The Internet is a powerful communications tool whose importance is exponentially increasing in the Arab World along with the number of new users in this region. With recent figures having already passed 60 million regular users, the number of new Internet connections in the Arabic-speaking countries is expected to more than double in the next five years.
This growth is interesting especially for parts of the population previously excluded from technology developments. While the main share of new users will be represented by young people under the age of 25, the rapid expansion of the Internet is expected progressively to include broader segments of the population, like new social groups and less-urbanised areas. Therefore, one can expect that a large share of these new users will prefer to use the Internet in their native tongue, Arabic.
Consecutively, online PR campaigns designed to target this new audience need also to include innovative strategies in response to changes in the market. Tourism in particular is one of the sectors expected to benefit greatly from promotion strategies that use Internet sources in Arabic language.
Consistent with its long-standing experience in communications campaigns in the field of tourism, bridge:media's online communications strategy for this sector was mainly based on three key elements: online media, Web 2.0 services and the optimisation of search engines.
Firstly, press releases and features promoting German tourist destinations were conceptualised to target special interest and general online media across the GCC region. Continuous liaison with media representatives as well as regular updating and the development of the publications' content completed this phase of the campaign.
Secondly, Web 2.0 services represented another important focus of efforts to improve the information infrastructure in support of the PR campaigns. Indeed, these services with user-generated content have experienced a popularity surge in Arab countries rarely witnessed by other Internet phenomena in the past few years. Those services include social networks, blogs and forums as well as sites where content in the form of videos, images and text is regularly uploaded by online community members.
Given the constantly growing number of Arab users, mainly among the young population, the dominion of Web 2.0 websites holds a great potential for promotion plans. Websites on tourism to Germany, for example, already offer detailed information in English. Conversely, the corresponding pages in Arabic are still poor in content or are entirely missing.
bridge: media's online campaigns have therefore aimed at filling this gap by improving the existing or creating a new information infrastructure on Web 2.0 services. These are expected to raise further awareness for tourism to Germany among the Arabic-speaking audience, through innovative online tools and content.
On the one hand, popular web pages displaying general information and articles about the related destinations have already been consistently expanded and improved through additional contents and links. In addition, threads containing pictures and informative material have been inserted in the most popular Arabic forums and blogging websites.
On the other hand, the largest international social networks, currently in the process of adding services in Arabic language to facilitate the access to new members from this region, are targeted in the framework of ongoing efforts further to enhance the online communication strategy.
Special fan pages in Arabic are being created to complement the already existent English pages for members of the network interested in German tourism destinations. The described pages targeting Arab users will be placed on social networks offering this feature. Once this task is finalized, in order to include in the strategy all the main Arab and international Web 2.0 services, other network websites, blogs and forums will then be directly linked to them.
As part of this initiative, image and video material is also being created and regularly uploaded to support the diversified approach employed in the communications plan. Ad-hoc videos for an Arabic-speaking audience will be assembled and posted on popular video sharing websites. Videos on thematic channels focusing on tourist destinations in Germany are becoming an additional feature of the strategy specifically addressing video sharing websites.
Finally, thanks to all the different actions undertaken and described so far, it has been possible to achieve significant results in search engines optimization, i.e the process of improving the visibility of web sites or web pages involved in the campaign in the main search engines. Indeed, augmenting the available information in Arabic is constantly contributing to improving the visibility of entries and websites targeted by the online strategy whenever queries related to German travel destinations are carried out on the search engines.
bridge:media's online PR campaigns for travel destinations in Germany considerably expanded the information available in Arabic both for journalists and common Internet users interested in the topic.
On the one hand, by systematically distributing material to the Arabic press, journalists and editors-in-chief were granted easier access to articles with content of their interest. The publications have made a remarkable quantity of information available to journalists who focus on online research in Arabic and who have regularly obtained great coverage on the online services of general news dailies and special interest magazines.
On the other hand, the continuously expanding community of Arabic-speaking Internet surfers has been provided with an improved information infrastructure concerning tourism destinations in Germany. After the improvements realized on forums and blogging websites, these services now appear among the first ten query results on the main search engines. Before the described communication campaigns were implemented, the same entries provided no relevant or related findings in Arabic language.
Moreover, ongoing work aimed at developing equivalent information and successful results on social networks and video sharing websites, is expected to increase further the outreach of the PR campaigns among the target audiences in the region. These tools are indeed experiencing an unprecedented expansion of people using Arabic as a first language for communicating and researching on the Internet.
With the share of Arab users constantly increasing, these services are adapting to an enormously growing share of members. Consequently, bridge:media is also working on new content and an information infrastructure able to reach the new target audience which, comprised mainly of a young crowd of potential future consumers, retain an outstanding new market potential.