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Our Thinking

World Leaders on Facebook 2018

Our Thinking

WORLD LEADERS ON FACEBOOK 2018 – FULL STUDY

Executive Summary

Technically, Facebook is the largest country in the world with 2.2 billion monthly active users. Since 2015, the number of users on Facebook has surpassed the population of China, the most populous country on earth and 1.4 billion people are active on the platform every day.

  • How do world leaders and governments connect with their citizens on the platform?
  • Are world leaders broadcasting to their constituents or interacting with their followers?
  • Are world leaders responsive to messages from their fans?
  • Do world leaders connect with other governments by liking each other’s Facebook page?

These are some of the questions the latest study about World Leaders on Facebook seeks to answer. The World Leaders on Facebook study was conducted by Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a top-three, full-service, global communications agency with deep expertise in digital and integrated communications.

As of March 15, 2018, the governments and leaders of 175 countries had an official presence on the social network, representing 91 percent of the 193 UN member states. The 650 Facebook personal and institutional pages of world leaders, governments and foreign ministries analyzed in this study have a combined total of 309.4 million page likes as of March 15, 2018. Since January 1, 2017 they have published a total of 536,644 posts which have garnered close to 900 million interactions.

Barack Obama was the first world leader to set up his own Facebook page, in March 2007, when he was still Governor of Illinois. Over the past decade, Facebook has become the channel of choice for engaging potential voters during election campaigns. While many politicians discover social media channels during election campaigns, social media engagement has become part of normal government communications.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the biggest audience on Facebook, with more than 43.2 million page likes, almost half as many as U.S. President Donald Trump who has 23.1 million page likes on his personal Facebook page.

Donald Trump posts an average of five times per day, more than twice as much as the Indian Prime Minister and, since January 1, 2017, his page has accrued 204.9 million interactions (comments, likes and shares), almost twice as many as Narendra Modi with 113.6 million interactions.


Only a handful of world leaders manage their pages on their own, or post on their timeline themselves. This is generally done by their social media teams. However, there are notable exceptions.

New Zealand’s new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, often posts impromptu Facebook live broadcasts from her home at Premier House and even from her car, updating her followers about the latest government decisions and answering questions as they come in live.

The 37-year-old politician has become the “most loved” world leader since 14 percent of her Facebook interactions are love hearts sent by her followers, which is all part of what has become known Down Under as #JacindaMania. In addition, her videos are now consistently subtitled for the hearing impaired.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen occasionally takes the smartphone into his own hands and posts live videos, including a live New Year’s message at two minutes past midnight as fireworks illuminated the night sky of Copenhagen, or a good night message while eating pizza after a long day at work.

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen is visibly having fun on his personal Facebook page. He posts the occasional selfie and short video snippets from his activities, from singing Dancing in the Moonlight with a group of youngsters in the street to driving through the streets of Paris or simply playing with a fidget spinner.

These raw and unedited videos might not have much news value, but they provide a glimpse into “life as the Foreign Minister of Denmark” and are certainly engaging for his 95,000-strong Facebook audience.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong entertains his 1.1 million followers with occasional personal snapshots, often using the hashtag #GuessWhere and encouraging his followers to guess the location where the photo was taken.

Posts which show a personal and often lighter side of world leaders often perform well on Facebook. Much like any other Facebook user, world leaders sometimes share information about their private lives on the platform, celebrating birthdays, sharing pictures of their children and announcing their latest offspring. These personal posts are generally the most popular ones.

Government use of Facebook varies from country to country. While some pages merely broadcast the daily activity of their leaders, others engage with their citizens, replying to the most salient comments and even allowing a free-flow of visitor posts on their respective pages.

Facebook has become the place where citizens can easily send private messages to their government leaders via Facebook Messenger. However, our study has found that few world leaders actually reply to private messages on the platform and many simply use the platform as a one-way broadcasting channel.

With their publications on Facebook, world leaders can now reach an audience of millions of Facebook users worldwide, regardless of the number of likes on their respective pages.

