WASHINGTON, USA: The Digital Policy Council (DPC) 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 platform. In 2013, 80 per cent or 4 out of 5 world leaders were patronizing Twitter. This figure represents a growth rate of 8 per cent over 2012, that is contrasting sharply with the upsurge of 78 per cent between 2011 and 2012.
Top 10 world leaders who tend to Tweet:-
President Obama of the United States, hailed as the most powerful man in the world, continues to occupy the #1 spot, gaining 16 million followers in just one year, due to the president’s popularity and comfort with the social media. A noticeable upturn occurred during the U.S. government shutdown in the fall of 2013 as Obama, politicians and citizens alike tweeted their grievances about the situation.
The most dramatic debut as can be seen here; will be 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. With a status quo being held 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 remarkable mover, slumping from #2 to #13. The passing away of the popular Hugo Chávez triggered the drop, although as a phenomenon of sorts Chávez’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro was immediately accepted, entering the ranking in the Top 15.
The paramount 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 to #7 in 2013. Sheikh Mohammed’s followers enlarged by 1 million to 2.4 million, an indication that his openness to different cultures and public dialogue resonates with UAE citizens and residents who, Sheikh Mohammed reportedly says in his own words, “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.
Who are the holdouts?
With 80 per cent saturation among world leaders on Twitter realm, the profile of holdouts warrants examination.
Political leaders in China, acclaimed as the world’s most populous country, remain absent on social media. Twitter there has been blocked since 2009 and while China does have its own oriental sounding micro-blogging platform, called Sina Weibo, it is but strictly regulated by government censors. While UK 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 fact that European democracies do not utilize Twitter, with Denmark and Sweden being notable examples at hand. In reality, 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 the Twitter wave only to let their accounts go dormant in the near future.
Indeed, according to DPC’s analysis, 67 per cent of the countries which make use of Twitter were politically stable, indicating that leaders who were 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 the sake of international relations even though ironically enough, the site is blocked in his own country.