Obama, Pope n Modi top Twitter chart: 2014 global study

How world leaders use Twitter: study highlights 

  • @BarackObama, @Pope and @NarendraModi are the most followed world leaders.
  • @SushmaSwaraj is the most followed foreign minister in the world.
  • Most world leaders do not talk, just speak; and they do not tweet themselves.
  • Narcissists? Quite a few top leaders like to post selfies.
  • Twitter is being used more and more for diplomacy.
  • 32 national governments still do not have a Twitter account.

Who are the most followed Twitterati and how influential are they?

Twiplomacy has come out with its annual global study ‘looking at the use of Twitter by heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs’ for 2014.

According to the comprehensive Twitter list on Twiplomacy more than 3,500 embassies and ambassadors are now active on Twitter. World leaders tweet in more than 53 different languages, but English is the most popular language on Twitter. However, among world leaders and foreign ministries, the Spanish accounts are the most active, followed by English and French accounts.

The study found that the vast majority (83%) of the 193 UN member countries have a presence on Twitter. More than two-thirds (67%) of all heads of state and heads of government in have personal accounts on the social network. However, the Twitter craze is not evenly spread around the globe.
The 32 countries without an official Twitter presence are in Africa, Asia and the central Pacific.

The most active Twitter account among all foreign offices, Venezuelan presidency (@PresidencialVen) publishes 32 tweets a day. The Mexican Presidency (@PresidenciaMX) and the Foreign Ministry of Venezuela (@vencancilleria) come next.

The @BarackObama account, set up in early 2007, has been on Twitter’s suggested user list and is still growing as it is often suggested to new Twitter users. Barack Obama was the first world leader to set up a Twitter account when he was still a senator. Most world leaders started their Twitter accounts in 2010 and 2011.

Thirty-one accounts of world leaders are inactive and have never sent a single tweet, and seven are protected accounts. Many politicians use social media in general, and Twitter in particular, only during election campaigns.

The study says, leaders of populous countries have a clear advantage in garnering a large army of dedicated followers. That, the study seems to imply, is behind the meteoric rise in popularity of @NarendraModi and @SushmaSwaraj accounts. The study says, since his election in late May 2014, India’s new Prime Minister @NarendraModi has moved to third place. However, Modi (8.9 million followers) still is nowhere near the U.S. President @BarackObama (49.1 million followers) and Pope Francis @Pontifex (16 million followers). India’s @SushmaSwaraj is the most followed foreign minister with 1.9 million followers.

However, it’s Pope Francis, not Obama, who is the most influential Twitter global leader. @BarackObama tweets are re-tweeted 1,195 times on average whereas Pope Francis @Pontifex gets more than 10,000 re-tweets for every tweet he sends in Spanish and 6,436 re-tweets in English. He maintains account in these two languages.

Habits of world leaders

Since its last study in July 2013, Twiplomacy has found that foreign ministers and their institutions have intensified their efforts to create mutual connections on Twitter. French Foreign Minister @LaurentFabius has become the best connected foreign minister, mutually connected with 99 other peers and world leaders. It helps these leaders in directly messaging each other and having private conversations.

Europe’s leading foreign ministers and foreign ministries follow each other and have created a virtual diplomatic network on Twitter. The Swedish Foreign Ministry has been leading #DigitalDiplomacy. It recently invited 30 digital diplomats to the Stockholm Initiative for Digital Diplomacy. This meeting has given birth to a diplomatic network of social media practitioners.

However (and is it unexpected?), few world leaders are actually doing their own tweeting.

In addition, they follow only a few other world leaders, if any. @BarackObama follows only two world leaders, Norway’s Prime Minister @Erna_Solberg and Russia’s PM Dmitry Medvedev (@MedvedevRussiae). Obviously, U.S. President @BarackObama and the @WhiteHouse are the most popular among their peers; they are followed by 228 and 191 peers respectively. The @WhiteHouse and other official U.S. government accounts do not follow @BarackObama, as there is a legal separation between the U.S. government accounts and personal campaign accounts.

World leaders and governments are not known for their design skills, the study reveals. Only a few institutions regularly change the header picture to highlight special events. Half of the accounts also have a background that has become almost irrelevant.

Many world leaders take to publishing selfies with other world leaders or their admirers.

What do the global leaders' tweets say?

The top world leaders, as per Twitter following, have one thing in common: they have discovered Twitter as a powerful tool, but it is a one-way broadcasting tool for them as they just speak, not talk. Only a few world leaders reply to their followers’ mentions.

African leaders seem to use Twitter solely to converse with their followers. Rwanda’s President @PaulKagame is the most conversational world leader with 87% of his tweets being replies to other Twitter users.

Over the past year, foreign ministries and world leaders have used hashtags to promote specific issues, be it #BringBackOurGirls or #ENDViolence against children.

Indian Top Blogs has many posts on use of social media, especially by politicians and other leaders. This one is specifically on use of social media by world leaders.