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TWIPLOMACY 2022

Deep Dive

Deep Dive: Female Leaders

Truss on Top

Topping the rank of female world leaders on Twitter is former British Prime Minister, Liz Truss. Truss took office in September 2022 amid a flurry of political scandals plaguing the Conservative Party, becoming the UK’s third female Prime Minister – and shortly thereafter, its shortest serving. Truss’ digital footprint was disproportionately large, despite her fleeting time in office.

What was the key to Truss’ Twitter success?

For starters, before ascending to the highest office, Truss found her social media style during her tenure as Foreign Secretary. Described by some as ‘"Instagram Diplomacy", Truss is known for seizing photo opportunities and wasn’t shy to dive into the world of Twitter, face first, with candid (or so-called “plandid”) photos of herself.

The Sanna Effect

In second place is Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Marin rose to global prominence in 2019 when, at age 34, she became the youngest elected sitting Prime Minister. Her historic premiership, coupled with a decisive, progressive leadership style, undoubtedly put Marin on the map.

But how and why exactly has Marin maintained such a strong vortex of Twitter influence? Enter, the “Sanna effect.” Marin has commanded an engaged Twitter audience simply by being perceived by many as a relatable and accessible world leader.

Public admiration for someone widely accepted as a competent, efficient leader and composed public persona coupled with a fascination with her party-going, parenting personal life makes Marin relatable to many.

Case in point – when a leaked video showed the PM dancing at a party, Marin’s Twitter followership grew dramatically and suddenly. Women from across the world took to Twitter to post videos of themselves dancing in a viral trend defending the PM.

Where’s Jacinda Ardern?

Marin’s public and private persona has been compared to that of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Both leaders entered office at a young age, while balancing young children and leading their countries with a steady, progressive political style. Yet, why is it that Marin commands substantial Twitter influence, while Ardern does not?

The answer lies in their respective frequency of posting. While Marin tweets and interacts with other accounts multiple times a day, Arden goes months without posting or engaging at all. Instead, it seems Ardern’s preferred platform for digital diplomacy is Instagram, where she makes use of the real estate for longer-form posts, sharing lengthier updates with her followers regularly.

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Deep Dive: New World Leaders

South American leaders on top

Gustavo Petro and Gabriel Boric, both left-leaning presidents of South American countries, are representative of the new pink tide on the continent (to which, incidentally, Honduran President Xiomara Castro - top three among women leaders – also belongs). Both Colombia’s Petro and Boric’s Chile prioritise online communication to transmit their messages, with frequent posts written exclusively in Spanish, breaking away from the English-first trend we see among many of their global counterparts.

Both men joined the platform in 2009, building their audiences through compelling visual content, and celebrate the political successes of other left-leaning leaders in Latin America, such as the recent victory of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva against Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential election.

Caption: Translation: May Brazil make the light of Latin America shine. There are those who say that fascism does not exist. It is in each of us. It stops inside and outside. If we want more days for humanity, fascism must be stopped.

Petro enjoys a 6 million-strong follower-base, larger than the estimated number of Colombians using Twitter, pointing to his influence beyond his country’s borders.

Part of Petro’s substantial social media footprint can be explained by his political past. Running (unsuccessfully) for office on two separate occasions, Petro strategically expanded his social media following prior to his 2021 triumph. Twice mayor of Bogotá (2012–2014; 2014–2015), Petro leveraged his leadership role in Colombia’s capital to strengthen his social media presence and online personality among domestic and international Latin America audiences.

 

Caption: Translation: The global south speaks out and assumes the banner of exchanging debt for climate action.

United Latin America must press for it to become a reality.   

Boric achieved a meteoric rise through Chilean politics, defying expectations to win the 2021 presidential election. The former student leader took office at the age of 35 on a manifesto to strengthen human rights, social justice, and environmental protections. His progressive platform made him exceptionally popular in Chile, as well as among left-leaning audiences beyond his country’s borders.

Boric projects a down to earth and light-hearted attitude to satire. When he has the opportunity, he uses international platforms offered by English-language media outlets and major events to offer passionate comments on topics important to younger audiences beyond Chile, on issues from mental health to climate change.

Caption: Translation: “I found it funny and even an honour, look 👨‍✈️🛳”

Deep Dive: Top Five Under 50

In Europe, Ukraine Tops Agenda

Given the European concentration of our younger leaders, it’s unsurprising that the most impactful day of the last year for the under 50s was February 27 – three days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Zelenskyy’s tweets acknowledging support from world leaders led to a sharp rise in follower count and engagement. His announcement that Ukraine had taken Russia to the International Court of Justice received the most retweets of anyone on the under 50 leader board.

This is the case for Macron and Truss, as well. Their declarations of support for Ukraine and calls for de-escalation come out as most impactful.

In South America, leaders look inwards

By contrast, looking across the Atlantic towards Boric and Bukele, both are much more focused on concerns at home.

Caption: Translation: Go Forward Chile!

Boric’s frequent use of the hashtag #ChileAvanzando drove significant reach and engagement, whilst domestic economic policy, articles about Bitcoin, and controversial updates to his Twitter bio drove Bukele’s influence.

Caption: Bukele is creative about how he leverages Twitter functionality, frequently updating his Twitter bio text, sometimes in irreverent ways, such as describing himself (in Spanish) as "the coolest dictator in the world" in response to protests against him.

Embracing Emojis

Compared to our top five leaders overall, the top five under 50 use significantly more emojis in their tweets, especially Zelenskyy and Truss with 🇺🇦 and 🇬🇧 emojis the being the most commonly used. Other favourites include the 🇪🇺, 🇫🇷 and 👇, the latter especially by Truss. She even used 💪 to communicate strength, mostly during her leadership campaign.

 

Whilst Truss and Zelenskyy have generated significant impressions with their flags and downwards pointing, Bukele, with his quirkier approach, has driven use of the 😎, 🥳 and 🔥 emojis - mostly when tweeting about his country’s uptake of Bitcoin as a legal tender.

By comparison, our top five leaders overall use very few emojis. The odd use of flags and *THUMBS UP* from Bolsonaro is all that we see.

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Caption: Emoji cloud data from tweets by top five under 50 (left) compared to top five overall (right).

Source: Brandwatch.

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TWIPLOMACY 2022

Conclusion

About

Twiplomacy’s 2022 World Leader Power Ranking analysis evidences a shift in the landscape and approaches to digital diplomacy, as social media platforms and user preferences evolve.

For over a decade, Twitter has been the preeminent and predominant platform for digital diplomacy. But at the time of publishing, the future of Twitter is uncertain, and many questions about it's relationship to digital diplomacy remain.

What effects will Twitter Blue, the platform’s new - and temporarily suspended - pay-to-play verification programme, have on the spread of misinformation and trust in communication from media, leaders, governments, and institutions?

Will “free speech” moderation changes, including the return of previously banned political figures, incite an exodus of leaders and their followers?

Might world leaders exchange their Twitter handles for emerging channels like Mastodon? Or will they flock to rivals like Meta or TikTok?

Amid this uncertainty, one thing is clear. We're in for a tumultuous few months ahead. As always, the Twiplomacy team will be analysing the digital diplomacy context from the frontlines.

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2022 Twiplomacy World Leader Power Ranking proudly produced by the International Affairs, Data and Analytics, and Digital Innovation Hub teams at BCW.

© BCW 2022