2022 has been a year of change for world leaders and a turbulent year for Twitter. Big personalities have lost office while voters have elected an increasing number of women as the world remains gripped by energy price, conflict, climate crises and spiralling inflation.
The 2022 Twiplomacy World Leader Power Ranking has identified that the most influential world leader on Twitter is India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, closely followed by US President Joe Biden and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Global names creating the global narrative.
Our Power Ranking uses a bespoke algorithm to rank world leaders by their global Twitter influence based on BCW’s methodology (more information below).
This analysis, conducted using data from the last year, examines the trends shaping digital diplomacy on Twitter in 2022 (see more on methodology below). Considered the “digital town square” now for more than a decade, Twitter is the preeminent and predominant platform for diplomacy conducted online, with its real-time newsfeed, strong base of journalists, and ability to engage the most politically inclined at global scale. But at the time of publishing, the future relationship between Twitter and digital diplomacy is uncertain.
New leadership at Twitter has resulted in mass layoffs, shifts in strategic direction, and major platform changes that have already provoked widespread impersonation, increases in negative sentiment, and uneasiness among leaders, businesses, and individuals alike.
What these changes will mean for political power players remains to be seen. As longstanding analysts of digital diplomacy, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye.
So, what did the last year of digital diplomacy reveal? The ranking reveals that you can’t take the social out of social media - even for politicians.
The highest-ranking world leaders are those with big personalities who use Twitter as a direct channel for communication with their audiences and influencers. That doesn’t, however, necessarily correlate with domestic popularity, with several high-ranking figures facing challenges to their leadership at home.
What it does show is the power these individuals have to shape the conversations that dominate digital diplomacy and set the agenda through one of the world’s most powerful social media platforms to date. Just as Twitter frequently punches above its weight in political and diplomatic circles, relative to the size of its userbase in many geographies, so have leaders outside the G20 risen to prominence on the platform.
This year’s report examines the top 10 ranking leaders, which illuminates the strong Spanish-language Twitter community in Latin America, the rise and fall of our female leaders, notable electoral breakthroughs and the top five under 50 years old.
What does our analysis tell us about the current state of digital diplomacy?
Authenticity reigns supreme
We’ve seen a major shift away from the previously tightly controlled statement in favour of real, off-the-cuff moments – typically shorter, sharper, rawer and more emotive. From Biden’s no-nonsense one-liners, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s near real-time rebuttals, Finnish PM Sanna Marin’s criticism clapback, to Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s vulnerability on his struggles with mental health, accounts that portray the real and human side of leaders outperform.
Online influence is no longer about how many followers a leader has or how many tweets the leader puts out – it’s about how engaged that follower base is, and how likely they are to interact with a leader’s message. In this report, our proprietary algorithm uncovered engagement metrics like retweets and likes as the indicators contributing most to influence, which also power a leader’s reach. This signals a shift from the popularity contest of the last decade to a more earned approach, powered by people – and to some extent, an updated algorithm that rewards active participation over passive consumption.
Just as they were in major international diplomatic affairs this year, China President Xi Jinping and Russia President Vladimir Putin are notably absent from our 2022 World Leader Power Ranking. Despite topping geopolitical headlines on Twitter, our analysis shows that neither hold significant direct influence in the digital diplomacy discussions happening daily. Putin’s seldom-used account falls just outside the top 50, and Twitter-less Xi holds no rank. Both leaders deviate from their global peers’ individual use of Twitter in favour of administration-run accounts on domestically popular – and more tightly controlled – platforms, evidencing a growing trend towards a global “splinternet.”
About Twiplomacy’s 2022 World Leader Power Ranking
This list includes the leaders of UN-recognised states with executive power, who were in office as of September 30, 2022, and who are on Twitter with a handle that belongs to an individual, whether by name or job title, but not an office (e.g., Prime Minister's Office).
The data used to produce the ranking was taken from between October 1, 2021 and, to September 30, 2022, and does not include those who have left office prior to the end of that period.
Designed by BCW’s Europe & Africa's Data & Analytics team, our methodology enables us to uncover what influence is in digital diplomacy in 2022.
Given a specified time interval and list of Twitter handles, the algorithm assigns a tailored weighting to variables including mentions, tweets, retweets, reach, impressions, follower changes, likes and follower count. We then display this as an ascending order ranking.
For this report, Twiplomacy used the following variables to further contextualise, compare, and understand influence factors in our ranking.
Note that the variables include individual and country level indicators:
Length of time in office
Year on year comparison
The proportion of tweets with either photo or video content
These were added to variables related to leaders’ country of origin:
Country GDP per capita
Income level based on the World Bank’s categorisation of the country
Languages of tweets (English, French, Spanish, Arabic)
None of these variables was a statistically significant driver of score and rank except for population size, where we found that the larger the population size of the respective country, the bigger a world leader’s influence on Twitter.
In addition to these updates, Twiplomacy conducted bot detection due diligence, using data that is cleared of obvious fake account and activity. For an estimate of fake account activity, we referred to Twitter‘s May 2022 statement, which claimed it was less than 5%.