What Type of Content Do World Leaders Post?

The 650 pages analyzed in our study have shared 536,644 posts since January 1, 2017. World leaders mainly tend to share posts with photos, accounting for 52 percent of all their Facebook publications. These photo posts generate an average of 1,750 interactions per picture and account for 54 percent of all interactions. Twenty-three percent are posts with links to other websites, often including a visual. These link posts perform less well and only generate 438 interactions per post, or 6 percent of all interactions.

Not surprisingly, videos and live videos perform best on Facebook. Native Facebook videos represent 17 percent of all the posts, but generate 31 percent of all interactions. A Facebook video garners, on average, 2,615 interactions and live videos have the best engagement with an average of 4,489 interactions per broadcast. Live videos generate the most likes, comments and shares and are clearly appreciated by users. The 91,266 Facebook videos posted on world leaders’ pages have been viewed 5.4 billion times with an average view count of 70,790 per video.

Links to YouTube and other videos shared on Facebook generate the fewest interactions with only 397 interactions per shared video. Only 2 percent of all posts are links to other videos.

Only seven percent of all the publications are text-only status updates without any visuals. These status updates generate, on average, 2,137 interactions with 20 percent of reactions as sad, as sad news is often shared as a simple status post.

Facebook Photos

The picture of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praying at the 11th century Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar, East India has become the most popular photo shared by a world leader in 2017 with a total of 1.2 million interactions, including 1.1 million likes. The five most liked pictures in 2017 were all posted by the Indian Prime Minister, including a picture of Modi receiving a bicycle from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The government of Ethiopia leads the rankings in terms of the number of pictures posted, having published 11,498 pictures since January 1, 2017 which is 2,927 more than the government of Botswana, which is in second place, followed by the government of Pakistan with more than 6,000 pictures posted in the same period.

Family pictures seem the garner the best engagement on Facebook, as evidenced by two popular posts of Donald Trump.

The repost of an Instagram picture from Donald Trump Jr. on President Trump’s Facebook page has become the most liked and shared ‘link post’ of any world leader in 2017. The picture showing the U.S. President wishing a happy birthday to his grandson has garnered 522,381 interactions, including 448,890 likes.

The second most popular link post is a repost by Donald Trump of a tweet from his son Eric Trump announcing the birth of his first child, Eric Luke Trump. The Donald Trump page often republishes Donald Trump’s most salient tweets and Instagram posts.

Facebook Videos

French President Emmanuel Macron scored the viral hit of 2017 with his “Message to American researchers, entrepreneurs, engineers, working on climate change.” The one-and-a-half-minute video appeal to “Please come to France, you are welcome” was watched 29.1 million times and has become the most watched Facebook video posted by a world leader in 2017 and the most shared at 363,505 times.

Macron’s call to Make Our Planet Great Again in reaction to Donald Trump's decision to leave the Paris climate agreement has become the second most watched video in 2017.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Ramadan message to Muslims in Canada and around the world has become the third most viewed Facebook video with 12.5 million views and 819,000 interactions. Donald Trump’s clip from FOX News dancing to Frank Sinatra’s My Way at the inaugural ball has been watched 11.3 million times.

Four videos posted by the Syrian presidency and shot on a mobile phone showing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visiting a trade fair in Damascus each have been watched more than 8 million times.

The 12-second Happy Independence Day clip posted on the Donald Trump page on July 4, 2017 has received the most interactions and 4.5 million views. Eighty-two percent of the 951,331 interactions are likes and love.

The government of the Philippines leads in terms of the number of videos posted, with 1,853, followed by the presidency of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro who posted more than 1,500 videos on their pages, respectively. The Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and the Prime Minister of Cambodia, the Russian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department all have posted more than 1,000 videos, mainly press conferences from their spokespeople.

Many world leaders use Facebook videos to communicate directly with their audiences. Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), posts a weekly one-minute video message, generally shot on location and looking directly into the camera, addressing his Facebook community.

