Twitter increasingly popular among world leaders, Pope Francis most influential according to new #Twiplomacy study

Global PR agency Burson-Marsteller has released its annual #Twiplomacy study, which looks at the global use of Twitter by heads of state and government, and ministers of foreign affairs.
Twitter increasingly popular among world leaders, Pope Francis most influential according to new #Twiplomacy study

United States President @BarackObama is still the most followed head of state in the world by a large margin, but Pope Francis - aka @Pontifex - is considered the most influential.

Those are only a few take-aways from the latest #Twiplomacy study authored and distributed by global PR and communications firm Burson-Marsteller (BM) - but actually the brainchild of Matthias Lüfkens (formerly with EuroNews and the World Economic Forum).

Twiplomacy is an annual global study looking at the use of Twitter by heads of state and government, and ministers of foreign affairs. Many of them follow and interact with each other on Twitter, leading the authors to bill it as a 'virtual diplomatic network'.

"Twitter has become an indispensable diplomatic networking and communication tool," they claim as more than half of the world’s foreign ministers and their institutions are now active on the service.

As of 24 June 2014, the vast majority (83 percent) of the 193 UN member countries have a presence on Twitter, according to the Twiplomacy study. To boot, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of all heads of state and heads of government have personal accounts on the social network.

Follow the leader, leader

Obama has the most Twitter followers (43.7 million and counting), which is almost nine times as much as number two, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (that's the president of Indonesia; 5 million+ followers) and number three, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (just south of 5 million followers).

But actually in second place is Pope Francis, the current pope of the Catholic Church, who has more than 14 million followers across multiple accounts (for different languages).

Turkish leaders, surprisingly, given its rocky relationship with Twitter, also have millions of followers.

Unsurprisingly, though, the study also confirms that very few world leaders actually seem to be doing their own tweeting. In some cases, perhaps best that they don't, of course.


Despite the account’s massive following, the @BarackObama tweets are on average only retweeted 1,442 times, according to the Twiplomacy study.

Pope Francis scores better here, with more than 10,000 retweets for every tweet he sends on his Spanish-language Twitter account and 6,462 retweets on average on his English account.

Venezuela President @NicolasMadurois in second position, receiving on average 2,065 retweets per tweet on his Spanish account.


Since its last study in July 2013, the folks behind the Twiplomacy study say 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 91 other peers and world leaders. The EU External Action Service (@eu_eeas) is second, followed by Swedish Foreign Minister @CarlBildt with 71 and 68 mutual connections respectively. One wonders how many private messages are being sent between them.

Europe’s leading foreign ministers and foreign ministries are all following each other, the study says. Also, more than 3,100 embassies and ambassadors are now active on Twitter according to this list.

Lists and conversations

Speaking of lists: Barack Obama is not only the most followed but also the most listed world leader, appearing on 207,684 Twitter lists. The @WhiteHouse and Russia’s Prime Minister @MedvedevRussia appear on roughly 60,000 and 45,800 lists, respectively.

The UK government, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner and Colombia’s JuanManSantos all appear on over 10,000 Twitter lists, among several other world leaders mentioned earlier in this post.

Meanwhile, Ugandan Prime Minister @AmamaMbabazi is the most conversational world leader according to the study, with 95 percent of his tweets being @replies to other Twitter users.

Other chatty world leaders include Rwanda President @PaulKagame , Ecuador President Rafael Correa, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and Norway’s Prime Minister, @Erna_Solberg.


A World Wide Web?

All European countries (except San Marino) and all South American countries (except Suriname) now have an official Twitter presence.

Only three countries in North America do not embrace Twitter yet: Barbados, Nicaragua and Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines. In Asia, Africa and Oceania 78.7%, 77.4% and 62% of their respective governments are using the service today. The 32 countries without an official Twitter presence can mainly be found in Africa, Asia and in the central Pacific.

Pardon my French

World leaders tweet in more than 53 different languages, but English is the lingua franca on Twitter with 234 accounts and a total of 530,554 tweets to a combined following of 79,283,641 followers.

However, the 70 Spanish language accounts are far more active, having sent 603,735 tweets to 27,158,180 followers, making Spanish the most tweeted language among world leaders.

French is the third most-used language in world leaders’ tweets, with 126,353 tweets sent.


Almost a third of all world leaders (31 percent) still use Twitter’s website to tweet, down from 46 percent in 2013. But 14 percent of all the tweets have been sent either from an iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or an Android device.

Veteran users

Obama was the first world leader to set up a Twitter account on 5 March 2007 (at the time as Senator Obama). Other early adopters include Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, Canadian Prime Minister @PMHarper and the U.S. State Department, having signed up for the service in 2007. Most world leaders followed suit in 2010 and 2011.

According to the study, 31 world leader accounts are inactive and have never sent a single tweet, and seven are protected accounts.

(Featured image credit: Gil C / Shutterstock)

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