The Twiplomacy Top Twenty Twitterati

Top 20 TwitteratiWho are the most noteworthy world leaders on Twitter? Here is our tongue-in-cheek and irreverent Top Twenty Twitterati list in no particular order and purely based on personal preferences by the Twiplomacy team.


Pope Francis teaches us that social media engagement doesn’t have to be a conversation. Despite only broadcasting, the Pope is the second most followed world leader with more than 19 million followers on his nine Twitter accounts.

@BarackObama @BarackObama Barack Obama was the first world leader on Twitter; he is the most followed, the most listed and is following a record 640,000 other Twitter users. But why is he giving most other world leaders the cold shoulder?



Dmitry Medvedev will go down in history as the first Russian President on Twitter and since becoming Prime Minister he has put the entire government on the social network. While he exchanged niceties with Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the beginning, his Twitter activity has taken a back seat since December 2012. The amateur photographer prefers to share pictures on his Instagram account.

@IlvesToomas@IlvesToomas The Estonian President is a ceremonial job and Toomas Henrik Ilves seems to have lots of time on his hands to tweet but he is regularly attacked by trolls. A must read for anyone interested in cybersecurity and European politics.


Former Finnish Prime Minister has learned that Twitter won’t help you win an election and that it is not enough to have several hundred thousand followers if they don’t vote for you. As he once stated on his Twitter profile What you tweet is what you get.”

@CarlBildt@CarlBildt Carl Bildt, the former Swedish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister has not left the diplomatic stage and is now a self-proclaimed entrepreneur in future and peace, happily tweeting about major events and sharing his point of view about Russia and Ukraine. He does tweet himself.


The President of Namibia made a splash when he joined Twitter in 2014 with a series of memorable phrases the best one being « Be a leader not a follower LOL »

@RT_Erdogan@RT_Erdogan The Turkish President is among the five most followed world leaders on Twitter but that hasn’t kept him from lambasting the social network and shutting down the service in his own country.


The Prime Minister of Malaysia is the selfie specialist, personally snapping selfies with his esteemed guests including Barack Obama, François Hollande and Turkish President Erdogan. He is now using a selfie stick for ‘groufies’ with larger audiences.

@Erna_Solberg@Erna_Solberg Kudos to the Norwegian Prime Minister, who is the second most conversational world leader on Twitter and tweets personally despite suffering from dyslexia and making the occasional spelling mistake. We wish she would write more in English and we don’t mind the typos.


Steffen Seibert is the German government spokesman and the voice of Angela Merkel on Twitter. While he is doing a stellar job, he is only her mouthpiece and we would like to hear it from Angela herself.

@LeeHsieLoong@LeeHsienLoong The Prime Minister of Singapore keeps us entertained with his regular #guesswhere cityscapes and fun and engaging selfies even from the hospital bed. Continue to make us dream.


It only took a year for the State Department to let John Kerry have his own Twitter account. Most of the tweets sent by Senator Kerry have been deleted from the account (except the @replies). Our advice: less handshake pictures, less retweets and more personal tweets just like before.

@NarendraModi@NarendraModi No one can ignore the meteoric rise of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his enormous social media footprint. Our prediction is that he will be the most followed world leader by 2017.


The President of Azerbaijan is not really diplomatic when he goes on long Twitter rants lambasting Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and almost declaring war in a tweet.

@PaulKagame@PaulKagame You want a conversational leader? Follow Rwanda’s President @PaulKagame. He doesn’t take any punches and has strong words for his critics.


The president of Venezuela is the second most prolific and the third most retweeted world leader, averaging almost 3,200 retweets per tweet. Strangely his tweets are favorited ten times less. #Strange

@TaaviRoivas@TaaviRoivas Estonia’s 35-year old Prime Minister has proudly tweeted how easy it is to securely sign documents, pay taxes and e-vote in the most digital country in the world. Next up: cast your vote with a Direct Message on Twitter. #Seriously PS.: He is now wearing a tie on Twitter.


It takes a lot of courage to come out on Twitter. The Latvian Foreign Minister has done it.

@HMATomFletcher@HMATomFletcher Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Lebanon has bared it all on Twitter and his blog the Naked Diplomat is a must ready.

