November 29, 2017

International Organisations on Social Media 2017

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“We are constantly looking for ways to interact with our millions of supporters worldwide. The explosion of digital communications platforms has been a game-changing opportunity for us to bring people along the conservation journey. Being transparent, authentic and inclusive has helped us move beyond digital broadcasting into digital engagement and we continue to look for new channels to inspire new audiences to help save our planet.”

Sid Das @SiddarthDas, Director, Digital Engagement at @WWF International

Executive Summary – Introduction

It is fair to say that without social media, the work of international organisations would probably go largely unnoticed. All 97 multi-lateral international organisations and NGOs in this study are actively present on the three main social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Twitter is by far the most popular social media channel for these international organisations. Greenpeace and the World Economic Forum have been active on the platform for over a decade – since April 2007 – and UN Secretary General @AntonioGuterres joined the flock when he took office on January 1, 2017.

In this study, we focus on the main accounts for each organization, although many organisations, especially UN agencies, also have bespoke accounts in the six official UN languages and large organisations also have a plethora of regional, national and even topical accounts. With 92 percent of all UN governments on the platform, Twitter has become the indispensable news wire for international organisations to broadcast their stories.

We also examine how international organisations use these platforms, which are the most followed and which are the most active. Beyond the number of followers, we focused on engagement and how these organisations capture eyeballs and screen time of their followers and fans.

The leaders of international organisations tend to favour Twitter, with 75 personal accounts on the platform, while only 16 have official Facebook pages and five of them are among the select group of LinkedIn influencers.

Twitter has been crucial in the election of Tedros Adhanom, the new Director General of the World Health Organization, and Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s new Director General. Most of the candidates were actively campaigning on Twitter. The new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was notably one of the few candidates who did not have a social media presence, but on January 1, 2017 he activated his personal Twitter account, @AntonioGuterres, which now has close to 200,000 followers and is among the most effective, in terms of average retweets per tweet, of all accounts of leaders of international organisations on Twitter.

However, international organisations have their biggest and most engaged audiences on Facebook and all but two have set up official Facebook pages. The median average number of followers for international organisations on Facebook is three times as high as on Twitter, with a median average of 139,274 followers on Facebook compared to 42,371 on their Twitter profiles. Facebook is the key platform international organisations focus on to engage audiences worldwide.

Almost three quarters of the international organisations have active profiles on Instagram, which is the visual platform of choice. More and more organisations are now sharing daily Instagram stories to win the hearts and minds of their followers or simply promote their latest blog post on their website.

YouTube is used by 88 international organisations to host their long-form videos and 50 have used Periscope, Twitter’s live broadcasting app. Eighty-three organisations have a LinkedIn presence, but only half of them are active and the engagement isn’t comparable to other platforms. Only a handful of the 82 organisations which have a Google+ presence and are active on the platform. Fourteen organisations have a presence on Snapchat.

Over the past year, we have witnessed a clear pivot to video content among the most successful organisations. Short videos, optimized for mobile devices, tend to garner the biggest engagement on each of the social media platforms analyzed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (@ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (@Federation), with support from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (@UNOCHA), have recently published a useful guide on how to use social media, namely Twitter and Facebook, to better engage people affected by crisis including the hashtag: #CommIsAid.

There is no right or wrong way for organisations to use social media, some are more active than others, some have more followers than others, some will promote their posts to a larger audience. The key challenge for each is to stay ahead of the social media game. Obviously staying relevant on social media requires resources and staffing which many organizations still lack.

Data for Burson-Marsteller’s latest Twiplomacy study about international organisations was captured on September 1, 2017 using proprietary Burson Tools and Crowdtangle. For more about the methodology and the full data set scroll to the bottom of the study.

We have also asked some of the organisations to share their recipe for success and you can read their blog contributions from learning how to weather a spam attack to going live on Facebook, from experimenting with Instagram stories to embracing the social messaging platform Viber and using Twitter to target key decision makers.

International Organisations on Twitter

Twitter, despite being mainly text-driven, has morphed into a visual network and most organisations attach a photo or video to each tweet. Only five percent of all tweets analyzed are plain text updates.

Three quarters of the 215,779 tweets posted between September 2016 and September 2017 by international organisations are tweets with a link to other websites, where the picture automatically appears in the tweet. These tweets generate 100 interactions (Likes and Retweets), on average, accounting for 69 percent of all interactions. Thirteen percent of all the posts are photo posts, generating 126 interactions per tweet on average and 15 percent of all the interactions.

Tweets with native videos perform best – generating an average of 263 interactions per tweet and representing 12 percent of all interactions. Tweets including a link to videos on YouTube or other video platforms generate only 68 interactions per tweet on average, and plain text updates perform worst with only 51 interactions on average.

