GENEVA — The United Nations and its children’s agency UNICEF were by far the most popular international organizations among world leaders on Twitter — where U.S. President Donald Trump overtook Pope Francis in the most-followed social media rankings.
Trump had over 53 million followers on Twitter, more than double the number since he took office on January 20, 2017, global PR firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe, or BCW, said in its annual “Twiplomacy” study on the intersection of diplomacy with social media.
The study, originally focused on Twitter but since expanded to include Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, is the brainchild of Matthias Lüfkens, managing director at BCW in Geneva and former head of digital media at the World Economic Forum, or WEF.
Trump pulled past Francis, who had 47 million followers among the Roman Catholic Church’s nine language accounts, more than half a year ago.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in third place with 43 million followers. The next-most popular on Twitter were Modi’s institutional account and two accounts for the U.S. president and White House. Trump also had the most social media interactions in the past year.
Many international organizations routinely posted news and other activities on Twitter, which journalists used to promote their work, gather news leads and find raw material. International organizations, in turn, favored news leaders such as The Economist, The New York Times and BBC.
As a news-oriented platform, Twitter has figured in elections of leaders at the World Health Organization, or WHO, and U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO. Some international organizations such as Greenpeace International and WEF have been tweeting for more than a decade.
For international organizations and world leaders, social media has become indispensable. Some international organizations used paid promotion to get noticed — and to get their message across. “Social media has become a primary conduit of diplomacy,” said Chad Latz, BCW’s chief innovation officer.
“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,” Latz said. “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.”
In all, the Twiplomacy study found 97 percent of all governments were on Twitter. Heads of state and government and foreign ministers from 187 of 193 U.N. member-countries used the social media platform.
Only six governments — Laos, Mauritania, Nicaragua, North Korea, eSwatini and Turkmenistan — did not have an official presence on the platform.
All the World’s Atwitter@B_M @CohnWolfe study finds 97% of all 193 #UN governments have an official #Twitter presence. Find out which six countries do not have a Twitter presence #Twiplomacy
➡️🔗 https://t.co/KA070ZkNiO #DigitalDiplomacy
— Twiplomacy 🌐 (@Twiplomacy) July 10, 2018
Followers in the millions
The United Nations and UNICEF had the most Twitter followers overall, with 10.5 million and 7.3 million, respectively.
Based on rankings by Twiplomacy last November, the updated figures for the next most-followed international organizations overall showed WHO had 4.5 million followers while WWF International, or the World Wide Fund for Nature, had grown to 4 million.
They were followed by Human Rights Watch, which had 3.7 million; WEF, with 3.3 million; UNESCO, 3 million; World Bank, 2.7 million; European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, 2.6 million; and Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, 2.3 million.
Facebook and Instagram were the next-most popular social networks for governments, most of which had set up accounts.
The study analyzed 951 Twitter accounts of heads of state and government and foreign ministers for the year ending on May 18, 2018, using aggregate data from Crowdtangle.com.