Relatively few pages have taken advantage of Facebook’s cover video, which plays automatically. Only 36 pages have a video as their cover illustration. The cover video of the French presidency takes viewers on a behind the scenes, stop-motion tour of the Elysée Palace, which includes showing the gold-plated tableware and the well-stocked wine cellar. French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his cabinet make occasional cameos in the 90-second video clip.

Some pages have stitched together a series of photos to create a video effect, such as Slovenian President Borut Pahor who displays snapshots from his 240km walk around the tiny country ahead of his re-election campaign in 2017. Fourteen pages do not have a cover picture.

Facebook Live Videos

Almost half of the 650 pages have posted Facebook live videos. The Communications Office of the President of the Philippines has posted 1,065 live broadcasts which have generated more than 47 million views. The White House has 40 million views on its 193 live broadcasts and the page of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen has recorded more than 32 million views of his 1,014 live broadcasts.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department have both posted more than 1,000 videos since January 1, 2017 and both carry their spokespersons’ press conferences live with 191 and 106 Facebook live broadcasts respectively.

U.S. President Donald Trump's first weekly address to the nation on January 28, 2017, shared on the official POTUS page has become the most watched Facebook live video of any world leader in 2017 with more than 5.1 million views. His live announcement of the new U.S. Supreme Court Judge four days later is the second most watched Facebook Live video among world leaders in 2017 with more than 5 million views.

A 44-second live broadcast of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Narendra Modi on the beach during Modi's state visit to Israel is the third most watched Facebook Live video.

More and more world leaders use Facebook Live broadcasts to speak directly to their followers and don’t hesitate to take questions. The European Commission has organized 17 Facebook Live chats with different EU Commissioners and experts. The U.S. State Department has organized a handful of Facebook Live chats. During the election campaign in 2017, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta organized a 'Chat with Uhuru' during which he took questions from his laptop.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who also posts the occasional pieces straight to camera, is one of the few world leaders who sat down for a Facebook Live interview, answering selected question from his fans on the day he presented his third cabinet on October 26, 2017.

Facebook Reactions

In February 2016, Facebook introduced an extension to the ‘Like’ button, offering users five possible reactions - including love, laughter, surprise, sadness and anger - to express their feelings with an emoji on a post. The Facebook posts of U.S. President Donald Trump have received 17.2 million love hearts and 1.4 million angry reactions representing eight and one percent of his total interactions, respectively. Eleven percent of the interactions of the White House posts are love hearts and six percent are angry reactions.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems to be the “most loved” world leader, since 14 percent of all the reactions to her posts are expressions of love. The Brazilian government and President Michel Temer have received the highest number of angry reactions on Facebook, with 20 and 11 percent of their total interactions, respectively. The opponents of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto tend to post laughs at his posts, and the Danish Royal Household has accrued the most expressions of sadness marking the passing of Prince Henrik.

Love

The picture of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming Syrian refugees to Canada is the most loved post with 164,605 hearts, and it is also the second most popular photo post with 1.1 million interactions. The picture, including the hashtag #WelcomeToCanada, posted on January 28, 2017 is a reaction to the travel ban, an executive order issued by President Donald Trump suspending the entry of Syrian refugees to the U.S. a day earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

Angry

Facebook Live videos tend to garner the most interactions, with viewers commenting as the video unfolds.

The first Facebook Live interview of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has received by far the most comments (234,998 comments) and the most negative reactions with 92,165 angry emojis.

Two posts for the New Year by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto have received 50,000 negative reactions, mainly from his detractors. The announcement of the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education has also received a frosty reception on the White House page, with more than 40,000 angry emojis.

 

 

Laughter

The Facebook post which attracted by far the most laughs is the post from Donald Trump mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, receiving more than 156,000 laughter emojis. The Valentine’s Day post by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto received 71,813 laughing smileys, not because the post is funny but it seems his detractors tend to mock him, as eight percent of all his interactions are laughter.

