President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy is the best connected world leader on Twitter, according to a new study by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.
The research shows that the Twitter account managed in Van Rompuy's name, @euHvR, has 11 mutual connections with other world leaders or governments – meaning he follows them and they follow him back. However, most of Van Rompuy's tweets are written by the president's media team.
In contrast, almost half of world leaders on Twitter do not follow any of their peers. More than a quarter do follow United States President @BarackObama, but of those he only follows two back: Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.
Van Rompuy's most popular tweet, based on the number of times it has been retweeted, reads: "We will continue to stand by #Greece as a member of the EU family and the #Euro area. We stand ready to continue assisting Greece." It was sent in June this year.
Meanwhile the European Commission's account, @EU_Commission, is praised for being "one of the rare governmental organisations that effectively uses Twitter lists", says the study, which dubs the activity of governments on the site as Twiplomacy
The 264 accounts run by governments and state institutions had followers numbering 51,990,656 in total as of July 1. Of those accounts, 45 per cent are the personal profiles of world leaders – but only 30 heads of state or government actively tweet themselves. Some 42 of the accounts do not follow any other Twitter users.
Nevertheless, 125 of the 193 United Nations countries now have some presence on the social media site, including three quarters of European governments. Twitter is most popular in North and South America, where 83 per cent and 75 per cent of heads of state or government respectively have an account.
Barack Obama has more than 17 million followers, comfortably more than any other leader. The US president's account is the fifth most popular on Twitter, just behind Britney Spears in fourth place, and he was the first world leader to join the site in March 2007. Van Rompuy has only 66,000 followers.
The most popular tweet by a world leader is also Obama's, when in May this year he announced that "same sex couples should be able to get married". It has been retweeted nearly 63,000 times. In common with most of his peers, Obama writes very few of the tweets himself.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is the second most followed leader with more than three million people reading his tweets. The top five is completed by the White House account, Queen Rania of Jordan, and the UK Prime Minister's @Number10gov profile, all with between two and three million followers.
The most prolific tweeter is the British monarchy, @BritishMonarchy, with almost 12,000 updates. Conversely there are 57 dormant accounts, with French president Francois Hollande among those highlighted for using Twitter regularly during an election campaign but then failing to tweet afterwards.
World leaders tweet in 43 languages, though the majority use English. Spanish, French and Arabic are the second, third and fourth most used languages respectively, according to the study.
Many governments use Twitter to publish an automated news feed. Some 99 world leaders and governments have never replied to another user. The most engaged leaders are Uganda's @AmamaMbabazi and Rwanda's @PaulKagame, Burson-Marsteller's report says.