International

Twitter becoming increasingly popular with world leaders — except those of Pakistan

By Azhar Khan

The fast evolving digital world and rapid globalization have not only drawn focus of world leaders towards the social media, but also stirred their active participation to interact with the audience on mass level.

Over the past four years Twitter has become the social media channel of choice for world leaders to reach large audiences with key messages and soundbites according to Burson-Marsteller’s Twiplomacy study, an annual global survey of world leaders on Twitter. However, most political leaders from Pakistan, including the Prime Minister and the President, are not even on the microblogging network.

While, some prominent politicians including Imran Khan, who is in the Opposition, is a frequent user of the microblogging website who often make headlines with his tweets. Yet, a large number of Pakistani politicians have no presence on Twitter.

‘Twiplomacy’ aims to identify the extent to which world leaders use Twitter and how they connect on the social network.

Governments are putting more efforts into their social media communication including more visuals and videos in their tweets. Some of them are regularly posting six-second Vine videos to summarize state visits or to cheer their team as the German Foreign Ministry did during the Fifa World Cup.

A handful of leaders including the Elysée Palace and the Kremlin are also early adopters of Twitter’s new livestreaming application Periscope. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has recently gone live on Periscope announcing the resumption of air raids against the FARC rebels.

The study analyzed 669 government accounts in 166 countries and revealed that 86 percent of all 193 United Nations (UN) governments have a presence on Twitter. As many as 172 heads of state and government have personal Twitter accounts and only 27 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia-Pacific, do not have any Twitter presence.

As of 24 March 2015, the five most followed world leaders were U.S. President Barack Obama (57 million followers of the U.S. president’s campaign account), Pope Francis with 20 million followers on his nine different language accounts, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the White House. However, the most followed world leaders follow few other peers, and they are hardly conversational. Barack Obama and the White House only follow four other world leaders, namely Norway’s Erna Solberg, Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev, the UK government and Estonia’s Foreign Minister Keit Pentus.

While @BarackObama is the most followed world leader he is also dwarfed in terms of retweets per tweet by Pope Francis who averages almost 10,000 retweets for each tweet sent on his Spanish account against 1,210 for each tweet sent by @BarackObama.

European foreign ministers use Twitter also to establish mutual connections, creating a virtual diplomatic network. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is the best connected foreign minister, mutually connected to 100 peers. Russia’s Foreign Ministry is in second position maintaining mutual Twitter relations with 93 other world leaders. The Foreign Ministry in Paris is in third place with 90 mutual connections. These mutual connections among foreign ministers allow for private conversations via direct messages on Twitter.

 

According to the study, more than 4,100 embassies and ambassadors are now active on Twitter. In New York, Washington, London and Brussels most diplomatic missions use Twitter to have a voice at the digital table. Canada, the EU, France, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK and the U.S. have put most of their embassies and missions on Twitter. The UK Foreign Office in London also encourages personal engagement by its ambassadors, and it is virtually impossible to become a Foreign Office diplomat without using digital tools.

“It always amazes me how quickly governments adapt to the ever changing social media landscape,” said Matthias Lüfkens, Burson-Marsteller’s EMEA Digital Practice Leader and author of the report. “Some governments have become very professional at using Twitter’s six second Vine videos and others are already going live on Persicope, Twitter’s latest livestreaming application.”

Some of the key findings:

  • 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 tweeting themselves. Notable exceptions include Estonian President Toomas Henrik Ilves, European Council President Donald Tusk, Latvian Foreign Minister and Norway’s Prime Minister who admitted to suffering from dyslexia and makes the occasional spelling mistake.
  • Barack Obama was the first world leader to sign up to Twitter on 5 March 2007 (at the time as Senator Obama) as user #813,286. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the U.S. State Department are among the early adopters, all having joined later in 2007.
  • As of 24 March 2015, all world leaders combined have sent 2,653,876 tweets, posting on average four tweets each day. The Venezuelan presidency has sent close to 60,000 tweets, averaging more than 41 tweets each day.
  • Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto is the most followed Latin American leader slightly ahead of Colombia’s President Juan ManSantos and Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with well over 3.6 million followers each. Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro complete the Latin American top five, with 3.3 and 2.4 million followers respectively.
  • The Mexican presidency is the most prolific, posting on average 68 tweets each day. The Mexican governmental account is not far behind with 60 tweets each day. Both institutions often repeat their tweets several times over several days to capture different audiences at different times.
  • All 669 accounts combined have an audience of 212,283,753 followers. The median average number of followers is 14,207.
  • Quite a few politicians use Twitter only during election campaigns. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo abandoned his 2.7 million Twitter followers once elected in August 2014 as ddi Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet once elected on 11 March 2014.
  • Rwanda’s Paul Kagame has become Africa’s most followed president with 842,260 followers ahead of Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta.
  • Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is also the most conversational world leader with 86% of his tweets being @replies to other Twitter users.

The Study data was collected in March 2015 from the accounts of 669 heads of state and government, foreign ministers and their institutions in 166 countries worldwide.

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