They may have been censored, discredited and even thrown in jail, but the members of Al Jazeera aren’t backing down. Rather than bow to Murabak’s pressure that they stop covering the protests in Egypt, the Qatar-based news organization is reaching out to Western audiences – most of whom don’t have access to their English-language channel – using Twitter.
Al Jazeera has purchased a number of Promoted Tweets associated with search terms like #egypt, #jan25 and #tahrir. When Twitter users search for these and a host of other Egypt-related terms, they’ll see a Promoted Tweet from Al Jazeera at the top of the search results.
The Twitter Media Blog notes that this campaign has been a huge success: Al Jazeera’s website has seen a 2500% jump in traffic since the protests began on Jan 25th, and Twitter is consistently one of its top referrers.
This is the second time a news organization has purchased a Promoted Tweet or Trend to stay on top of a particular conversation. If you remember, the Washington Post purchased the trend #elections during the US midterm elections in November. This allowed their coverage to be highlighted, and positioned them as the leading news organization covering the elections.
Al Jazeera is doing something similar. They have become the go-to resource for on-the-ground reporting and analysis about the Egyptian protests. Not only have they consistently produced quality video and written reporting, but they have also harnessed social media to highlight their work. Without Twitter, a large portion of Western audiences wouldn’t know to turn to Al Jazeera for quality, unbiased news about Egypt as-it-happens.
There are some commentators out there, however, who don’t think that Al Jazeera’s use of Promoted Tweets is a good thing. Ed Borasky feels that Al Jazeera is promoting itself like a business – buying a Promoted Tweet and marketing its goods and services like Coca-Cola or Audi. He feels that it is an unfair and distasteful use of a current, heated political situation to ultimately convince cable companies to distribute Al Jazeera content. He says it’s all about the money – and he’s not alone.
Although commentators are divided on this issue, no one can argue that this isn’t an innovative use of a Promoted Product. And Al Jazeera has shown that Promoted Products work if you know your audience and you purchase relevant search terms. They have jumped on a popular trend right now on Twitter, and because it is tied so closely to their news product, they have been able to triple their follower account and see a massive surge in traffic to their website.
The truth of Al jazeera’s motivations probably lie somewhere in the middle. They are a news organization dedicated to reporting on events with a global implication, and they want people to see the footage that they’ve gathered about the protests in Egypt. At the same time, they have business aspirations and they no doubt would like to expand into Western markets.
While their motivations may not be black and white, Al Jazeera has undoubtedly shown that Promoted Products can be a powerful vehicle for reaching a wide and influential audience – something that marketers, news organizations, activists, politicians and everyone in between should pay attention to.