 

 

Surprise

Donald Trump’s post warning that Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way! has attracted the most ‘surprise’ reactions with 16,988 “wow” emojis.

 

 

Sadness

The somber statement of Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after a fatal shooting at a mosque in Quebec City has drawn more than 59,000 expressions of sadness and grief.

The two posts by Donald Trump expressing heartfelt thoughts and prayers after the death of seven Navy sailors of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald both generated more than 38,000 crying emojis.

 

 

Gratefulness

Donald Trump’s Mother’s Day post to his wife, Melania, posted on May 14, 2017 has received the most expressions of gratefulness. The picture of the couple has seen 15,382 purple flowers bloom, a custom emoji which is only available on Mother’s Day.

While Facebook posts with pictures or videos generally garner the most interactions, text-only status updates also can be effective.

Donald Trump’s text post “WE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” on the day of his inauguration on January 20, 2017 has received over 1 million interactions and close to 800,000 likes. His statement regarding extreme vetting, posted on January 30, 2017, is the second most popular status update posted by a world leader in 2017.

Are World Leaders Connecting on Facebook?

Facebook is probably one of the best platforms to start conversations with a world leader’s community and fans. Out of the 650 pages analyzed, 264 publish their contact email and 247 publish their telephone number. Three quarters of all the pages prominently feature a Facebook page button.

One in five of these pages with call-to-action buttons invite users to 'Contact Us' or to 'Learn More' by sending them to their respective websites. Thirty-one pages invite users to watch a promotional video on Facebook or YouTube, 38 pages suggest to 'Sign Up' to a newsletter, 14 pages promote a separate app and 11 pages encourage users to 'Call Now.'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the only word leader who invites his fans to join his support group, which has 1,467 members, and allows for more personal engagement and two-way interactions with the prime minister.

The page of U.S. President Donald Trump is the only page which encourages fans to 'Shop Now,' directing users to the Shop.DonaldJTrump.com website where they can buy Make America Great Again paraphernalia from MAGA pet leashes to MAGA hats and t-shirts.

Are World Leaders Responsive on Facebook?

More than 60 percent of all World Leaders' Facebook pages allow fans to contact the page privately using Facebook Messenger. Furthermore, 246 pages display a large 'Send Message' button on the top of their pages. Interestingly, Facebook is tracking their interactions and publicly displays the average response time on each page.

One third of the 390 pages open to messages typically reply 'within a day' or a 'within a few hours.' Ten percent of the pages reply 'within minutes' and sometimes 'reply instantly.' Twenty-five of the pages that reply instantly have been earmarked as 'Very responsive to messages.'

But being open to messages and being responsive don’t necessarily mean that these pages are actually responding to messages. The most responsive pages tend to send automated replies using chatbots.

The government of Singapore, which has 273,000 followers, uses the Gov.sg bot, designed "to help you stay connected with the latest government news and announcements" and which allows users to choose from a range of daily updates or simply ask a question via the Messenger app.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has 190,000 followers, also runs an automated reply indicating that: "I try to reply to everyone personally but that does mean a bit of delay" and inviting users to drop her an email which will probably be read by her parliamentary assistant.

For this study, we have contacted the 390 pages of world leaders, governments and foreign ministries inquiring about the number of messages they receive on average. We have received only thirteen human-generated replies.

From their responses, it seems that these pages are not flooded by too many messages. The Foreign Ministries of Armenia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Macedonia and the governments of Malta and Serbia all reported receiving between 1-2 messages per day, sometimes even less.

Most inquiries to foreign ministries pertain to visa and consular issues, with occasional media inquiries. The Foreign Ministry of Ethiopia, which has 288,000 likes, receives an average of 60 messages each day on such inquiries. Not surprisingly, the Foreign Ministries of Iceland, the Philippines and Russia share the contact details of their consular departments in their automated Messenger replies.

The two-person social media team of the presidency of Cape Verde handles, on average, three messages per day, and the social media manager of the Austrian President Alexander van der Belen, who has 290,000 likes, averages 150 messages per week, including feedback, requests for help and requests for support.

