Twiplomacy study

TRENDAFRiCA November 16, 2012

In what is the first ever global study of world leaders on Twitter, two-thirds of world leaders have a Twitter account and interaction occurs with followers, however, not many follow their peers on the social network.

It seems as if most world leaders use Twitter to push out information to the general populace, rather than for connecting with other world leaders and thought leaders around the world.

Public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller has released its “Twiplomacy” study of world leaders on Twitter.

“Twiplomacy” is the first research of its kind, aimed at identifying to what extent world leaders use Twitter. Burson-Marsteller analyzed 264 government accounts in 125 countries.

The findings indicate that over a quarter (76) of all world leaders and governments are following Barack Obama. However @BarackObama mutually follows only Norway’s Jens Stoltenberg and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev and hasn’t established mutual Twitter relations with other world leaders. European Union President Herman van Rompuy (@euHvR) is the best connected world leader, mutually following 11 other peers. Australian Prime Minister @JuliaGillard is the second best connected leader.

Russian President Putin, Rwandan President Kagame, Singapore Prime Minister Lee, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and 35 other accounts do not follow any other Twitter user; effectively cutting themselves out of the conversation.

On the other hand, Ugandan Prime Minister Mbabazi and Rwandan President Kagame, are the most conversational world leaders on Twitter with 96% and 93% of their tweets being @replies.

There are 120 personal accounts, however only 30 world leaders tweet personally and then only occasionally.

“This study illustrates how Twitter is closing the communication gap between us and our world leaders. On the one hand it allows heads of state and government to broadcast their daily activities and government news to an ever growing audience. On the other hand it allows citizens direct access to their leaders. Consequently, it is now, more than ever, critical for these leaders to get it right on the social network,” said Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The study found that politicians often discover Twitter during election campaigns, but once elected, these accounts tend to go silent, such as the accounts of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff @DilmaBR and French President François Hollande @FHollande, who have abandoned their followers since taking office.

Twitter is also used by small nations to put them on the world map and tweet eye-to-eye with their peers. The president of the Dominican Republic unilaterally follows 71 other world leaders. The president of Portugal and the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago both unilaterally follow over 50 other peers in the hope that they will return the favour and the young Republic of South Sudan hopes to gain international Twitter recognition by following 16 peers.

Twitter is most popular in North and South America with 80% of governments active. Barack Obama is the most followed world leader with 17.1 million followers, globally in 5th place just behind Britney Spears. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is in second place with 3.1 million followers, followed by the White House, Queen Rania of Jordan and 10 Downing Street who all have over two million followers.

Other key findings include

  • Out of the 264 accounts of heads of state and government,  90 have never ever sent a retweet and 99 have never sent a @reply.
  • US President Barack Obama was the first world leader to sign up to Twitter on 5 March 2007, followed the same month by @EPN, the account now used by Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto.
  • Most popular tweet: “Same-sex couples should be able to get married,” from President Obama, which was retweeted 62 047 times on 9 May 2012.
  • World leaders tweet in 43 different languages. English is used by 34%, followed by Spanish (15%). However Spanish and Latin American leaders tweet three times as much as their English counterparts.


Source: Burson-Marsteller,  global public relations and communications firm. To access the complete analysis of these findings, visit: www.twiplomacy.com.



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