Emerging from the second year of an unprecedented global pandemic, 2021 remained an extraordinary time for news and current events. From the beginning, and throughout the year, Al Jazeera English’s Facebook presence grew to over 15.7 million followers.
We excelled at covering world-changing events in an informative — and engaging way. As we did this, we remained steadfast in our brand mission of emphasising the human story and going beyond hard facts to bring to light the voices that matter from under-reported communities.
Our Facebook content strategy in 2021 focused on finding innovative ways to break down the news. We did this by producing more original native content on the stories that matter most to our global audience, and by using accessible formats — we managed to distribute our most important written journalism to new and loyal users across the globe.
From Facebook Stories and optimising original social video content to excelling at creating branded cards for news stories that sparked in-platform audience conversations, our 2021 strategy was rewarded with more than 355 million video views and 44.5 million engagements (likes, comments, and shares).
From the start of 2021, we’ve seen traffic from our Facebook account to our website (aljazeera.com) come very close to matching our 2020 record of 28.6 million referrals. Users, meantime, flocked to our Facebook page for the latest on the stories that shaped 2021. From the deadly US Capitol riots in January and the Israeli bombardment of Gaza to the global protests that followed in May and the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August; from the US’ complete departure from Afghanistan and Kabul airport and its aftermath to ongoing climate crisis developments and summits. And, of course, the story that continues to change our world — the global COVID pandemic.
In 2021, we reached a total of 360 million video views, outperforming several competitive news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN International, Sky News, Vice News and Vox. Al Jazeera English’s average completion rate (ACR) in 2021 for social videos was the highest yearly ACR since the Facebook page was launched.
2021 also saw us meet audience demands for covering under-reported news stories with access and unique perspectives that only Aljazeera English can provide. This resulted in increased followers and page likes in the millions, video views that broke all previous records, and innovative platform-specific features, such as ‘stories’, to uplift and give voice to those often left out of the conversation.
Our coverage of Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza received the highest engagement over 24 hours on AJE’s Facebook account since 2019, reaching a record 878,000 engagements on May 12th, 2021 alone. To keep our audience up to date with the latest developments, we curated daily posts/social cards/picture galleries with a link to our LIVE blog for further reading — a practice that was imperative in our daily push to keep our global audience informed.
And on May 15, 2021, the building that housed Al Jazeera and other media outlets in Gaza was levelled by an Israeli airstrike LIVE on air, resulting in our fifth-highest watched video of 2021, with 3.7 million views. For the month of May, AJE Facebook received the highest overall total number of engagements for videos published in comparison to our direct competitors — BBC, Sky News, and CNN.
In August the Taliban took control of Afghanistan after the US’s withdrawal and our exclusive interview with Abdul Qahar Balkhi, from the Taliban’s Cultural Commission, pulled in more than 6.4 million views, making it our most viewed video of 2021. And again, in August, AJE received the highest overall total of engagements for videos published compared with our direct competitors. Our daily coverage of Afghanistan, much like Gaza, was accompanied by curated daily posts.
As we build on our 2021 successes, AJE’s Facebook account will continue to be an integral part of our 2022 social strategy over the next year and we are committed to building on the successes we achieved on the platform in 2021.