It makes sense to accept Direct Messages on Facebook and set up automated messages to channel the conversation, even if it means directing fans to the "Contact Us" form on the website as the Israeli prime minister does. Given the growing number of interactions via social media and Facebook in particular, it seems governments would be well advised to set up automated welcome messages, replies and start implementing more sophisticated chatbots to guide their constituents to the relevant services.

Most Liked World Leaders

According to the Burson Cohn & Wolfe study conducted in March 2018, 109 heads of state, 86 prime ministers and 72 foreign ministers maintain personal pages on Facebook and, in general, they are more popular than the pages of their respective institutions. As of March 15, 2018, all 650 personal and institutional Facebook pages of world leaders had a combined total of more than 309.4 million likes and 896 million interactions since January 1, 2017. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most popular world leader on Facebook, with more than 43 million likes on his personal page and 13.9 million likes on his institutional Prime Minister of India page, which is in fourth position.

U.S. President Donald Trump is the second most popular world leader, with more than 23 million likes on his personal Facebook page, which has grown by 38 percent over the past 14 months.

Jordan’s Queen Rania has seen her page grow by 56 percent since January 1, 2017, and moved up into third position with just over 16 million likes, reaching an Arabic and English audience well beyond the 5.3 million Facebook users in Jordan.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has shot into fifth position of the most followed world leaders with 9.6 million page likes and a growth rate of 48 percent. Interestingly, he has more Facebook fans than Cambodia has Facebook users (7.1 million) but still less than the 14.4 million Khmer speakers on Facebook.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House and Indonesian President Joko Widodo boast more than 8 million likes, respectively. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau complete the Top 10 of the most popular world leaders on Facebook with 7.2 and 5.8 million likes, respectively.

Fifty-five world leaders can boast more than 1 million likes on their respective Facebook pages. However, not everyone has such large communities and the median average of the 650 pages analyzed stands at 38,105 likes.

The Presidency of Togo has seen the strongest growth of its Facebook page since January 1, 2017 with a 91-fold increase from 394 likes on January 1, 2017 to 36,416 page likes by March 15, 2018. The Urdu page of the State Department has increased 45-fold, gaining more than 25,000 page likes since January 1, 2017. French President Emmanuel Macron has seen his page explode 18-fold from 110,000 likes on January 1, 2017 to more than 2.1 million followers by March 2018.

For the record, Barack Obama was the first world leader to set up a Facebook page, in late 2007, while still a Senator from Illinois. He left office in January 2017 with 54 million likes on his personal page, which now has 55 million likes.

Most Liked Regional Leaders

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta is the most popular leader in Sub-Saharan Africa with 3.5 million likes, ahead of Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo with 1.6 million likes. Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Guinea’s Alpha Condé complete the top five list each with more than 700,000 likes, respectively.

Indian government figures, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, dominate the ranking in the Asia-Pacific region. The size of the country is clearly a decisive factor for these large audiences; however, Facebook has been making inroads in other Asian countries and has become the platform of choice for many Asian leaders with sizeable audiences.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is in third position in Asia with 9.6 million page likes, followed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo with 8.1 million likes. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and Philippine Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano have 4.3, 3.3 and 2.4 million likes, respectively.

Jordan’s Queen Rania, an early adopter of Facebook and who has seen robust growth on her Facebook page since January 2017, tops the list of the most popular leaders in the Middle East and North Africa, with 16 million likes, more than twice as many as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi with 7.2 million likes and also ahead of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai, with 3.7 million likes and Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court with 2.9 million likes.

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto is the most popular leader in Latin America with 5.6 million likes, ahead of Argentinian President Mauricio Macri with 4.5 million likes, the Argentinian Presidency with 1.6 million likes, Peru’s former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski with 1.5 million likes and the Brazilian government portal with 1.3 million likes.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the most followed European leader with 8.9 million likes, more than twice as many as the British Royal Family with 4.1 million likes. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has 2.5 million likes ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis who complete the top five of the most liked European leaders on Facebook with 2.1 and 1.8 million likes, respectively.

