Barack Obama is the most followed world leader with 17,115,077 followers | Courtesy Burson-Marsteller
Twiplomacy study | World leaders Twitter statistics | Courtesy Burson-Marsteller
Twiplomacy study | World leaders Twitter statistics | Courtesy Burson-Marsteller

GENEVA |   The Twitterverse follows Obama (@BarackObama and @WhiteHouse), even though he’s not all that well-connected.  The world’s most connected leaders who tweet are European Union President Herman van Rompuy (@euHvR) and Australian Prime Minister @JuliaGillard, a new study titled “Twiplomacy” suggests.

Conducted by global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, “Twiplomacy” calls itself “the first-ever global study of world leaders on Twitter.”  If you think it is a damn shame the Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress are locked in a gridlock, their online “friendships” don’t amount to a hill of beans either.

45% of the 264 accounts analysed in the study are “personal accounts of heads of state and government.” However, only 30 world leaders tweet themselves, and very few on a regular basis. “Twiplomacy” finds that these world leaders do not follow one another’s tweets. And they do not always respond back to their followers.

How many followers are we talking about? As of July 1, 2012 the 264 accounts enjoyed a combined following of 51,990,656.

World leaders, the “Twiplomacy” study further reveals, are lousy tweeters . While the social network invites direct interaction between users, few world leaders take advantage of the opportunity to develop connections. Almost half of world leader accounts analysed do not follow any of their peers.

As stated earlier, a quarter of world leaders and governments follow President Barack Obama and the White House. However, @BarackObama (ran by Obama’s presidential campaign) and the @WhiteHouse (run by U.S. government) have established mutual Twitter relations with only three other world leaders: Norway’s Jens Stoltenberg (@jenstolenteberg), the UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev (@MedvedevRussia).

European Union President Herman van Rompuy (@euHvR) is the best connected world leader with 11 mutual follows. Australian Prime Minister @JuliaGillard is the second most connected world leader.

Many governments use Twitter as an automated news feed from their website or Facebook page. Twitter has become a new way for these leaders to broadcast their daily activities and government news to an ever-growing audience.  It also allows citizens a sort of direct access to their leaders, since anyone can @mention a world leader on Twitter. Whether the world leader answers back is another question. Only a select few do actually reply to their followers’ @mentions.

The most popular tweet ever? Obama’s announcement that: “Same-sex couples should be able to get married.” It was retweeted 62,047 times on 9 May 2012.

Barack Obama is the most followed world leader with 17,115,077 followers | Courtesy Burson-Marsteller
Barack Obama is the most followed world leader with 17,115,077 followers | Courtesy Burson-Marsteller

“Life is tweet,” former UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott recently wrote in the Guardian: “Twitter has given me a voice and a connection to millions of people that the distorted prism of the mainstream media denied.” A few world leaders use Twitter precisely to debunk false information and correct media reports.

Presidents, prime ministers or their institutions in 125 countries have a presence on Twitter. Twitter is most popular in North and South America where 83% and 75% of the heads of state and government, respectively, have a Twitter account. Three-quarters of European governments are active on Twitter, while in Africa and Asia the number drops to 60% and 56% respectively. In Oceania governments in only 4 out of the 14 countries (i.e. 29% of leaders) have a Twitter presence.

Barack Obama is the most followed world leader with 17,115,077 followers, and the 5th most popular account in the Twitterverse just behind Britney Spears.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is the second most followed leader with 3,152,608 followers, followed by the White House (2,951,928), Queen Rania of Jordan (2,174,187) and the UK prime minister (2,022,685).

Presidents Abdullah Gül of Turkey, Felipe Calderón of Mexico, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and prime ministers Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey all have more than one million followers.

“Twitter is sometimes used by small nations to put them on the world map and tweet eye-to-eye with their peers,” the study said. “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 more than 50 peers, perhaps in the hope that they will return the favour; so far they haven’t.”

Some world leaders have useless Twitter accounts. “Russian President Putin, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and the Dutch Royal Household don’t follow any other Twitter user,” the study added. In total 42 accounts do not follow any other Twitter user; effectively cutting themselves out of the conversation.”

The other important question, of course, is: Do world leaders tweet themselves, or they do they ask other minions do tweet for them?  According to the Twiplomacy study, “30 heads of state and government actually do their own tweeting.  The most conversational are the prime minister of Uganda, Amama Mbabazi, and Rwanda President Paul Kagame who frequently engage personally in tweets with their followers.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati holds occasional Twitter chats with his followers. President Barack Obama has become more active on the White House Twitter channel, participating in a recent White House chat.

The Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak invited his 500,000th follower for breakfast. The Croatian government has started to organize regular tweet-ups at the government offices for 50 lucky followers.

Visit to find out more.

“Twiplomacy” is a study of the use of Twitter by world leaders, conducted by leading global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller.

Burson-Marsteller identified Twitter accounts of 264 heads of state and government and their institutions in 125 countries world-wide. The study analyses their Twitter profiles, their tweet history and their connections with each other.

Data used was taken in July 2012 using Twitonomy ( Over 30 variables were considered, including: tweets, following, followers, listed, the date the user joined Twitter, ratio followers/following, ratio listed/100 followers, tweets/day, retweets, % of retweets, user @mentions, average number of @mentions/tweet, @replies, % of @replies, links, average number of links/tweet, hashtags, average number of hashtags/tweet, tweets retweeted, proportion of tweets retweeted by others, total number of tweets retweeted, average number of tweets retweeted, users most retweeted, users most replied to, users most mentioned, hashtags most used, platforms most tweeted from. Burson-Marsteller also used Twitonomy to pull together the entire Tweet history for each account to find the most popular tweet. You can find the full Twitonomy data set here

To find the first tweet of each world leader Burson-Marsteller used MyFirstTweet ( (When the account had more than 3,200 tweets it was sometimes impossible to find their first tweet).

Doesfollow ( was used to analyze Twitter relations between world leaders.

We used Wordle ( to create tag clouds of each feeds most frequently used terms

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