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Egypt Special: A Lesson Learned About Twitter From Al Jazeera

A recent post on Twitter’s media blog discuss how the social network has been central to recent events in Egypt --- but not in the way you might expect.

Unlike Iran in 2009, where the importance of Twitter was debated, quarrelled over and argued about, the Egyptian government blocked any banter about a "Twitter revolution" by completely cutting off the Internet.

So what could Twitter’s role be this time? Let's glance at Al Jazeera English, who were watching the Egypt-related conversation online, then making some very shrewd purchases of Promoted Tweets  --- essentially paid advertising for your Twitter feed --- to promote their @AJEnglish Twitter account. And what was @AJEnglish linking to most often? The channel’s live TV feed.

Here’s what the use of Promoted Tweets did for @AJEnglish’s follower count last month:

According to Twitter's media blog, “Twitter is one of the top referrers to a site that’s seen a 2,500% jump in traffic since January 25.”

The conclusion from this: Twitter is just another communication tool, there to be leveraged by anyone with the will and the ambition. Yet just as Al Jazeera’s coverage of Egypt would sound ridiculous if described as "Television Revolution", so do straw=man notions of a "Twitter Revolution" in Iran, or indeed anywhere else. The Twitter of 2011 looks like it will become a mature, integrated part of the media landscape: if protesters in Tahrir Square did not have access, it still had a role to play in bringing the story to the outside world.

The jury’s still out on what Al Jazeera’s rise in prominence meant for the people of Egypt. As with Iran in 2009, we may never know just how many people inside the country were getting their information from these sources. But the jury is definitely in on how the channel has benefited greatly from positioning itself as the source of information from Egypt among mainstream news outlets, and it can thank social media for a pivotal influence in this rise.

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