Pope Francis is the most followed world leader on Twitter with a combined total of 33,716,301 followers on his nine language accounts, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump with 30,133,036 followers and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 30,058,659 followers, according to a Burson-Marsteller study, an annual global survey of how world leaders, governments and international organizations use social media.
Twitter is the prime social network used by 276 heads of state and government, and foreign ministers, in 178 countries, representing 92 percent of all United Nations (UN) member states. Facebook is the second-most used social platform by world leaders, with 169 governments having established official pages.
President Trump is among a very small group of leaders who manage their own Twitter accounts, and his tweets have generated 166 million interactions (likes and retweets) over the past 12 months – including the nearly four months since he was sworn in as U.S. President – almost five times as many as Modi with 35 million interactions.
Saudi Arabia’s @KingSalman is the most effective world leader on Twitter based on the average number of retweets per original tweet. Of his ten tweets over the past year, King Salman has received an average of 147,456 retweets. President Trump’s personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, is the second-most effective Twitter account of any world leader, with an average of 13,094 retweets per tweet. Pope Francis is in third place, with 10,337 average retweets per tweet.
President Trump’s unorthodox use of Twitter during the U.S. presidential election campaign, and especially since taking office, has left many governments around the world wondering if – and how – they should engage with @realDonaldTrump on Twitter.
Some leaders, such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Pope Francis, have sub-tweeted President Trump without directly mentioning him by name. Only three world leaders have addressed @realDonaldTrump directly on Twitter to rebuke his policies:
- Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto
- Hilda Heine, the President of the Marshall Islands
- Ricardo Rosselló, the Governor of Puerto Rico.
“Politics and diplomacy are playing out on social media in a way we have never seen before,” said Don Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, Burson-Marsteller. “With the U.S. president bypassing traditional government channels to communicate directly to his supporters and detractors alike, we can expect more people in positions of power to adopt this practice.”
“The study demonstrates the intense evolution in how world leaders and governments are using social media to reach policy or political objectives.This cross-platform analysis provides key insights on social media use in a global, fast-paced, connected, 24/7 information environment.” – Ramiro Prudencio, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa
The Donald Trump @WhiteHouse account does not follow any other foreign leader. The archived @ObamaWhiteHouse account, conversely, follows the UK government account, @Number10gov, and the Russian Prime Minister’s account, @MedvedevRussiaE.
“Twitter facilitates relations between world leaders in today’s online world,” said Matthias Lüfkens, Managing Director, Digital, at Burson-Marsteller EMEA. “I am especially honored to see our @Twiplomacy Twitter account among the most followed accounts by heads of state and government.”
Other key findings include:
- Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is Latin America’s most followed leader. @EPN has 6.3 million followers, far ahead of Colombia’s President @JuanManSantos, Argentina’s @MauricioMacri, and Venezuela’s @NicolasMaduro, each of whom have more than 3 million followers.
- Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, @UKenyatta, is Sub-Saharan Africa’s most followed leader with 2 million followers, ahead of Rwanda’s @PaulKagame and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari), both of whom have more than 1 million followers.
- The UK Prime Minister, @Number10gov, is the most followed EU leader, with more than 5.1 million followers, ahead of the British @RoyalFamily and France’s @Elysee Palace, with 2.9 and 1.5 million followers, respectively. Newly elected French President @EmmanuelMacron has shot into fifth place behind Spanish Prime Minister @MarianoRajoy, both with more than 1 million followers.
- Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, @HHShkMohd, is the most followed Arab leader with 7.9 million, followed by Jordan’s @QueenRania and Saudi Arabia’s @KingSalman with 6.5 million followers each.
- India’s Foreign Minister, @SushmaSwaraj, is the most followed female world leader with 8 million followers, ahead of Jordan’s @QueenRania.
- Abdullah Bin Zayed, @ABZayed, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, is the second-most followed foreign minister with 3.9 million followers, with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, @AdelAljubeir, in third place with 1.3 million followers.
- Among the foreign ministries, the U.S. State Department (@StateDept) is the most followed, with 4.3 million, ahead of the Turkish Foreign Ministry (@TC_Disisleri) and India’s @IndianDiplomacy, with more than 1.2 million followers each.
- More than 4,100 embassies and 1,100 ambassadors are currently active on Twitter.
The complete collection of social media studies can be found at twiplomacy.com.