Twiplomacy aims to identify the extent to which world leaders use Twitter and how they connect on the social network. The research is conducted annually by Burson-Marsteller and I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of their study released today. They analyzed 645 government accounts in 161 countries. Only 32 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia-Pacific, do not have any Twitter presence. The study also revealed that more than 83 percent of all United Nations (UN) governments have a presence on Twitter, and two-thirds (68 percent) of all heads of state and government have personal Twitter accounts.
Here’s some other interesting findings about how world leaders use Twitter effectively:
- Since his election in late May 2014, India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi (@NarendraModi) has become the fifth-most followed world leader on Twitter, with 4,956,244 followers. He is expected to surpass the United States White House account, @WhiteHouse (4,973,061), within the next days and is using Twitter as a power tool to broadcast his messages.
- While some heads of state and government continue to amass large followings, foreign ministers have established a virtual diplomatic network by following each other on the social media platform. For many diplomats Twitter has becomes a powerful channel for digital diplomacy and 21st century statecraft and not all Twitter exchanges are diplomatic, real world differences are spilling over reflected on Twitter and sometimes end up in hashtag wars.
- The five most followed world leaders, including Barack Obama, have one thing in common: they have discovered Twitter as a powerful one-way broadcasting tool; they are only following a handful of other world leaders, if any, and are hardly conversational which is almost impossible, given the sheer size of their audience.
- Pope Francis (@Pontifex) is the most influential world leader on Twitter. His Spanish tweets are retweeted on average more than 10,000 times each. The tweets of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are retweeted 2,000 times. In comparison, @BarackObama’s tweets are only retweeted an average 1,400 times each, despite his massive following.
- Foreign ministers and their institutions on the other hand have put the accent on mutual connections with their peers. In September 2013 the State Department started to follow 22 other foreign offices.Being mutually connected on Twitter allows these leaders to direct message each other and to have private conversations. A number of foreign offices have used this channel to reach out to peers and other influencers to set the record straight or to coordinate their digital outreach. The Swedish Foreign Ministry (@Swe_MFA) has made a conscious effort to establish connections on Twitter, unilaterally following 355 other world leaders.
- Europe’s leading foreign ministers and foreign ministries are all following each other and have created what can be termed a virtual diplomatic network on Twitter. The Swedish Foreign Ministry has been leading efforts to promote #DigitalDiplomacy. In January 2014 the Swedish Foreign Ministry invited 30 digital diplomats from around the world to the Stockholm Initiative for Digital Diplomacy (#SIDD). The initial meeting in Stockholm has given birth to a loose diplomatic network of social media practitioners who are exchanging ideas on how to develop the use of digital tools beyond social media and coordinating digital campaigns beyond their own diplomatic network.
- All but one of the G20 governments have an official Twitter presence and six of the G7 leaders have a personal Twitter account. However, few world leaders are actually doing their own tweeting. Notable exceptions include Estonian President Toomas Henrik Ilves (@IlvesToomas) and UK Foreign Minister @WilliamJHague who bluntly tweeted: “#Twitter is a great way of making our staff nervous by communicating directly!”
- African leaders seem to use Twitter solely to converse with their followers. Ugandan Prime Minister @AmamaMbabazi is the most conversational world leader with 95 percent of his tweets being @replies to other Twitter users. The second most conversational leader is Rwanda’s President @PaulKagame who often gets into memorable Twitter exchanges with his critics.
You can view the full results of the study here.