However, there is no right or wrong way to tweet. Among the five tweets with the biggest interactions we found a native video, a video link, a text link, a photo and a plain text tweet.

The tweet sent by an international organisation over the past 12 months that received the most interactions was from @UNICEF is a harrowing video animation of footballer David Beckham’s tattoos explaining: “Violence against children marks them forever.” The one-minute video posted natively to Twitter totaled 63,225 retweets and likes.

The second most popular tweet sent by an international organisation is one with a link to a YouTube video including a picture of a pregnant woman shared by the UN Geneva office. The tweet explains that “#Cuba is the first country in the world to eliminate mother-child transmission of #HIV &#AIDS” and has received 59,522 interactions.

The United Nations sent a strong message to U.S. President Donald Trump just before he announced the U.S. exit from the Paris Climate Accord. The message claiming, “Climate change is undeniable Climate action is unstoppable Climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable,” received 40,088 interactions and included a link to a video statement by UN Secretary General António Guterres about climate change. The tweet used carriage returns to feature larger in Twitter’s timeline and is a not so subtle sub-tweet to the decision of Donald Trump to leave the Paris Agreement.

The most popular photo tweet was shared by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, a cartoon criticizing President Trump’s planned border wall, garnering 38,525 interactions.

The second most popular visual tweet was shared by Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of UNEP, the UN Environment agency. The tweet, with a picture of a tiger, sent on Global Tiger Day states that: “Only some 3890 tigers left in the wild.” and garnered 28,224 interactions.

The fifth most popular tweet with 36,685 likes and retweets is a 132-character statement by UN Secretary General António Guterres, stating that: “Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism & Islamophobia are poisoning our societies. We must stand up against them. Every time. Everywhere.”

Most Followed International Organisations on Twitter

Most Followed International Organisations on Twitter

The United Nations is the most followed international organisation on Twitter with 9,352,821 followers, ahead of UNICEF and the World Health Organization with 6.3 and 3.8 million followers, respectively. The @WWF and @HRW (Human Rights Watch) complete the Top 5 list of the most followed accounts.

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The @ICRC has added witnessed a phenomenal growth of 169 percent on its Twitter page, adding 1,277,777 new followers between September 2016 and September 2017 and is in eleventh position among the most followed international organisations. UNESCO has recorded the second largest growth, a 75 percent increase, followed by CERN (62 percent) adding 1,167,911 and 921,173 new followers respectively.

The ICRC’s growth is mainly due to a paid promotion strategy. In 2016, the @WorldBank promoted its different language accounts on Twitter. In 2008 the @WEF and @Refugees accounts received a welcome boost when they were both included on Twitter’s initial suggested user list, automatically adding a million followers to their respective accounts. The challenge of promoting accounts is targeting quality followers, and some accounts suffer from large masses of small accounts. Given the sheer size of many accounts, it is difficult to estimate with certainty how many of an organisation’s Twitter followers are automated accounts, also known as bots. NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu saw her followers mysteriously soar in late August 2017 when she became victim of a concerted bot attack from Russian accounts that she reported to Twitter. Read her fascinating post about this new form of spam and hybrid warfare.

Most Engaged International Organisations on Twitter

However, large followings do not necessarily translate into better engagement on Twitter. A more interesting indicator of an account’s performance is the total number of interactions – the sum of all likes and retweets. Obviously, this indicator is not perfect, since organisations can pay to play and promote their tweets to garner more interactions.

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The World Economic Forum clearly dominates the Twitter rankings in terms of engagement. In the past 12 months, its account received 4,177,022 likes and retweets. This is almost twice as many as @UNICEF and the @UN, both of which have two and three times more followers, respectively, than the @WEF. The World Economic Forum does not pay to promote its tweets and its success is mainly due to highly shareable content. The WEF posts powerful tweets that are on average only 60-characters long and feature engaging visuals or videos.

Most Active International Organisations on Twitter

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The World Economic Forum led in terms of total engagements that can also be explained by its hyperactivity. The World Economic Forum is by far the most active international organisation, with an average of 106.64 tweets per day, while the mean average tweets per day of all organisations is only 3.77. The @WEF tends to repeat the best performing tweets up to 10 times over different days and in different time zones to reach the largest possible audience. The industrial-style output of content linking to the Forum blog resembles more a news organization than an international organisation.

Probably because of its size and its hyperactivity, the @WEF has the lowest interaction rate of only 0.004 percent among the Top 10 accounts. The @UN is not faring much better, with a 0.005 percent interaction rate which is the total of interactions divided by the number of posts and the average number of followers over the past 12 months. Among the 15 most followed international organisations, @Greenpeace and @UN_Women have probably the best interaction rates of 0.023 percent. All international organisations combined have sent 2,406,249 tweets and almost a quarter of that number was generated by the @WWF account which automatically replied to any user using the hashtag #EndangeredEmoji encouraging them to donate on the WWF website and now boasts 550,000 tweets.

