U.S. President Donald Trump is the most followed world leader on Twitter, with 52 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump account which has more than doubled since taking office on January 20, 2017, according to the newly released 2018 Twiplomacy study by BCW, a top-three and the first truly integrated global communications agency in the world.

Donald Trump became the most followed world leader in October 2017 when he passed Pope Francis (@Pontifex) who is the second most followed world leader with more than 47 million followers on his nine language accounts.  Indian Prime Minister @NarendraModi takes the third and fourth spots, with 42 million followers on his personal account and 26 million followers on his institutional account, @PMOIndia. The official Twitter account of the U.S. President, @POTUS ranks fifth and @WhiteHouse ranks sixth, with 23 and 17 million followers, respectively.

As of May 18, 2018, the heads of state and government and foreign ministers of 187 countries had a presence on Twitter, representing 97 percent of all 193 UN member states. The governments of only six countries, namely Laos, Mauritania, Nicaragua, North Korea, Swaziland and Turkmenistan do not have an official presence on the platform. Even the Chinese government’s State Council Information Office maintains a presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Facebook is the second-most popular network among government leaders, and it is where they have the biggest audience.  Instagram has become the third-most popular social network for governments, with 81 percent of all UN member states having set up an account and many of them are sharing daily Instagram stories.

social media platforms

The BCW Twiplomacy study analyses the activity of 951 Twitter accounts of heads of state and government and foreign ministers from May 19, 2017 to May 18, 2018 using aggregate data from Crowdtangle.com.

The U.S President is among a very small group of world leaders who are personally active on their own Twitter accounts and his tweets have generated 264 million interactions (likes & retweets) over the past 12 months, more than five times as many as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with 52 million interactions, and 12 times as many as Pope Francis, with 22 million interactions. The tweets from @realDonaldTrump garner on average more than 20,000 retweets.

most active world leaders

“Social media has become a primary conduit of diplomacy,” said Chad Latz, Chief Innovation Officer, BCW. “It has gone from being an afterthought to the very first thought of world leaders and governments across the globe, as audiences flock to their Twitter newsfeeds for the latest news and statements. Beyond communicating their own agendas and policy decisions, it is interesting to see how they use Twitter to establish relations or challenge each other on full display to the social web.”

For the past three years, the EU External Action Service (@EU_eeas) has been the best-connected foreign office, mutually following 132 foreign ministries and world leaders. The UK @ForeignOffice has moved into second place with 130 mutual connections, overtaking the Russian Foreign Ministry @MFA_Russia with 126 mutual connections. While the Twitter accounts of the @WhiteHouse and @POTUS are the two most popular among their peers, followed by 290 and 250 world leaders, respectively, they are giving all other world leaders the cold shoulder.

popular governments on social media

Key African findings:

Forty-two heads of state and government have opted to receive Twitter Direct Messages from anyone, such as @CyrilRamaphosa, the President of South Africa, sporting a ‘Message’-button on his profile.

The government of South Africa is the fourth most active account with more than 30 tweets per day.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta @UKenyatta is Sub-Saharan Africa’s most followed leader with 3 million followers, ahead of Rwanda’s @PaulKagame and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) with more than 1 million followers each.

Quite a few African leaders seem to use Twitter solely to converse with their followers. Rwanda’s President @PaulKagame is the most conversational world leader with 85 percent of his tweets being @replies to other Twitter users. @PaulKagame sometimes gets into memorable Twitter exchanges with his critics, and even sometimes chats publicly with his children. Kagame’s personal Twitter engagement shows that, even if you have 1.8 million Twitter followers, you can still be on top of the conversation and personally reply to comments on your Twitter feed.

sub-saharan african leaders

Other key findings include:

Latin American governments are by far among the most active on Twitter. Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry (@CancilleriaVE) is the most prolific government account, posting 55 tweets each day on average over the past 12 months followed by the Presidencies of El Salvador (@GobSV_Comunica) and the Dominican Republic @PresidenciaRD.

In Latin America, Mexico’s outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto @EPN has 7 million followers, far ahead of Colombia’s President @JuanManSantos, and Argentina’s @MauricioMacri, with 5 and 4 million followers, respectively.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta @UKenyatta is Sub-Saharan Africa’s most followed leader with 3 million followers, ahead of Rwanda’s @PaulKagame and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) with more than 1 million followers each.

The institutional account of the UK Prime Minister, @10DowningStreet, is the most followed EU leader, with more than 5 million followers, ahead of the British @RoyalFamily and French President Emmanuel Macron, with more than 3 million followers, respectively. @EmmanuelMacron has almost tripled his followers since his election in May 2017 and he has surpassed the @Elysee Palace and Spanish Prime Minister @MarianoRajoy who complete the top-five list of the most followed EU leaders.

Jordan’s @QueenRania has become the most followed Arab leader with more than 10 million followers, surpassing Sheikh Mohammed, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates @HHShkMohd and Saudi Arabia’s @KingSalman with nine and six million followers, respectively.

@QueenRania is the second-most followed female world leader after India’s Foreign Minister, @SushmaSwaraj, who is also the most followed foreign minister, with 11 million followers. Abdullah Bin Zayed, @ABZayed, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, is the second-most followed foreign minister with 4 million followers, ahead of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister @AdelAljubeir with 2 million followers.

Among the foreign ministries, the U.S. State Department (@StateDept) is the most followed, with 5 million followers, ahead of the Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia (@KSAMOFA) which has shot into second position with more than 2 million followers.

The Dutch government is the most conversational on its @Rijksoverheid account, answering citizens’ questions about policies, laws and regulations. More than 97 percent of its tweets are @replies to other Twitter users. The @GOVUK channel is in second position followed by the government of Nepal’s “Hello Government” (@Hello_Sarkar) account, with 95 and 90 percent of their tweets being @replies answering questions from users.

About the Study

Twiplomacy is the preeminent global study of world leaders on social media conducted by BCW, a top-three and the first truly integrated global communications agency in the world. Since 2016, the Twiplomacy study was expanded to cover all key social media platforms.

About BCW
BCW is one of the world’s largest, full-service, global communications agencies with deep expertise in digital and integrated communications, across all industry sectors. The agency combines expertise in digitally driven creative content and integrated communications – across the consumer, healthcare and technology sectors – with deep strength in public affairs, corporate reputation, crisis, and research and analytics.