Presidents, Prime Ministers, and heartless dictators, alike, are warming up to the 140-character update mill that is Twitter.
The Digital Policy Council (DPC), a non-partisan think tank, found that as of December 2012, 75 percent of the global heads of state are now on Twitter, according to a new report. DPC began collecting the data in early 2010, and have observed a shift in how governments are openly engaging with the public.
The report states that as digital activism becomes more intense—a factor viewed by some governments as a threat—many heads of state are recognizing the value in engaging the public online. “Anyone can send an @ message to a world leader and although they might not personally see the tweet, it will likely go to the attention of their staff,” states the report. “Furthermore, with the aid of Twitter a government message has the potential to go viral or reach a worldwide audience.”
Use of Twitter is more common with democratic countries, according to the report. Many countries with political instability “continued to view social media as a threat, though,” states the report.
Despite this, however, Omar Hijazi, Managing Partner at Digital Daya believes “Twitter will become a de facto communication tool for nearly all heads of state in 2013,” according to a press release
“With a more emboldened and connected society, world leaders are recognizing, now more than ever, that the options for communicating with their electorate have been permanently redefined,” Hijazi stated.
President Barack Obama currently leads the pack with his 24 million followers. Close behind is Venezualan President Huge Chavez with his 20 million followers.
So far, leaders of 123 of the world’s 164 countries are now on Twitter, using either their own names or an official government office.
Some have been slow coming. According to a press release, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron was wary at first, but joined his fellow heads of state on Twitter in October 2012, and was quoted as saying “You’ve got to get with the programme, I suppose.”
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