How Al Jazeera English grew its audience on Twitter in 2020

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

The year 2020 was one of the most extraordinary years for news. From the start of the year, our goal on Al Jazeera English’s flagship Twitter account was to cover the world-changing events that shaped the year and affected our lives in a way that was informative, digestible and engaging. And, as always, we kept true to our ethos of emphasizing the human story and uplifting the voices of under-reported communities.

Examples of illustrations shared on Al Jazeera English’s Twitter feed

Our content strategy on Twitter was focused on relating the news in creative ways through producing original native content and making strong use of every feature Twitter had to offer. We worked tirelessly throughout 2020 to not only provide timely coverage of the news through live updates, but also to break down complex stories and effectively engage with our audience around important events.

Users turned to our Twitter account for the latest and most accurate updates 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 democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong and Nigerians rising up to #EndSARS to the violence in New Delhi. And, as the year progressed, we provided second to none coverage on the devastating explosion that shook Beirut and the ramp-up to the divisive US presidential election that culminated with Joe Biden’s historic win.

Examples of Twitter threads from Al Jazeera English’s Twitter feed covering the US elections:

https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1325131270364532737
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1323779304975728640
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1323587850525417475
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1323997644298067968

How we covered 2020 on Twitter

From leveraging Twitter threads and excelling at creating Twitter Moments to optimising original video content and distributing our most important written journalism in innovative ways, our 2020 strategy has paid off with more than 88 million views and 8.5 million engagements (likes, comments and retweets).

Examples of Twitter threads from Al Jazeera English’s Twitter feed covering the coronavirus pandemic:

https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1234511022448353280
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1236201617403363329
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1242704786891444224
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1240605185736654848
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1245958536812810241

  1. Twitter threads

We used Twitter threads to break down stories in an accessible format.

Important events and anniversaries were marked in carefully curated Twitter threads, breaking down information in an easily accessible manner and using multiple social assets to create greater impact and to spark conversations.

Examples of Twitter threads from Al Jazeera English’s Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1266087980210573313
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1272917950752870400
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1272453853980635137
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1256962894392107009
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1291008381524807680
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1274261166626349056
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1222535819631767552
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1274626529373442048
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1285641234959269890
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1268870078717743104

2. Twitter Moments

Through using Twitter Moments, our users were able to follow the backstory and the latest developments with ease. Our Twitter Moments have resonated with our audience and Twitter has featured the majority of them on its feed which has further bolstered our presence on the platform.

3. Fleets

We were among the first news publishers to use Twitter’s story-like feature ‘Fleets’ to cover the day’s top stories. We launched a news recap service that highlights those stories in an easily consumable way.

Fleet story from Al Jazeera English’s Twitter account

4. Twitter VIT (Very Important Tweeter) app

We also used the Twitter VIT (Very Important Tweeter) app to engage with our users in an interactive way. Through using the app’s Q&A feature, we managed to have a more dynamic conversation with our audience about the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the US and gained further international support in 2020. It allowed us to have a two-way communication with our fans to hear their questions and provide them with answers on a global movement that shook the world.

5. Social videos

Optimising our video content for Twitter has been key to our strategy. Through short-form videos, we provided an in-depth look into important events that had the world talking.

Examples of social videos from Al Jazeera English’s Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1316363337974849541
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1232957291676094472
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1232583724191174657
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1290909982058315779
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1281946884190482433
https://twitter.com/AJEnglish/status/1229769771178221568

2020 achievements

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

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

Growth on Al Jazeera English’s Twitter account in 2020
  • We reached a total of 88.3 million video views, outperforming several competitive news outlets including CNN International, The Guardian, Vox and VICE News.
  • Traffic from Twitter to our website increased by 154% compared with 2019, reaching a total of 1.3 million visits.
  • The number of unique users coming from Twitter to our website increased by 125% compared with 2019, reaching a total of almost one million unique visitors.
  • Engagement increased by 30% compared with 2019, reaching a total of 8.5 million engagements (likes, comments, retweets).
  • The number of followers increased by 24% through organic publishing, reaching a total of 6.5 million followers.
Growth on Al Jazeera English’s Twitter account in 2020

Twitter 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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