The governments of only 18 countries have not yet set up a presence on Facebook, including China, North Korea and Turkmenistan, where the social network is banned as well as a handful of small island states in the Pacific Ocean. A Facebook page was set up for the Chinese State Council Information Office @ChinaSCIO on September 1, 2015. The page which shares information in English from Chinese state- run media is not verified and only has 175 likes.

World Leaders with the Most Interactions

Large Facebook pages clearly translate into large interactions (defined as the sum total of likes, comments and shares). U.S. President Donald Trump is very effective on Facebook: While having almost half the followers of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he has almost twice as many interactions.

Over the past 14 months, the Facebook page of President Donald Trump had by far the most interactions of any world leader on Facebook, with an accumulated 204.9 million interactions on his page and an overall interaction rate (the sum of all interactions divided by the number of posts and the average page likes since January 1, 2017), of 0.41 percent. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi clocked up 113.6 million interactions on his page, more than twice as many as Indonesian President Joko Widodo with nearly 46 million interactions, who enjoys a good interaction rate of 0.88 percent.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister drops from second to into fourth place, with just under 36 million interactions. Samdech Hun Sen often shares family pictures of himself with his wife and grandchildren, pictures of himself playing golf as well as the occasional selfie. He has also made his page the go-to page for live events, broadcasting football matches and the Voice of Cambodia. It is not surprising that 38 percent of his video views are live views in 2017.

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri is in fifth position with 33 million interactions and an interaction rate of 0.69 percent on his posts. The White House, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, the institutional page of the Indian Prime Minister and the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama complete the Top 10 with more than 13 million interactions.

How Often Do They Post?

Some governments use Facebook as their governmental wire service, and 16 pages average more than 10 posts per day. The Facebook page of the government of Botswana is the most prolific, with an average of 35 posts per day since January 1, 2017. The governments of Ethiopia and the presidency of Ghana are not far behind with 28 and 21 posts per day, respectively.

However, the posting frenzy doesn’t necessarily translate into greater engagement, or more likes on their respective pages. The average posting rate stands at 1.88 posts per day. All 650 world leaders combined have published 536,644 posts since January 1, 2017, which is a median average of 478 posts per page.

While an active social media presence is vital to keep an audience engaged, pages that are overly active generally don’t enjoy high interaction rates. All 650 pages combined have an average interaction rate of 0.89 percent, which is the sum of all interactions divided by the number of posts and the average page likes in 2017. Only a quarter of the pages analyzed enjoy a better than average interaction rate. Four pages have double-digit interaction rates which are exceptional but mainly because these pages have published few posts and only have several hundred page likes. Posting intermittently seems to be the recipe for success for Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, who has an interaction rate of more than 7.4 percent on his page which has 284,279 likes. The announcement of his partner’s pregnancy and the birth of his baby boy really drove interactions on his page.

Do World Leaders Like Each Other?

Liking other Facebook pages is an act of courtesy and a sign of subtle diplomatic overtures. While a like does not allow these pages to message each other privately, it makes it easier to follow the posts published on those pages. Almost half of the 650 pages analyzed have liked at least one other peer Facebook page and in total they have liked 19,242 other pages.

In terms of peer connections, the White House page is the most popular page, liked by 28 pages of world leaders and the European Commission is second, liked by 24, most of whom are other European leaders. The State Department is in third position, ahead of the EU Council and the EU External Action Service tied for fourth position and the French and the British Foreign Ministries which share fifth place.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has made the most diplomatic overtures on Facebook, liking 97 other peer pages, including many foreign ministries, and selected world leaders such as the personal page of Donald Trump. However, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow has not liked the pages of the State Department, the White House nor the UK Foreign Office.

In an apparent attempt to signal the possible re-establishment of diplomatic relations, the State Department liked the page of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani who hasn’t reciprocated yet.

