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Matthias Lüfkens Headshot

Why Twiplomatic Relationships Matter

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When you think about world leaders on Twitter the first that comes to mind is President @BarackObama. The US President is collecting the superlatives: he is the most followed world leader (33,510,157 as of July 1, 2013), he is following the most other users (661,084 - he actually hit Twitter's 700'000 limit and has stopped automatic following people who follow him), he is the most listed world leader (appearing on 195,304 Twitter lists), he was the first world leader on Twitter (his team signed him up on March 5, 2007 well before he sent his first tweet) and he is the man who sent the most popular tweet in Twitter's, seven-year history: "Four more year", retweeted more than 800'000 times.

Not surprisingly @BarackObama is a role model and the most popular world leader among his peers, followed by 148 other heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers, as the latest "Twiplomacy" study by global PR firm Burson-Marsteller revealed today.

However, despite all his successes the US President is not the best connected world leader in the world. The @BarackObama account is only mutually following two other world leaders, namely Norway's Prime Minister @JensStoltenberg and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev @MedvedevRussiae. Why is @BarackObama not following other G8 or G20 leaders? Why is he not mutually following America's neighbors, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen @PMHarper or Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto @EPN? To say the truth @BarackObama has been among the least connected world leaders for the past years - even the @WhiteHouse is not following him (for legal campaign issues we should add).

In Latin America leaders are mutually following and comforting each other in 140 characters messages: be it to mourn the death of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez in 2013 or to celebrate the rescue of the Chilean miners in 2011. In Europe, where all governments have an official Twitter presence, leaders reacted with horror and disgust to the #BostonBombings and rejoiced at the birth of the #RoyalBaby in London on Tuesday July 23, 2013 with UK Prime Minister ‏@David_Cameron, Lithuania's President Dalia ‏@Grybauskaite_LT, Lithuania's Prime Minister Algirdas ‏@AButkevicius, Malta's Premier ‏@JosephMuscat_JM, the ‏@Elysee Palace, Slovenian President ‏@BorutPahor and Russian President Vladimir ‏@PutinRF_Eng all sending 140-character short greetings tweets to the new prince.

European leaders have become the best connected world leaders, mutually following each other, @mentioning each other if not directly @replying to each other on the micro-blogging network. The Burson-Marsteller study found that Swedish Foreign Minister @CarlBildt has become the best connected world leader, mutually following 44 other peers. Carl Bildt is not a digital newbie. When he was Prime Minister of Sweden he became the first foreign leader to send an email to Bill Clinton almost 20 years ago, on February 4, 1994.

Today he uses Twitter to make political statements while sharing personal moments and point of views to a sizeable audience of more than 208'000 followers. The European External Action Service, the EU's State Department (@EU_eeas), is the best connected Foreign Service with 36 mutual connections followed by the Foreign Ministries of @PolandMFA, the UK @ForeignOffice and the French Foreign Ministry @FranceDiplo‏. On the other hand the US State Department, known as a forerunner in #eDiplomacy doesn't follow any other foreign service.

Twitter has become a formidable broadcast tool for three quarters of world leaders. It also allows for direct, mutual connections and it is important for global leaders to establish these mutual Twitter relations, if only to mirror the well-established diplomatic relations that already exist between their respective countries.

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