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World Leaders on Twitter and the Unwritten Rules of "Twiplomacy"

BY Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya | Friday, July 27 2012

Almost two-thirds of the 193 UN member states can be found on Twitter according to a “Twiplomacy” survey carried out by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.

Barack Obama (@BarackObama) is the most popular “Twiplomat” with over 17 million followers and an average of 8.36 tweets a day. He also carries the mantle of being the first world leader to join Twitter, becoming a member in 2007.

But while President Obama may have the greatest number of followers in the Twitter realm, he ranks low on engagement: only one percent of his tweets are replies. And the Obama account is only following two other world leaders, Norwegian President Jens Stoltenberg (@JensStoltenberg) and former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev (@MedvedevRussia).

With 11 mutual followers, EU President Herman van Rompuy (@EUHvR) takes the title of most well-connected leader — appropriate for someone overseeing an organization that comprises 27 member states.

According to the survey, half of the world leaders don’t follow their peers, including Vladimir Putin (@PutinRF), Queen Elizabeth (@BritishMonarchy), and the Government of Singapore (@govsingapore).

Chief among Twitter’s main functions is its ability to showcase candid moments and impulsive statements.

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik (@ilvestoomas) received a boost in name recognition when he launched a series of scathing tweets in reaction to a recent blog entry by Paul Krugman, including this missive: “Let’s write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing & patronizing.”

Hendrik is also currently the only world leader to leave a post with an expletive on his Twitter account.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) ranks as the second most conversational world leader with a reply rate of 93 percent on Twitter and is also well known for his propensity for impromptu chats with users.

“You have no basis for your comments and you don’t know what you are talking about,” he tweeted to UK journalist Ian Birrell in 2010, in response to an article.

Twitter can also reveal interesting preferences. The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office (@IsraeliPM) follows the Palestinian Prime Minister (@PMFayyad) and the Palestinian government (@PalestinianGov) on Twitter, though the Palestinian government does not reciprocate. The Prime Minister’s Office also includes Martha Stewart (@MarthaStewart) and Bar Rafaeli (@BarRafaeli) among the 289 people it follows.

Perhaps no politician has embraced Twitter quite so enthusiastically as Hugo Chavez, however. The Venezuelan dictator — also the second most followed world leader on Twitter — took a page out of Oprah’s book when he gave his 3 millionth follower, 19-year-old Natalia Valdivieso, a free apartment.