Among world leaders who engage in “twiplomacy” — the use of Twitter for diplomatic relations — President Barack Obama wins superlatives for the most followers but Pope Francis is the most influential, according to a new survey by Burson-Marsteller.
The global public relations and communications firm found that more than three-quarters of world leaders are on Twitter — the online social networking service that limits messages known as tweets to 140 characters.
It seems everyone wants to keep up with the thoughts and activities of the president of the United States, who has more than 34.5 million Twitter followers. But Obama isn’t the best at following back other world leaders.
While 148 world leaders and governments follow the president, @BarackObama, @WhiteHouse and @StateDept only mutually followed four of them, according to the study, Twiplomacy.
It analyzed 505 top government accounts in 153 countries. Almost half were personal accounts of heads of state, heads of government, foreign ministers and their institutions. About one-third of world leaders personally tweeted.
The study said all 45 European governments are on Twitter, and, with the exception of Suriname, all Latin American countries are, too. In North America, 79 percent of leading government officials have Twitter accounts. It falls off slightly for Asia and Africa, where 76 percent and 71 percent of governments, respectively, use Twitter.
When Burson-Marsteller did its first Twiplomacy study last year, it concentrated on finding out how countries used Twitter to promote themselves.
“We found that of 193 U.N. member states, only nine owned their own Twitter handles,’’ said Santiago Fittipaldi, public affairs director in Burson-Marsteller’s Miami office. “Now, world leaders are finding new uses for Twitter.’’
They’re using it not only to tout their brands but also to communicate with their citizens, attack the opposition, break news, send out automated news feeds and engage with each other.
Sixty-eight percent had mutual connections, setting up the potential for “twiplomacy,” said Fittipaldi.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is the best connected, according to the study, with 44 mutual connections with other world leaders.
Even relative newcomers can rapidly rise to the top of the Twitter heap.
Pope Francis, who started to tweet under the handle @pontifex on March 17 — a few days after he was elected pope — has rapidly become a Twitter star even though he has only sent out about 100 tweets. The study deemed him most influential based on the number of times people share his tweets, an average of 11,000 retweets per message on his Spanish-language account.
In contrast, Obama, who was the first world leader to sign up for Twitter in 2007, averages 2,309 retweets for every tweet he sends.
Francis’ very first tweet — “Dear friends, I thank you from my heart and I ask you to continue to pray for me” — has been shared more than 37,000 times in English and more than 41,000 times in Spanish.
While the pope’s English-language account had 2.76 million followers on Friday, he follows just eight accounts, and they are all his own in eight different languages. Adding all his accounts together gives the pope well over seven million followers