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Narendra Modi, Donald Trump and Pope Francis most followed world leaders on Twitter

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Twiplomacy Study 2018 shows Sushma Swaraj is the most popular among women leaders; MEA is the third most followed foreign ministry in the world. 

Hyderabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the three most influential world leaders when it comes to digital diplomacy, a study by global communications agency BCW has found.

Modi is the third most followed world leader on Twitter, with 42 million followers on his personal handle and 26 million on the official PMO handle @PMOIndia, which is the fourth most-followed handle.

With 52 million followers, US President Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) tops the list, followed by Pope Francis (@Pontifex) who has 47 million followers, according to Twiplomacy Study 2018.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is both the most followed female world leader in the world and the most followed foreign minister, with 11 million followers. The Ministry of External Affairs @IndianDiplomacy is the third most followed foreign ministry in the world.

The “most effective” world leader is Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who despite having tweeted only 11 times, has received an average of 1.54 lakh retweets. Trump’s personal account is the second-most effective Twitter handle. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are also in the top 5 slot.

How Twitter has changed diplomacy

The Twiplomacy study says that Twitter is the “key channel of communication for digital diplomacy”, with 131 active foreign ministries and 107 foreign ministers personally using the platform.

BCW said it identified and analysed 951 Twitter accounts of heads of state and government leaders from 187 countries.

While the most followed world leader is Trump’s personal handle @realDonaldTrump, most heads of state and governments prefer to follow the White House @WhiteHouse and the @POTUS official account. The British PM’s office, @10DowningStreet is the most followed European official account.

Several foreign ministries have used Twitter to establish mutual connections. In March, the Russian embassy in Washington described Twitter as the “most reliable” and fastest communication channel for urgent issues.

The best connected world leaders include the European Union’s External Action Service, Britain’s Foreign Office, and the foreign ministries of Germany, Iceland and Israel, among others.

“The existence of mutual connections on Twitter is a good indicator of the state of the diplomatic relations between two countries or the personal relations between their leaders,” the Twiplomacy report said.

Digital diplomacy with the US 

Digital diplomacy on Twitter has mostly been defined by America’s foreign policy and reactions to the President’s comments. Trump tops nearly every list of metrics on Twitter, and has landed the US into several sticky situations through his tweets alone.

Trump’s undiplomatic tweets have left many governments around the world unsure of how to respond. While he prefers to use his personal Twitter handle as a medium for executive communications, very few leaders reply to him directly and instead tag his official handle in formal tweets.

For example, during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington in April 2018, the German government only tagged @POTUS Trump and not his personal handle. Merkel remains one of the only world leaders to not have a personal account on Twitter.

Likewise, when Trump publicly berated British Prime Minister Theresa May (and tagged the wrong handle in the tweet), the British government did not respond on Twitter.

Those who directly addressed Trump’s personal handle on Twitter include the leaders of Fiji and the Marshall Island, and the PMs of the Nordic countries when Trump was threatening to leave the Paris agreement.

African and Latin American leaders also addressed Trump directly when he referred to their countries derogatorily.

World leaders’ favourite social media platform 

Twitter is the preferred social media platform for governments worldwide barring only six countries — Laos, Mauritania, Nicaragua, North Korea, Swaziland and Turkmenistan. Even China, which is notorious for blocking Western social media platforms, is on Twitter, with seven Chinese embassies and the Chinese ambassador to India active on the site.

Facebook is the second-most popular network among leaders, and it pulls a larger audience than Twitter.

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