By Matthias Lüfkens, who has been monitoring world leaders tweets for several years and will take a break now.

The European External Action Service and Digital Diplomacy

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the European External Action Service.

@eu_eeas Twitter Profile 2“Twitter has proven to be a revolutionary social network even in politics. It is an extraordinary channel of diplomacy and of communication. That’s why with Michael Mann and the Strategic Communications Division, we have been working, since the very beginning of my mandate, on making Twitter one of the fundamental tools of our diplomacy.”

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission.

In the short lifetime of the European External Action Service, social media – or perhaps I should say Digital Diplomacy – have come to play an absolutely crucial part in our communication strategy and hence our day-to-day engagement online. 

From relatively humble beginnings on Twitter, our reach has grown exponentially and at an even greater pace since the beginning of the mandate of the new EU High Representative and Vice President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini.

She recognises the importance of team work in successful Digital Diplomacy, the need to break down the silos and insist that all staff contribute the raw materials, rather than leaving communication as an afterthought.

Inspired – and trusted – from above, we have been able to undertake a major push, reinforcing our Digital Diplomacy Strategy for HQ and EU Delegations, providing pre-posting training for all new Ambassadors and working closely with the other EU bodies, something which is not always a given.

Perhaps our greatest strength lies in Federica Mogherini’s active involvement on Twitter. Unlike some politicians, the HR/VP personally tweets on @FedericaMog, as does her media adviser Sabrina Bellosi. Her engagement on Twitter gives us a focal point around which we can anchor EEAS Digital Diplomacy Strategy, and keep expanding our social media footprint globally.

The numbers speak for themselves: Federica Mogherini has 123,000 followers, an increase of more than 60% percent since the 1st of November 2014, and the central account of the Service @eu_eeas is now reaching over 94,000.

And all this – whisper it – with a full-time social media team at HQ of two people, ably supported by other members of our Strategic Communications team, who bring together a range of skills to help us achieve our goals and constantly evolve.

This intrepid group helps to run the EEAS Twitter and Facebook accounts, plus the Twitter accounts for two senior managers, two spokespersons and the head of StratComms, as well as Flickr, Instagram and YouTube.

In reality, our success goes far beyond the Brussels beltway, thanks to a growing band of enthusiastic well trained colleagues in EU Delegations around the world. Social media engagement through this invaluable network has proved paramount in strengthening EEAS Digital Diplomacy efforts, considerably expanding our reach to new audiences.

Today, some 96 Delegations are engaging on social media with local audiences, of which 59 are active on Twitter and supported by 33 of our Ambassadors tweeting in a professional capacity.

We have made exceptional progress, but it would be wrong to imagine that we have solved the conundrum of how to best use these incredible communication tools. There is still much to do.

For a start, there is an inherent contradiction in digital diplomacy: social media are about transparency, speed and information sharing. Traditional diplomacy is often about privacy, long-term planning, incremental steps and moderation. Tweets are 140 characters, while diplomats traditionally like to use two words where one will often suffice. These two worlds might easily collide – our challenge is how to avoid that collision or even to reconcile the two. In this, it was vital to de-mystify and remove some of the fear certain colleagues felt about Twitter. 

We need to encourage our Delegations to innovate and act autonomously, but at the same time ensure that the key messages developed at HQ are properly communicated on the ground.

As in all things, there is no substitute for thorough training of staff in how to use these tools which are so powerful, but can miss their target if the inherent potential of the medium is not understood.

The choice of language, for instance, proved so vital to a successful social media strategy. There is little point in reaching out to the Arab world in anything other than Arabic. Tweeting on the Iran talks in Farsi brought a huge number of new followers to our accounts.

Engaging on social media in local languages has now become a best practice among all our Delegations, not least our Delegations in Kiev and Moscow, which have stepped up their social media outreach since the outbreak of the crisis.

Likewise, we are still to an extent feeling our way. Do our new strategies work? How do we ensure that the various accounts we run are sufficiently distinct, add value and support the central voice of the HR/VP? 

As our following grows, we also need to understand and assess whether we are reaching the right people, and what we can do better to attract key audiences and truly engage with them in a two-way conversation.

