July 26, 2012

Press Release

Burson-Marsteller study finds almost two-thirds of world leaders are on Twitter– but how connected are they really?

Geneva, 26 July 2012 – Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and communications firm, today released “Twiplomacy” (http://twiplomacy.com) – the first-ever global study of world leaders on Twitter. The study shows that almost two-thirds of world leaders have a Twitter account. However, whilst the social network offers direct interaction between users, almost half of world leader accounts don’t follow any of their peers.

“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 but 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.

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

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 17,115,077 followers, globally in 5th place just behind Britney Spears. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is in second place with 3,152,608 followers, followed by the White House, Queen Rania of Jordan and 10 Downing Street who all have over two million followers.

To access the complete analysis of these findings, visit: www.twiplomacy.com

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 an @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.” – President Obama”, 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


About the Study
Data used was taken in July 2012 from the accounts of 264 heads of state and government and their institutions in 125 countries world-wide looking at over 30 variables using Twitonomy (http://twitonomy.com). Burson-Marsteller used Doesfollow (http://doesfollow.com) to analyze Twitter relations between world leaders and MyFirstTweet (http://myfirsttweet.com) to identify the first tweet of each world leader.

About Burson-Marsteller
Burson-Marsteller, established in 1953, is a leading global public relations and communications firm. It provides clients with strategic thinking and program execution across a full range of public relations, public affairs, reputation and crisis management, advertising and digital strategies. The firm’s seamless worldwide network consists of 73 offices and 83 affiliate offices, together operating in 108 countries across six continents. Burson-Marsteller is a unit of WPP, the world’s leading communications services network. For more information, please visit bm.com.