Twitter starts commercial operations in the UAE

US social network and micro-blogging site Twitter launched its commercial operations in the UAE with Egyptian advertising agency Connect Ads.

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Twitter has started commercial operations in the UAE with the Egyptian advertising agency Connect Ads after tripling the number of users in the region over the past year.

"It is one of our fastest-growing regions," said Shailesh Rao, a vice president of international operations at the social network and blogging site. "Twitter is used when events in the real world spark conversations online, be it unplanned events, natural disasters, politics or TV shows."

The launch comes as reports suggest Twitter is now worth US$9 billion (Dh33.5bn) after the world's largest asset manger BlackRock purchased $80 million worth of shares from early employees.

Twitter appointed Connect Ads, a unit of Egypt's OTVentures as its sales partner in the region late last year. OTVentures is an affiliate of Orascom Telecom Media and Technology.

The two are focusing their efforts on Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Pakistan to launch different advertising solutions where advertisers are charged only when users engage with the promoted products.

"To advertise on Twitter you have to have your finger on the pulse of society and be aware of what's happening at the time and develop campaigns that are timely," said Mr Rao.

Already Pepsi, Dubai's Atlantis Hotel, the Saudi Arabian telecoms company Mobily and Dubai Calendar have been working with Connected Ads to have their brands promoted on Twitter.

The agency will also provide education and training programmes for brands and large advertisers in the region to learn how best to use Twitter in their campaigns.

"The response has been amazing," said Mohamed El Mehairy, the managing director of Connect Ads.

"Half the job is done, brands are not asking why [to advertise] Twitter, but how?"

Digital advertising spending in the Middle East is worth about $200 million, according to Mr El Mehairy, but this is expected to grow substantially.

There are 200 million users on Twitter across the world, of which about 60 per cent access the website on their mobile phones. Mr Rao expects mobile usage of Twitter in the region to be far higher than the global average.

According to the Arab Social Media Report, there are more than two million active Twitter users in the Arab region.

Arabic is Twitter's fastest growing language and is the sixth -most tweeted language. Saudi Arabia is the biggest market for Twitter in terms of user numbers.

Twitter, founded in 2006, launched Promoted Products as a revenue generator a couple of years ago. It is thought the company will generate $1bn in revenues by next year.