Though these challenges might remain, the list of EEAS social media success stories continues to grow.

The recent #IranTalks in Lausanne are an example of how the EEAS was able to use the power of digital diplomacy. As these negotiations rapidly hit the Twittersphere at their relaunch in 2012, it created an ecosystem favourable to instant reporting, well understood by key stakeholders.

That accurate reporting on the marathon talks were accessible to the outside world was thanks almost exclusively to various trustworthy sources on Twitter, overcoming the noise of disinformation.

The underlying dynamic was fascinating and EEAS Digital Diplomacy was here again at play. While the press pushed for leaks, the negotiators on all sides sought to let the world know what was happening without undermining what was going on behind closed doors. 

EEAS accounts continued to inform audiences on the key moments during the long days and nights in Lausanne, and provided attractive behind-the-scenes photos, while carefully reflecting the HR/VP’s role as facilitator of the talks.

EEAS channels kept the media and the public informed, through thoughtfully chosen tweets and retweets, without risking the kind of interference which could derail the entire process. When the deal was done, the HR/VP broke the news through her account, resulting in our most successful tweets ever.

So when all is said and done, what wisdom does the EEAS have to share with other ministries who would like to engage in the social media?

Our main strength lies in having the luxury of a senior and active voice around which we can construct our strategy, and a boss who supports us and empowers us to do our work. Much of our success is thanks to the time we have put into developing a detailed strategy and strengthening the links between HQ and our outposts around the world – encouraging outreach on the ground while keeping hold of the messages.

As Head of Strategic Communications since 2011, I find myself very privileged to work under the mandate of Federica Mogherini, whose leadership and enthusiasm for digital communication offers EEAS Digital Diplomacy a true opportunity to reach its full potential.

This is one of the most exciting projects for myself to push forward with the help of the EEAS StratComms.

By Michael Mann (@MichaelMannEU), Head of Strategic Communications, European External Action Service (@eu_eeas)

Twitter is the language you must speak

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Slovenia.

@MZZRS Twitter ProfileHow big is your social media footprint?

Slovenia has 51 diplomatic representations (37 embassies, 6 consulates, 7 permanent representations) across the globe. Out of these, 29 are present on Twitter and 23 on Facebook. Our multilateral missions seem to attract more followers on Twitter, while our embassies are much more active on Facebook. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia has one Twitter account (@MZZRS) and two Facebook accounts.

It has been our goal from the start to have as many diplomatic missions as possible use Twitter and/or Facebook as their primary digital diplomacy platform. This strategy also made it easier to develop the right skills among our staff as well as internal policies and good practices.

Also, the reach of different missions differs depending on objectives of our foreign policy in different countries. In some places, social media are mostly used to keep in touch with Slovenians living abroad; elsewhere, our digital presence is predominantly focused on communicating with local audiences.

How big is your social media team?

In general, Slovenia’s diplomatic missions are very small and this often means that only two diplomats and two local employees comprise the entire team. At every diplomatic mission that uses social media, one of them is responsible for managing the accounts. That, however, only represents about 10 percent of their responsibilities. In the early stage of building our social media infrastructure, we decided that we only want people who have the desire to deal with social media to actually be involved. Today, that means that at some missions, Twitter is updated by an attaché, while in some other places, the ambassador herself/himself is the one posting updates.

Four people from the Ministry communications team update @MZZRS. Altogether, that means there are about 35 people dealing with social media as part of their responsibilities in Slovenian diplomacy.

What are your main objectives and challenges?

Our objectives are twofold. Over the past few years, social media became quite an important outlet of our public diplomacy. We aim to use Twitter to portray Slovenia abroad from a wide variety of angles: from straightforward foreign policy topics to culture and innovative ideas such as success stories of our start-ups and athletes. I agree with the British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher, who said that “the most important thing social media does for us is that, for the first time, it gives us the means to influence the countries we work in on a massive scale, not just through elites.

