Twitter’s media plans for MENA [Q&A]

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Twitter is targeting Saudi Arabia and Egypt as its regional growth markets as it seeks to make users more ‘sticky’ and profitable to the business.

The 11-year-old US micro-blogging platform has struggled to develop strong revenue streams from its global product, although it has plenty of cash on hand, and is trying to make audiences pay via features such as live videos, ‘moments’ and Periscope, the live-video app the company acquired in 2015.

In MENA, it’s slowly rolling out ideas around media partnerships that have been tested in other markets, but must deal with some unusual numbers.

Media analyst Damian Radcliffe has found that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the highest number of users, but the greatest daily engagement comes from Jordan, Libya, Palestine and Syria. It’s lowest is in Saudi Arabia.

On the sidelines of the Rise Up Summit in Cairo, Wamda spoke to Twitter’s director of media partnerships for the MENA region, Kinda Ibrahim. This is an edited version of the conversation about Twitter’s growth strategy in the region.

(Image via Kinda Ibrahim)

Wamda: Are you localizing the platform in any way to create better engagement with your largest MENA market, Saudi Arabia?

Kinda Ibrahim: Last year, we launched the first ever customized emoji for Saudi National Day, the Janadriyah Festival and the four biggest Saudi football teams…As for football activations we launched an auto-response service in collaboration with MBC that enables fans to add match fixtures to their calendars. We also created a live scoring auto response service with the Saudi Professional League that allows fans to find out the current score of the live match using the hashtag #كم_النتيجة.

Wamda: How are local MENA news organisations using Twitter?

Ibrahim: Using Twitter for live news is becoming more popular. News organizations have been [building] their Twitter presence in the region - especially through our new Periscope producer tool. Organizations using it include CBC and Al Arabiya [as well as] Egypt President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who has used this tool via his Twitter handle @AlsisiOfficial.  

Sports is another category that media organizations focus heavily on. Broadcasting network On Sport live-streamed Egypt and Ghana’s 2018 World Cup qualifying football match via its Twitter account. Our internal data [shows] that two out of the top three ‘moments’ in Egypt, with the highest tweets-per-minute, were sports related: the Al Ahly vs Zamalek match, and the Africa draw for the 2018 Football World Cup.

And the Amplify partnership program in MENA [allows] media partners and brands to team up.

Wamda: Uploading live videos in a country like Egypt, which does not have good Internet infrastructure, is an uphill battle. How do you convince people to keep using it?

Ibrahim: With the advent of 4G LTE in Egypt, we believe that live video will have a strong place to play within mobile content.

Wamda: Where do you see Twitter in MENA in five years from now?

Ibrahim: Live streaming video is a strong complement to the live nature of Twitter, and it helps to instantly explain the value and power of our service. We've always been complementary to TV… people can stay up to date on what’s happening with a timeline of tweets next to the livestream showing real-time updates.

Globally, we have pioneered the digital space by combining live-streaming with social commentary through coverage of NFL (US National Football League) games, the US presidential debates and a Q&A with the Star Wars Rogue One cast. This covers all three verticals of sports, politics and entertainment. We aim to introduce this in MENA.

Wamda: What are you doing that’s new in MENA now?

Ibrahim: We have recently introduced Niche to the region; this is a company that Twitter [acquired] in 2015, that provides creators with the ability to monetize their social presence by working alongside brands to develop branded content.

Feature image via SZ.de.

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