As the novel coronavirus spread globally, COVID has become the most tweeted topic by world leaders during the first three months of 2020, according to the newly released 2020 Twiplomacy rankings by leading global communications agency BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe).
Heads of state and foreign ministers took to Twitter to share critical coronavirus information and encourage their citizens to “stay home” and “stay safe.” Many leaders have been leading by example and updating their Twitter profiles, wearing a face mask and participating in the #SafeHands challenge. World leaders and diplomats also had to adapt to working from home and have been thrust into video conferences, making diplomacy truly digital.
The BCW Twiplomacy study 2020 focuses on how world leaders have tweeted during the coronavirus pandemic and how Twitter has tried to keep the chatter clean from disinformation.
“The coronavirus has been the main topic on Twitter for the past three months, and due to the worldwide lockdown Twitter has seen increased interest,” said Chad Latz, Chief Innovation Officer, BCW. “It is therefore vital for world leaders to use channels like Twitter to reach out to their followers to spread critical health warnings and keep their followers abreast of the latest COVID-19-related information. As the pandemic abates in some countries, world leaders will find themselves with an expanded audiences for future engagement.”
For the fourth year running, U.S. President Donald Trump is the most followed world leader on Twitter, with 81.1 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump account which has grown by 33 percent year-over-year. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has moved up into second position with 57.9 million followers, ahead of Pope Francis who has 51 million followers on his nine different language accounts.
The heads of state and government of 163 countries and 132 foreign ministers maintain personal accounts on the platform. As of June 1, 2020, all 1,089 personal and institutional Twitter accounts of world leaders had a combined total of more than 620 million followers.
President Trump is also the most effective world leader on Twitter, since each one of his tweets garners on average 24,000 retweets, which is slightly better than Saudi King Salman who garners 23,573 retweets per tweet. However, Indian Prime Minister Modi leads the rankings in terms of true reach as calculated by Klear.com. The Narendra Modi account reaches on average 40 million followers, or 70 percent of his followers with his tweets, twice as many as President Trump who only reaches an audience of 20 million or a quarter of his followers.
According to the 2020 edition of Twiplomacy, the governments and leaders of 189 countries had an official presence on the social network, representing 98 percent of the 193 UN member states. The governments of only four countries do not have a Twitter presence, namely Laos, North Korea, Sao Tome and Principe and Turkmenistan.
For the first time the Icelandic Foreign Ministry (@MFAIceland) tops the rankings of the best-connected foreign offices, mutually following 147 other foreign ministries and world leaders. The European External Action Service (@EU_eeas), the UK Foreign Office and the Russian Foreign Ministry are in second place mutually following 145 foreign ministries and world leaders.
Other key findings include:
- Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan is still the most followed leader in the Arab world with 10,441,750 followers. However, her account has almost stagnated year-on-year and Sheikh Mohammed, the Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai is hot on her heels with 10,285,642 followers.
- Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria is by far the most followed Sub-Saharan African leader with 3,121,169 followers ahead of Paul Kagame the president of Rwanda with 1,910,159 followers. Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa has seen the biggest growth over the past year more than doubling his followers reaching 1,386,849.
- French President Emmanuel Macron is the most followed EU leader with 5,293,346 followers ahead of his institutional account for the Elysée Palace with 2,492,468 followers. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is in third position with 1,405,481.
- Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador is Latin America’s most followed leader with 7,098,711 followers, ahead of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro with 6,625,551 followers. Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro is in third position with 3,814,896 followers. Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador and Iván Duque, the president of Colombia, have seen the strongest growth year on year both doubling their follower numbers.
- Among the foreign ministries, the U.S. State Department is by far the most followed foreign ministry with 5,843,040 followers on Twitter. The foreign ministry of Saudi Arabia and the foreign ministry of India complete the top three with 2,708,727 and 1,461,097 followers, respectively.