Most Effective International Organisations on Twitter

Another interesting statistic about the effectiveness of a Twitter account is the number of average retweets per tweet. In this regard, @UNICEF is the most effective with 222 average retweets per tweet, ahead of the @UN and the @WHO with 197 and 185 average retweets per tweet respectively.

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Best Connected International Organisations on Twitter

UN agencies tend to follow each other on Twitter, which allows their social media teams to communicate with each other via private direct messages on the platform. The @UNDP has mutual connections with 87 other agencies, the @UN and the @UNGeneva accounts are in second and third and place mutually connected with 82 and 81 other organisations.

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Most Followed Leaders of International Organisations on Twitter

Since 2011, the leaders of international organisations have increasingly set up their personal accounts on the platform which helps to give the organisations a more personal face. Today, 74 heads of international organisations have personal Twitter accounts that are mostly managed by their teams and very few manage their own Twitter feed.

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Luis Almagro, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) is the most followed leader of the international organisations, with 577,055 followers. The account of the @UN_Spokesperson, managed by Stéphane Dujarric and his team is in second position, followed by the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg with 450,759 and 445,951 followers, respectively. The UN Secretary General António Guterres, activated his account on January 1, 2017 when he took office has made it into the Top 10 with 151,953 followers.

 

Most Engaged Leaders of International Organisations on Twitter

Luis Almagro is also the leader of an international organisation with the most interactions, clocking up 2,859,708 likes and retweets over the past 12 months, more than twice as much as Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch with 1,202,853 total interactions. Twitter is critical for the work at Human Rights Watch, writes Andrew Stroehlein in a blog post explaining how @HRW uses Twitter to target key decision makers. The UN Secretary General António Guterres is in third position with 359,363 interactions and he can boast one of the best interaction rates of 2.69 percent on his 140 tweets sent since January 1, 2017. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has a respectable 1.35 percent interaction rate on his 344 tweets sent over the past year.

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Most Active Leaders of International Organisations on Twitter

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, is by far the most prolific leader of an international organisation on Twitter with an average of 22 tweets per day, four times as many as the President of the UN General Assembly; The @UN_PGA account is a rotating Twitter account which was handed over to Miroslav Lajčák, the Foreign Minister of Slovakia and had been run by Peter Thomson, the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN for most of the past 12 months. Watch GAVI’s CEO, Seth Berkley share his experience on social media in this video.

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The World Economic Forum led in terms of total engagements that can also be explained by its hyperactivity. The World Economic Forum is by far the most active international organisation, with an average of 106.64 tweets per day, while the mean average tweets per day of all organisations is only 3.77. The @WEF tends to repeat the best performing tweets up to 10 times over different days and in different time zones to reach the largest possible audience. The industrial-style output of content linking to the Forum blog resembles more a news organization than an international organisation.

Probably because of its size and its hyperactivity, the @WEF has the lowest interaction rate of only 0.004 percent among the Top 10 accounts. The @UN is not faring much better, with a 0.005 percent interaction rate which is the total of interactions divided by the number of posts and the average number of followers over the past 12 months. Among the 15 most followed international organisations, @Greenpeace and @UN_Women have probably the best interaction rates of 0.023 percent. All international organisations combined have sent 2,406,249 tweets and almost a quarter of that number was generated by the @WWF account which automatically replied to any user using the hashtag #EndangeredEmoji encouraging them to donate on the WWF website and now boasts 550,000 tweets.

Most Effective International Organisations on Twitter

Another interesting statistic about the effectiveness of a Twitter account is the number of average retweets per tweet. In this regard, @UNICEF is the most effective with 222 average retweets per tweet, ahead of the @UN and the @WHO with 197 and 185 average retweets per tweet respectively.

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Best Connected International Organisations on Twitter

UN agencies tend to follow each other on Twitter, which allows their social media teams to communicate with each other via private direct messages on the platform. The @UNDP has mutual connections with 87 other agencies, the @UN and the @UNGeneva accounts are in second and third and place mutually connected with 82 and 81 other organisations.

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Most Followed Leaders of International Organisations on Twitter

Since 2011, the leaders of international organisations have increasingly set up their personal accounts on the platform which helps to give the organisations a more personal face. Today, 74 heads of international organisations have personal Twitter accounts that are mostly managed by their teams and very few manage their own Twitter feed.

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Luis Almagro, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) is the most followed leader of the international organisations, with 577,055 followers. The account of the @UN_Spokesperson, managed by Stéphane Dujarric and his team is in second position, followed by the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg with 450,759 and 445,951 followers, respectively. The UN Secretary General António Guterres, activated his account on January 1, 2017 when he took office has made it into the Top 10 with 151,953 followers.

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