Donald Trump’s use of Twitter may, by his own words, have got him elected, but the president is neither the most followed or most effective world leader on the social media platform.
In both categories, Trump comes in second to men he greeted on his first foreign trip, according to an annual Twitplomacy study from global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller.
In terms of the most followed world leaders, Trump’s 30.1 million followers trail Pope Francis’ 33.1 million. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is just narrowly behind, in third, with just more than 30 million. When it comes to a combination of both personal and institutional accounts, Trump and the POTUS account also trail Modi and the PMOIndia account.
The next world leader on the list, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is some way back, at 10.3 million.
Trump tripled his number of Twitter followers during his 2016 election campaign and told Fox News in March that “maybe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter” and touted the platform as his “own form of media.”
However, Twitter Audit, a service that assesses how many of a profile’s followers are genuine and how many are bots, finds that only 51 percent of Trump’s followers are real. Even with that artificial boost, Trump trails his predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama, who, with 88.4 million followers, leads the way among current or former world leaders. For the record, 79 percent of followers on Obama’s account are the real deal.
Trump has to make do with second place, too, when it comes to effectiveness, as measured by the average number of retweets per original tweet. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who Trump bowed for on his recent visit to the Gulf state, averages 147,456 retweets, some way ahead of Trump’s 13,094 retweets. The pope’s Pontifex account came in third.
Salman’s account appears to be a clear case of quality over quantity, as he tweeted just 10 times over the period covered by the study—April 2016 to May 20, 2017. His high retweet average may also be helped by the lack of democracy and political repression in Saudi Arabia.
As for Trump, while he may not top either category in the study, he has been credited as changing the way world leaders use social media.
“Politics and diplomacy are playing out on social media in a way we have never seen before,” said Don Baer, worldwide chair and CEO of Burson-Marsteller. “With the U.S. president bypassing traditional government channels to communicate directly to his supporters and detractors alike, we can expect more people in positions of power to adopt this practice. Our Twiplomacy study shows how fast-paced and dynamic our communications landscape truly is.”
Jason Le Miere
Displayed with permission from Newsweek