But to do that, you need to be able to send the right message at the right time at the right place. And this often presents a challenge for us. Over the past few years we were able to equip many of our staff with the right skills to use social media in an effective way, but there is still a long way to go. Quite limited human resources at our diplomatic missions and at home often prevent us from using the potential that social media have for a country such as Slovenia. Moreover, we don’t interact enough with our followers, but that would again require additional live support, establishment of more advanced guidelines and internal policies as well as additional human resources. Hopefully, we can do something about this very soon.

What is the key achievement you are most proud of?

About a year and a half ago, we decided to run a few hashtag campaigns to be more vocal about our fight for universal respect of human rights. The first one of these was about ending violence against children and it was really a big success. It was even showcased in the 2014 Twiplomacy study. After that, we ran a few others and recently joined the #HeForShe campaign on gender equality, which was again a huge success.

Our male ambassadors took a group picture with #HeForShe hashtag signs together with the President of the National Assembly and the Foreign Minister on the occasion of their annual conference in January 2015. This was also our most successful tweet to date.

Now, we are taking a step further with a music video of 16 established Slovenian musicians of different genres who have gathered to support and promote Slovenia’s International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid. As part of the European Year of Development 2015, Slove’n’aid recorded a song called One World (En svet in Slovenian)

It has been a huge success in social media. The online premiere of the video, published on Facebook and Twitter, had an unprecedented reach of more than 72,000 users in just two weeks. It gathered 2,431 likes, 526 shares and 149 comments. The actual numbers were most likely even higher, as many users shared links to the video on several websites independently from our posts.

What advice would you give to other ministries and governments to make a lasting impact on Twitter?

Much advice has already been given on this topic, so I will keep my answer short. Twitter should be treated as a language, not a technical tool. It is a social tool for communication. It has its own ˝grammar rules˝ including the exceptions, and cultural particularities as any other language.

This is especially relevant for diplomats: wherever you are posted, there is a good chance that between 25 and 65 percent of the population in your country ˝speaks˝ Social Media. No matter how good your French, Chinese or Lebanese may be, without speaking Social Media; you will limit the reach of your messages merely to elites. In a nutshell, if you want your voice to be far-reaching, Twitter is the language you must speak.

By Timotej Šooš (@TimSoos),Digital Diplomacy Coordinator at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia (2012 – 2014) @MZZRS, now posted at the Slovenian Mission to the OECD in Paris (@SLOtoOECD)

Maintaining positive relations with MFAs in other countries

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Russia.

@MID_RF Twitter ProfileHow big is your social media footprint?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia joined Twitter in 2011 by launching two accounts at once: @MID_RF in Russian and @MFA_Russia in English. Over the past year, the number of followers of the Russian MFA accounts has tripled to more than 600,000 followers on the Russian account and to 75,000 followers on the English account.

The number of MFA accounts is growing, as well. Almost 200 Russian diplomatic entities (embassies, consulates, permanent missions and representations of MFA offices in Russia) have their Twitter accounts. It is pertinent to note that a number of them update two accounts: one in Russian and the other one in vernacular language.

Currently the most active on Twitter with their personal accounts are: the Ambassador of Russia to the United Kingdom @Amb_Yakovenko, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to UNESCO Eleonora Mitrofanova @EVMitrofanova, and the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov @KKdolgov. The MFA History and Records Department Twitter account @DiploHistory is also gaining popularity.

twitter.mfaHow big is your social media team?

Our digital diplomacy team in Moscow is not as big as we would like it to be. It’s less than all our social media accounts in Moscow. But we consider our colleagues updating the MFA accounts all over the world as one team. Interaction and coordination make our team VERY impressive.

What are your main objectives and challenges?

In recent years, our greatest challenge was to overcome mistrust towards the opportunities of digital diplomacy on the one hand, and to hold off colleagues, who try to get ahead of the new era in an attempt to overcome current IT limits, on the other.

What is the key achievement you are most proud of?

We are most proud of the following:

  1. That our colleagues noticed our efforts, and that we were mentioned by Twiplomacy and other independent researchers among the best connected foreign ministries on Twitter;
  2. That we are able to operate within existing capacity creating truly collective game (remember Soviet hockey?);
  3. On regular basis we organize various information campaigns, such as a promotional billboard campaign “MFA to the World”.

