Annual Twitter Study Finds Foreign Ministers Use Twitter to Establish Virtual Diplomatic Network
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 4,967,847 followers. He is expected to surpass the United States White House account,@WhiteHouse (4,976,734) today and is using Twitter as a power tool to broadcast his messages, according to Twiplomacy, an annual global study of world leaders on Twitter by Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and communications firm. Released today, 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.
Twiplomacy aims to identify the extent to which world leaders use Twitter and how they connect on the social network. In early June 2014, Burson-Marsteller analyzed 643 government accounts in 161 countries. Only 32 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia-Pacific, do not have any Twitter presence.
“We are proud that, now in its third year, the Burson-Marsteller Twiplomacy study has become a must-read on social media’s growing importance among world leaders,” said Donald A. Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, Burson-Marsteller. “This year we have seen a 28 percent rise in Twitter accounts among government users, a dramatic increase in efforts to reach people around the world.”
As of 24 June 2014, the five most followed world leaders were U.S. President Barack Obama (@BarackObama) (43 million followers of the U.S. president’s campaign account), Pope Francis (@Pontifex) with 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (@SBYudhoyono) (5 million followers), the @WhiteHouse and @NarendraModi. However, the most followed world leaders follow few other peers, and they are hardly conversational. @BarackObama and the @WhiteHouse only follow three other world leaders, namely Norway’s Erna Solberg, Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev and the UK government.
Conversely, foreign ministers use Twitter to establish mutual connections, creating a virtual diplomatic network. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (@LaurentFabius) is the best connected foreign minister, mutually connected to 91 peers and world leaders. The European Union External Action Service, @eu_eeas, is second with 71 mutual connections, and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt (@CarlBildt) is third with 68 mutual connections. These mutual connections among foreign ministers allow for private conversations via direct messages on Twitter.
“This study illustrates that while the number of followers is important, the number of mutual connections is even more important,” said Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa and Global Chief Strategy Officer. “It is interesting to see how foreign ministries have created large digital networks on Twitter where not every tweet is approved by lawyers and press officers. Corporations and CEOs can learn a lot from politicians on Twitter, in terms of embracing digital tools for communications and how to connect with peers and influencers.”
More than 3,000 embassies and ambassadors are now active on Twitter: Canada, 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.
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.
“Twitter has become a powerful channel for digital diplomacy and 21st century statecraft,” said Matthias Lüfkens, Burson-Marsteller’s EMEA Digital Practice Leader and author of the report. “It always amazes me how quickly social media teams, and sometimes politicians themselves, react to direct messages sent on Twitter. Twitter has become one of the most powerful communication tools and provides a direct line to our leaders. World leaders might not necessarily read the tweets addressed to them, but their teams certainly monitor the Twitter activity.”
Other key findings include:
– 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 (@IlvesToomas), Swedish Foreign Minister @CarlBildt and Finnish Prime Minister designate Alext Stubb (@AlexStubb).
– 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 (@EPN), Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo (@ElioDiRupo), Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (@PMHarper) and the U.S. State Department @StateDept are among the early adopters, all having joined later in 2007.
– As of 24 June 2014, all world leaders combined have sent 1,932,002 tweets, posting on average four tweets each day. The Venezuelan presidency (@PresidencialVen) has sent close to 50,000 tweets, averaging almost 40 tweets each day.
– Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (@CFKArgentina) is the most followed Latin American leader with 2,887,955 followers, ahead of Colombia’s President @JuanManSantos with 2,883,963 followers. Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN), Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff (@dilmabr) and Venezuela’s @NicolasMaduro all have more than two million followers each. The five Latin American presidents are among the top 20 most followed world leaders. They mutually follow each other and often interact with each other publically on Twitter.
– The Mexican presidency (@PresidenciaMX) is the most prolific, posting on average 78 tweets each day, and the Mexican governmental account (@gobrep) is not far behind, with 71 tweets each day which is roughly three tweets an hour.
– All 643 accounts combined have an audience of 156,965,474 followers. The median average number of followers is 9,793.
– Quite a few politicians use Twitter only during election campaigns. Chile’s new President Michelle Bachelet abandoned her Twitter account@PrensaMichelle once elected on 11 March 2014. The personal Twitter account of French Prime Minister @ManuelValls has been dormant since the elections on 9 May 2012.
– Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta (@UKenyatta) is Africa’s most-followed president, with 456,209 followers, ahead of Rwanda’s @PaulKagame and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma (@SAPresident).
– Ugandan Prime Minister @AmamaMbabazi is the most conversational world leader on Twitter. Ninety-five percent of his tweets are @replies to other Twitter users.
To access the complete analysis of these findings, visit: http://twiplomacy.com.