is a significant Lebanese population. We suggest you join them to find content specifically catered to you and be part of the community!

Lebanese in Canada

Lebanese in AmericaLebanese in DubaiLebanese in Australialibanais en France

If you’d like to help us manage any of these groups, send us a message on Facebook.

The961 Insiders

We just launched a private group. Any is welcome to join. We will use this group to directly get your feedback on things. Whether it be our plans, articles, or having you check out things before we release it to everyone. You can join it here:

The961 Insiders

For Businesses

Directory

We’ve focused a lot on individuals, but still, our (small) businesses are falling behind and are not catching up to the online world. We will soon be announcing the launch of our own business directory system for Lebanon as an extension of The961. Businesses will be able to add themselves for free and put themselves in front of our audience of hundreds of thousands each month. We have set up over 200 categories that businesses can list themselves under. Most of the categories will be under the main ones of Hotels, Restaurants, Nightlife, Tourism & Travel, and Places. The basic listings will remain free. We will be offer premium listings for extra features. This will give us the extra support to keep our mission moving forward.

Marketing

Many businesses in Lebanon either don’t have a website or have a really outdated one. Unfortunately, this makes them almost non-existant. Especially to those visiting our country and searching for a spot. In the very near future, we will be launching our marketing wing. We will be offering business-friendly digital marketing services and websites at affordable prices and high-quality work. This will be something I will personally be overlooking since I attribute my success to my digital marketing expertise which has been at service to major companies around the world. We will be offering competitive rates and great payment plans that work in the favor of small businesses.

Brands

We are currently speaking with local and international brands looking to reach the Lebanese audience. Be it by directly working with the brands or through their agencies.

Info about advertising

We have a few plans in place that will allow them to share their message through Th961. We will be expanding this but we always reserve the right to refuse certain advertisements that we believe go against our mission or values.

Nonprofit

The961 is slowly moving towards becoming a nonprofit. It will stay true to its mission of promoting a positive Lebanon. Whatever we raise through The961 will be put into a fund where we can support the Lebanese community. This will include offering scholarships to students and promoting entrepreneurship in Lebanon. As well as supporting local charities and awareness campaigns. The two ways to build a nation is by ensuring the people have access to education and by giving them the tools to become self-sustainable. We will do our part by helping people afford higher education and supporting those starting businesses. All we ask is that you continue to support us.

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