World Leaders and Facebook

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Written by Blair James

Since 2015, Facebook has accumulated more users than the total population of China—1.86 billion monthly active users and 1.23 billion people active on a daily basis, to be exact. And world leaders are in that mix with 87% of the 193 UN countries using Facebook pages to stay in the know of their communities and connecting to their people.

Burson-Marsteller analyzed 590 Facebook pages that represented 169 governments for their annual social media study. As of February 1, 2017, all 590 pages had a combined total number of followers at 311 million.  These pages also posted a total of 398, 982 posts, which received 772 million interactions, such as likes, comments, and shares.

Leaders have had major success by using social media platforms. The success of Donald Trump during his election was due in big part to his communications on social media. After his inauguration, he became the second most popular leader in social media with 20 million followers. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is the first most popular leader with 40 million followers.

It is well known that most leaders do not create their own posts on their social media pages. They usually have their communications team take charge. But there are a few leaders who do like to write their own posts and create Facebook live videos. They include Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and his Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández.

The usage varies from country to country. Some governments use their pages just to give daily updates on their leaders while others are posting more personal information and engaging citizens directly. The ones that post personal information tend to share pictures of their children, celebrate birthdays, and post about additions to their families. These authentic posts are usually the most popular.

The most popular post of a world leader in 2016 was a family photo of the Obamas, posted on the White House page, wishing everyone a Happy Easter. The picture received 3.2 million likes, shares, and comments from followers.  The same picture was posted in 2015 with 2.9 million interactions. Another post, a photo of the Argentinian President Mauricio Macri toasting the New Year on January 1, 2016, was very popular. This goes to show that posts from religious holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali and the New Year, tend to generally perform very well.

Many leaders use Facebook to specifically interact with their citizen followers. The German Government regularly replies to follower comments.  Ismali Omar Guelleh, the President of Djibouti, held a Q&A session on Facebook where he tried to answer around 440 questions in writing. Similarly, the president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis, holds live chats on Facebook where he answers questions as they come through during the broadcast.

Though most governments in the world use social media expertly, 24 countries still do not. This includes China, where social media is banned, and Switzerland, where the former president briefly set up a Facebook account but deactivated it four months after it was created.

Barack Obama was the first Head of State to create a Facebook account in 2007. While he was in office, he was third on the most interactions list with 36 million interactions and an interaction rate of 0.90 percent. In first place is the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has accumulated 169 million interactions and an overall interaction rate of 0.52 percent.

Overall, the study analyzed how governments and world leaders interact and communicate on social media. The study originally looked at Twitter, but it has expanded to other platforms including Snapchat, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.