How Al Jazeera English achieved record-breaking growth on Facebook in 2020

By Gehad S., Senior Digital Producer, Al Jazeera English

The year 2020 was one marked by multiple world-shaking events, many of which fell under the shadow of an unprecedented global pandemic. From the very start of the year, our goal on Al Jazeera English’s main Facebook account was to cover those events in an informative, accessible, and engaging way, while emphasising the human story and uplifting the voices of under-reported communities. Never, as in this momentous year, were we so effective in meeting our objective of engaging our audiences on breaking and ongoing events, and giving voice to those most affected by the news.

Examples of posts from Al Jazeera English’s Facebook page

Our content strategy on Facebook was focused on producing unique original content optimised for Facebook and and tailored to covering the stories that matter most to our audience. By creating engaging content and using accessible formats, we managed to relate the news and distribute our most important written journalism in innovative ways to a growing audience of more than 14.5 million followers.

From leveraging Facebook Stories and optimising original video content, to excelling at creating branded cards that helped spark conversations with our audience, our 2020 strategy has paid off with more than 449 million views and 46 million engagements (likes, comments and shares).

A Facebook Story remembering the Black people killed by the police in the US

In addition to the news, we provided our audience with tips on how to stay grounded in uncertain times and how to protect their physical and mental health during this pandemic.

2020 achievements

Since the beginning of 2020, we have seen a significant increase in the number of users following our Facebook account and interacting with our content. We have also seen record-breaking traffic from our Facebook account to our website (aljazeera.com).

Users flocked to our Facebook page for the latest on the stories that shaped 2020, and there were many. From the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the COVID-19 pandemic to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests in the US. From the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong and Nigerians rising up to #EndSARS. And, as the year progressed, a devastating explosion shook Beirut and the world geared up for the divisive US presidential election that ended with Joe Biden’s historic win.

Here is a snapshot of how we grew our presence on Facebook in 2020:

Growth on Al Jazeera English’s Facebook page in 2020
  • We reached a total of 449 million video views, outperforming several competitive news outlets including The New York Times, CNN International, Sky News, The Wall Street Journal and Vox.
  • We saw our best performing month ever of views with more than 123 million video views in January 2020 — a 224% increase in views compared with January 2019.
  • We received more than 46 million engagements (likes, comments, and shares) - a 70% increase compared with 2019, outperforming several competitive news outlets including CNN International, The Guardian, Sky News, Vox and The Wall Street Journal.
  • We achieved more than six million engagements from our rolling coverage of the US elections in November 2020 - the biggest month of engagement since 2016.
  • We saw 34.3 million visits from Facebook to our website - a 172% increase compared with 2019.
  • We received 20.4 million unique users from Facebook to our website - a 152% increase compared with 2019
  • We reached a total of 13 million page likes on Facebook, and 14.5 million followers — a 53% increase from 2019.
  • We outperformed the average interaction rate for several competitive news outlets including BBC News, CNN International, The Guardian, Sky News, and The Wall Street Journal - and we had a 36% increase in our average engagement rate compared with 2019.
  • During the US election week, our average interaction rate was higher than a number of key international and national US outlets (NBC News, CNBC, ABC News, The Guardian, BBC News, Wall Street Journal, The Independent, Sky News, The Times and The Telegraph)

Facebook will continue to be an integral part of our social strategy over the next year as we build on the successes we have achieved on the platform in 2020. Make sure to follow us so you don’t miss out!

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