Diplomacy_in_gadgetThe most popular tweet is not yet written, but we consider those successful which are retweeted by our colleagues from other foreign ministries.

What advice would you give to other ministries and governments to make a lasting impact on Twitter?

What we want to wish our colleagues is to be honest with followers and to rely on facts. Trust us, they will appreciate it. The result can be achieved by “the last tweet”, which means through the last effort made overtime. The guiding line is to maintain positive relations with colleagues updating MFA accounts in other countries. Don’t forget that digital diplomacy is an important, and yet integral part of Diplomacy and therefore it has a special responsibility for sustaining its overall effectiveness in the interest of peace and progress.

And remember: @MFA_Russia is closer than it seems…

Made by the MFA Russia Social Media team (@MID_RF & @MFA_Russia) overtime

Explain, engage and entertain – 7 social media tips from @MFA_Ukraine

We have asked several foreign ministries to answer some questions about their #DigitalDiplomacy. Here’s a guest post from the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine.

@MFA_Ukraine Twitter ProfileHow big is your social media footprint?

82 out of 84 embassies, eight missions to international organizations and 12 consulates are currently present on Twitter. 15 heads of mission regularly tweet about professional topics and personal interests. At the headquarters in Kyiv, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, Political Director Oleksii Makeiev, MFA spokesperson Yevhen Perebyinis and myself, Dmytro Kuleba are also active on Twitter.

How big is your social media team?

While the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no account on LinkedIn, we are present on Facebook, Instagram, Storify and the Russian social media network VKontakte.

All in all, four people, including me, are in charge of guiding and running our social media network but none of us enjoys this function as his/her only field of responsibility. Every diplomatic mission also has one person dealing with social media.

What are your main objectives and challenges?

Our main objective is to integrate social media in Ukrainian diplomacy as an effective and routine instrument of promoting Ukraine’s national interests.

Our “3E” approach describes more specific goals which social media help us to achieve. These three “E” stand for explain, engage and entertain. The use of social media allows us to better explain Ukraine’s foreign policy to both, domestic and foreign audiences, engage with them and increase our outreach. Diplotainment (as a union of two words – diplomacy and entertainment in the same way as infotainment) brings diplomacy closer to the people and motivates them to engage with us and get a better understanding of our mission and operations.

The main challenge we face at this point is underestimation of the power of social media by a certain number of our colleagues who neither take them seriously nor accept the fact that tweeting and retweeting is not limited to office hours.

What is the key achievement you are most proud of?

We succeeded in setting up a network of Ukrainian twiplomacy and trained people to take advantage of the opportunities Twitter offers. We managed to reach 100% presence on Twitter among embassies and missions to the international organizations. Official Twitter accounts of the Ministry and a number of missions abroad have become sources of prompt and important information for media, experts and wider audiences. Twitter also allowed us to reach out to people who are not interested in “boring officials” but follow our Twitter account.

When it comes to success stories I will recall the end of last August. We received information that Russian heavy weaponry crossed the Ukrainian-Russian border. Our immediate tweet of a hash tag image #RussiaInvadedUkraine was retweeted more than 4200 times, setting our absolute record.

RussiaInvadedUkraineAs regards campaigns, in most of the cases we don’t act on our own but try to engage with activists and our foreign partners to amplify our messages. Campaigns to remember that #CrimeaIsUkraine and to support Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia, pilot Nadiya Savchenko, film director Oleg Sentsov and others using hashtag #FreeSavchenko #FreeSentsov, were internationally successful.

What advice would you give to other ministries and governments to make a lasting impact on Twitter?

  1. Take Twitter seriously, work 24/7 and don’t miss the opportunity to be a newsmaker.
  2. Tweet in human not bureaucratic language.
  3. Regularly involve ministry officials to do personal twitterviews.
  4. Visualize as much content as you can.
  5. Create habitual formats so that your audience gets used to receiving tweets with specific information regularly (e.g. daily news alerts, weekly reviews).
  6. Do not hesitate to entertain your audiences (diplotainment).
  7. Cooperate with civil society, online activists and colleagues from foreign ministries.

By Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba), Ambassador-at-Large for Strategic Communications, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (@MFA_Ukraine)