The Foreign Ministry of Nepal has liked 40 other world leader pages and the Presidency of Panama, the Croatian government and the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan have liked 26 peer pages each. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the UK Foreign Office and the Italian Presidency are the only three pages which like the official page of the U.S. President, @POTUS.

Only two foreign leaders have liked the personal page of Donald Trump: The Russian Foreign Ministry and Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica. Donald Trump has liked the pages of Daniel Scavino Jr., the Director of Social Media at the White House, as well as the pages of his wife and children and the pages of the different Trump properties around the world, but the page hasn’t liked any other foreign leader yet.

Politicians tend to like their respective political party. Governments sometimes like all their ministries on Facebook and foreign ministries often like the pages of their embassies worldwide. A few foreign ministries also like the Facebook pages of embassies accredited in their respective capitals.

The United Nations Facebook page is by far the most popular page with all world leaders, liked by 45 other pages, followed by the European Parliament and the archived page of the Obama White House sharing second place. The NATO page and the personal pages of Barack Obama and former French President François Hollande close the top five list.

One of the best ways to draw attention to posts and potentially increase their reach is by tagging other Facebook pages. The Belgium Foreign Ministry consistently tags other pages in its publications, such as international organizations and the pages of its own embassies. The digital diplomats in Brussels also show that institutional communication doesn't have to be boring - they add Facebook expressions to their posts. The Facebook expressions range from "eating waffles at the United Nations" to “supporting UN Women” on International Women's Day, from "feeling cold in Astana" and "remembering our fallen soldiers at the Canadian War Museum." Using the Facebook's preset expressions is a simple and fun way to make the official communications more engaging.

Most Visited Institutions

 

More than one third of the 650 pages surveyed are 'place pages’ where Facebook users can check in with their mobile devices. According to this measure, the White House is by far the most popular government location with more than 5 million people who ‘have been here.’ However, a check in doesn’t mean that the person has actually been at the location since Facebook check-ins can be faked on desktop computers.

More than 225,000 Facebook users have “checked in” at the State House in Uganda. The UK government at 10 Downing Street, the Indian Prime Minister’s office and the EU Commission complete the top five list with more than 120,000 check-ins, respectively.

How Big are the Social Media Teams?

The size of social media teams varies widely from country to country. In smaller countries such as Iceland the Foreign Ministry’s social media team “is still a one-woman operation,” as the community manager put it. The website and the social media channels of the Serbian government are also managed by one person only. In the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic, one person is responsible for the two Facebook pages and Instagram, while Twitter is managed by the press department.

In the foreign ministries in Armenia, Estonia and Macedonia, four staff are working on the social media profiles and the government of Malta employs a team of five social media mangers. The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry’s digital team is comprised of 10 content producers, moderators and managers and the French Foreign Ministry has a 28-strong multi-lingual digital team.

About this Study

World Leaders on Facebook is Burson Cohn & Wolfe's latest research into how world leaders, governments and international organizations communicate via social media. The research builds on Burson Cohn & Wolfe's highly acclaimed annual Twiplomacy study. Initially focused solely on Twitter, the study has been expanded to other social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and more niche digital diplomacy platforms such as Snapchat.

Burson Cohn & Wolfe has identified a total of 650 Facebook pages, 341 of which have been verified by Facebook and carry a blue verification mark. The remaining 309 pages are not verified, but we believe that they can be considered as official pages. We also discovered 10 personal profiles of world leaders. including the personal account of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, which we did not include in this analysis despite having 587,571 followers and 4,712 friends. And finally. we have not included inactive pages as it was virtually impossible to determine their authenticity.

Data was collected on March 15, 2018, using Burson Cohn & Wolfe’s proprietary tools to analyze the 650 world leaders’ pages. More than 50 variables were considered, including: Likes, check-ins, were here count, location, Liked by Page, etc.

We also used Crowdtangle.com to capture the historic data for all 650 pages including the total interactions (comments, likes, shares), interaction rates as well as all video views and posts from January 1, 2017 to March 15, 2018.

May 2018