If you are an Arabic speaker and on Twitter, you’ve probably come across the increasing demands from the Arabic-speaking community in Qatar and the Arab world for Twitter to start supporting Arabic hashtags.
With the #letstweetinarabic movement going strong in Qatar and spreading in other Arab countries, Twitter is increasingly becoming a hub for quality Arabic e-content. But users in the Arab world are want more from Twitter than just their great platform – they want to be able to index their content in their own language through Arabic hashtags that match the Arabic e-content that they’re creating there.
We want more than just a hashtag though. We also want Twitter’s support of an Arabic interface that allows users to have Arabic usernames, index content via Arabic hashtags and have their profile settings and site-wide instructions in the Arabic language. This is a move that other social networking websites, most notably Facebook, have already taken in recognition of the great numbers of users from the Arab world.
But for now let’s focus on the hastags and why having Arabic hashtags is important– and yes we did have to use the English #letstweetinarabic for our Arabic campaign!
Here are ten reasons why I think Twitter needs to support Arabic hashtags:
- Arabic Content Indexing: It’s simple – the main function of Twitter hashtags is that they help organize Twitter streams and index content just like a funnel in which a variety of content goes through or a book with millions of pages that needs an index to help readers recognize the various topics rather than browsing millions of pages. With over 22 million tweets generated by users from the Arab word during the first quarter of 2011 (as per the Dubai School of Governance Twitter Report), it is evident that content indexing in Arabic is quite needed at the moment.
- Increase Opportunities for Arabic Speakers’ Usage of Twitter: Recent figures say the estimated figure of the active Twitter users in the Arab world is around 1.15 million (out of an estimated Arabic Twitter population of over 6 million). Not all of these users are equally proficient in English & Arabic and the latter remains their native language. An Arabic Twitter interface, and subsequently, an Arabic Twitter hashtag means wider access for those who either can only read and write Arabic or actually prefer to express their thoughts and tweet in Arabic.
- Increase Quantity of Arabic e-Content on Twitter: The current tweeting rate in the Arab world is around 252,000 tweets a day which means 175 tweets a minute or 3 tweets per second. Arabic hashtags will motivate users to post more tweets, knowing that they can easily index them in Arabic.
- Widening the Reach of Arabic e-content posted on Twitter: Hashtags facilitate re-tweeting, improves content visibility and increases the probability of people seeing the indexed content and acting upon it. Having this for Arabic e-content will certainly increase the amount of Arabic tweets hence the percentage of Arabic e-content posted on Twitter as a platform.
- Improving the Interactivity of Arabic e-Content Posted on Twitter: we all know that Twitter isn’t just about posting tweets – that’s just a small part of it. If you are familiar with Klout scores, you probably know that your Klout score will not go up unless your followers act upon your content. Since hashtags allow for more content visibility, this opens more conversation streams around the indexed topic and with Arabic hashtags, and more conversations can easily arise among Arabic speakers.
- Better Usability, Easier Search: For Arabic speakers, searching for Arabic themes or topics using English hashtags can be a daunting process due to a major linguistic difference between Arabic and English. Due to the absence of Arabic language support in various social sites and apps, Arabic users have turned to an “English-Arabic” style whereby they write Arabic words using English language characters(Latin characters) to compensate for the lack of Arabic support. Arabic hashtags will guarantee better usability in that regard, as users will no longer have to express meanings using dispersed, multiple ways in English. For example, to hashtag a topic for العربية, there are over 5 or 6 ways an English hashtag can be written (#3arabeya, #3arabiya, #3arabeyah, arabeyah..etc). Like Internationalized Internet Domains, Arabic hashtags will unify this process and have users no longer guessing how to index using Latin characters.
- More Trending Opportunities, Better Visibility: We all check daily for the top trending topics on Twitter and they are all (or mostly) top trending hashtags. With Arabic hashtags being activated and supported on Twitter, this increases chances that they could make it to the top trending topics as long as there are sufficient conversations around them. This allows not just for better visibility for Arabic e-content, but also grows global conversations around those topics for all Arabic speaking people around the world who, yes, are not just located in the Middle East.
- Equal Importance Assigned to Arabic: Twitter now supports Latin languages (French, English, Italian..etc), Russian, Korean, Chinese and most recently Japanese. With all these languages supported, Arabic hashtags will be a move that gives equal importance to the Arabic language.
- Matching Rising Twitter Usage Figures in the Arab World: Like any product, it’s all about supply & demand. Demand for Twitter in the Arab world is definitely growing, especially since the beginning of 2011. In a country like Qatar, Twitter usage is booming to an extent that Qatar is now the top Arab country in terms of Twitter penetration (an assessment of active Twitter users divided by total population figures – a percentage that has become close to 8% by Q1 2011). More demand means higher need for supply – whether in terms of technical support or wider support for other languages such as Arabic.
- Encouraging the Usage of Arabic Characters: as mentioned in point 6, Arabic hashtags means less dependence of Arab users on Latin-characters equivalents to index Arabic words as topics. More usage of Arabic characters as عربي instead of 3arabi for instance does enhance Arabic e-content in a way and provides less confusion when it comes to content indexing in Arabic.
Let’s start asking Twitter to support hashtags at this link!