That is according to “Twiplomacy”, a study on world leader behaviour on Twitter, conducted annually by Burson-Marsteller, a leading public relations and communications agency. The study, published in June, shows that 83 percent of the 193 United Nations member countries have a presence on Twitter, and that over two thirds (68 percent) of all heads of state and heads of government have personal Twitter accounts.
The Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Twitter account (@LithuaniaMFA) has 44 mutual connections with other political social network accounts, and is in 14th place amongst the top fifty best connected world leaders. Minister Linas Linkevičius, who has 21 mutual connections, is in 48th place on the list. This study shows that Lithuanian representatives are ahead of the game when it comes to using Twitter as a means of communicating – much more so than leaders in other countries, according to BVRG, a network partner communication agency in Lithuania affiliated with Burson-Marsteller. .
In Lithuania, two particular events led to a prolific use of Twitter – the country’s presidency of the European Council, and the unrest in Ukraine. With its highly professional usage of Twitter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs became a main source of information for European diplomats and the political media during the presidency.
During the unrest in Ukraine, Lithuanian politicians communicated vigorously on Twitter with the international community on events in the country, as well as on Lithuania’s reaction to these events. “Politicians are rarely disseminators of news, but it seems that, thanks to them, the Lithuanian media and many active users saw Twitter as a reliable source of information and started using it enthusiastically,” noted Jon Blinstrub, director of BVRG.
When it comes to Twitter and world leaders, the most popular are US President Barack Obama (@BarackObama) who has 43 million followers, Pope Francis (@Pontifex) with nine accounts in different languages and 13 million followers, and Indonesia’s president Susilo BamBang Yudhoyono, with 5 million followers. India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi (@NarendraModi), elected at the end of May, became the fifth most followed world leader on Twitter with 4,967,846 followers. It is predicted that he will soon overtake the White House account (@WhiteHouse), currently with 4,976,734 followers. Nevertheless, the most popular world leaders themselves follow only a small number of their colleagues and rarely engage in debates.
European Foreign Affairs Ministries, together with their ministers, stand out in terms of their social media behaviour because by following one another, they have turned Twitter into a virtual diplomatic space. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius (@LaurentFabius), is the best-connected minister, with 91 colleagues following him, who he follows in return. The European External Action Service (@eu_eeas) is in second place with 71 mutual connections. The Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt (@CarlBildt), is third with 68 mutual connections. These mutual connections between diplomats allow them to have private conversations using “tweets”.
“This study shows that, although the number of followers is important, the number of mutual connections is by far the most important,” according to Jeremy Galbraith, Burson-Marsteller’s World Strategy manager for Central and Eastern Europe and Africa. “It’s interesting to see how the Ministries of Foreign Affairs have created a digital network on the Twitter platform, on which not a single communication has been verified by lawyers or members of the media. Corporations and their heads can learn a lot from the behaviour of politicians on Twitter, especially by using digital means of communication, as well as how to connect with colleagues and the most influential people”.
Other Results of the Study
- In Lithuania, President Dalia Grybauskaite has the most Twitter followers (@GrybauskaiteLT) with 13,656. In second place is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ALithuaniaMFA) with 9,971 followers and in third place is its head, Linas Linkevicius (@LinkeviciusL), with 6,662 followers. Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius (@AButkevicius) has 1,817 followers. Lithuanian political leaders, through their active use of Twitter, stand out in the frequency at which they use English in their communications, showing a leaning toward the international diplomatic community.
- The most widely used hashtags used by Lithuanian representatives are #eu, #eu2013lt, #lithuania and #ukraine.
- The most shared tweets are from @GrybauskaiteLT with each one being forwarded on average 20 times.
- Currently more than 3,000 embassies and ambassadors are actively using Twitter – Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. The UK Foreign Office also encourages individual ambassadors to use Twitter; it is almost unknown for a Foreign Office diplomat not to use any form of digital communication.
- Pope Francis (@Pontifex) is the most influential world leader on Twitter. Each of his Spanish language communications are forwarded on average more than 10,000 times. President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro’s communications are forwarded on average 2,000 times. In comparison, @BarackObama communications are forwarded on average only 1,400 times, despite its large number of followers.
- Barack Obama, who signed up on 5 March 2007, has been using Twitter the longest (at that time he was Senator Obama). Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto (@NPN), Belgian president Elio Di Rupo (@ElioDiRupo), and Canadian president Stephen Harper (@PMHarper) are amongst the earliest users of Twitter who signed up after 2007.
All of the 645 accounts in the study have in total 157,117,808 followers. The average number of followers is 10,147. According to data from 23 June 2014, all world leaders had sent a total of 1,932,262 tweets.
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