The Digital Policy Council (DPC) has released its fourth annual ranking of world leaders’ use of the social media website Twitter.com.
DPC’s latest report indicates continued but decelerated growth in the number of heads of state on this medium.
In 2013, 80% or 4 out of 5 world leaders were using Twitter. This figure represents a growth of 8% over 2012 contrasting sharply with the upsurge of 78% between 2011 and 2012.
President Obama of the United States continues to occupy the #1 spot, gaining 16 million followers in just one year, due to the president’s popularity and comfort with social media, according to the report.
A noticeable upturn occurred during the U.S. government shutdown in the fall of 2013 as Obama, politicians and citizens alike tweeted their frustrations about the situation.
The most dramatic debut was the rocketing ascent of Indonesian leader President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY for short) to the #2 spot.
SBY joined Twitter in 2013, and quickly gained 4.2 million followers. As the leader of the most populous Islamic country, SBY shares candid and personal opinions in an effort to strengthen democracy at home and throughout the region.
Venezuela was another big mover, slumping from #2 to #13. The passing of the popular Hugo Chávez triggered the drop, although Chávez’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro was immediately accepted, entering the ranking in the Top 15.
The greatest upward movement among the top 10 was that of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. He jumped from #10 last year to #7 in 2013.
Sheikh Mohammed’s followers increased by 1 million to 2.4 million, an indication that his openness to different cultures and public dialog resonates with UAE citizens and residents who, Sheikh Mohammed says, “continually arise to the occasion whenever approached to contribute to innovative ideas.”
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina moved up one spot to #6. Fernández’s preference to communicate with the public directly via social media rather than traditional press conferences is prophetic of how leaders will leverage Twitter in the future.
With 80 percent saturation among world leaders on Twitter, the profile of holdouts warrants examination, suggests the DPC report.
Political leaders in China, the world’s most populous country, remain absent on social media. Twitter has been blocked since 2009, and while China does have its own micro-blogging platform, called Sina Weibo, it is strictly regulated by government censors.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron opened a Weibo account prior to his visit to China in 2013 prompting calls for President Xi Jinping to follow suit.
More surprising is the European democracies that do not utilize Twitter, with Denmark and Sweden as notable examples. In fact, no European leaders are even represented in the Top 10.
Perhaps more apparent are the leaders of politically unstable governments who simply shun social media or jumped onto Twitter only to let their accounts go dormant.
Indeed, according to DPC’s analysis, 67% of the countries that utilize Twitter were politically stable, indicating that leaders confident in their political legitimacy are most apt to utilize social media.
In 2014, the DPC expects penetration on Twitter for world leaders to rekindle and reach 90 percent, with leaders ultimately realizing how to employ Twitter effectively as a means of strategic communications — an insight seized by Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani who became active on Twitter in 2013 for international relations even though the site is blocked in his own country.
The Digital Policy Council (DPC) is an international, non-partisan “think tank” whose objective is the advancement of open discourse on issues of inclusive government.
The DPC is the research and policy arm of Digital Daya, a strategic consultancy that provides advisory services to corporate and government leaders regarding digital media.