If Burson-Mastellar (BM) is right then Narendra Modi could well be on his way to becoming one of the most followed political leaders in the world of social media. Since his election in May 2014, India’s new Prime Minister (@NarendraModi) has become the fourth-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 the PR firm. 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.
Aptly titled, Twiplomacy aims to identify the extent to which world leaders use Twitter and how they connect on the social network. In early June 2014, BM analyzed 643 government accounts in 161 countries. Only 32 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia-Pacific, do not have any Twitter presence. The data was collected from the accounts of 643 heads of state and government, foreign ministers and their institutions in 161 countries worldwide.
"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," said Donald Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, BM.
The big five
As of 24 June 2014, the five most followed world leaders were Obama (@BarackObama) (43 million followers of the US 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. It has been reported that Modi is among the only four individuals that Japanese PM Shinzo Abe follows on twitter.
Twitter is popular with foreign ministers
The study, however says, 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."
Who is more active?
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.
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. Ironically, President Obama was among the first world leader to sign up to Twitter. According to Twiplomacy he signed up on 5 Mar 2007.
Twitter emerges as a powerful channel for diplomacy
"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." Modi won a thumping mandate in India's humongous general election on the back of a carefully crafted social media campaign. According to the report, as of 24 June 2014, all world leaders combined have sent 1,932,002 tweets, posting on average four tweets each day.