Who are the most engaging world leaders on Twitter?

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With elections in Russia already happened, those in the UK, France and the US to come there is much debate about how social media is now being used in both the electoral process, and more broadly as part of engagement between our world leaders and others on social media. Barack Obama has traditionally been held up as an example of using social media for campaigning and for engaging with people through Twitter, Facebook and other channels. But he is not the only world leader to use social media.

Whilst rankings, numbers and leagues tables only tell part of the story, it is a useful way to begin exploring and understanding how these leaders are using Twitter and which are most engaging.

World Leaders on Twitter

This ranking looks at known (and where possible verified) accounts of world leaders on Twitter. It uses PeerIndex to measure their influence and to rank them. The result for top spot is not surprising (Barack Obama), second place goes to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and then comes the President of Colombia in third (Álvaro Uribe) and Queen Rania of Jordan on fourth. The list continues to include leaders from Venezuela, Russia, Turkey and others.

The more successful world leaders on Twitter are not necessarily those who are responding to most people, or answering most questions. In fact most of the top five are not doing this on a regular or ongoing basis (probably either because the volume the get is unrealistic, or because it is not appropriate for them to engage in most discussions). What they have got right, however, is knowing their audience and pitching their content right. There is nothing worse than following somebody on Twitter who is either boring (for example constantly pushing out press releases) or who talks about such a wide variety of things it is difficult to know if you are interested or not. These world leaders clearly have strategies for how they are using social media and a plan to engage people around content and discussions of interest to them.

This is something we can all learn from, either for our personal or business accounts. Know your audience, work out what they are interested in (and what they are not interested in) and then engage and share with them on this.

Labour or Conservatives: Who’s making the best use of Facebook?

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In the UK, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have been the main political rivals since the start of the 20th Century. Today they are vying to capture the hearts and minds of voters on Facebook. But how well are they doing? Here’s a nonpartisan analysis of what these two parties are doing using this social network, and what we can learn from them.

We used the  Engagement Analytics tool by Socialbakers to compare both pages. Audience size for the parties is relatively even, but the Conservatives have certainly taken a lead here.

Conservative and Labour Party Facebook statistics

However, at FreshNetworks we believe that the real indicator of success of a Facebook page isn’t its audience size but the level of engagement. More on that later…

1. Content strategies

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour seem to have developed the type of content strategy that we would always recommend for our clients.

In fact, it appears that both pages seem to be almost purely focussed on sharing links to blog posts and articles on their respective websites. We find that a rich mixture of content, including photos and albums, as well as short, punchy status updates and questions are great for engaging audiences. Our experience is that links shared direct to the newsfeed are often the least engaging of all Facebook post types.

2. Post frequency

Conservative and Labour Party Facebook post frequency

Probably the biggest difference between the parties in how they use Facebook is the frequency at which they post content, and as far as we’re concerned, neither is getting quite right.

We’d say that it’s Labour who have got it most wrong however, as they are almost certainly over-sharing. Take a look at the graph above – now, we think there’s nothing wrong with posting every day if the message is right, but 11 posts in one day? Even the most ardent fan of your brand (or in this case political supporter) is going to suffer from at least mild fatigue at all those updates. In total over the three month period we monitored, Labour posted 284 times – an average of three posts a day, seven days a week.

At the other end of the spectrum, is the Conservative party who definitely seem to have a ‘less is more’ attitude to sharing content with their Facebook fans – never posting more than once in a day, and often with several days between posts. Over the same three month period they posted just 10 times.

With a proper content plan to support their social media strategies, we think both parties could probably do with meeting somewhere in the middle on post frequencies. It’s all about putting out the right content, at the right time of day for your audience, without over-sharing, but whilst maintaining an ongoing flow of conversation with your audience.

3. Engagement

So what about the all-important engagement rate?

It seems by posting so much less than Labour, the Conservatives have won-out in terms of engaging their audience with an engagement rate of three and a half times that of that their rivals. The number of total interactions by Labour’s Facebook fans might be six times higher, but that’s not so great when you think that they’ve posted 28 times as many posts to Facebook.

So what have we learned?

Well, the Conservatives do have a better engagement rate AND more fans, but we don’t think they’ve delivered any knock-out punches with their Facebook page. They would probably benefit from posting a little bit more than they do, and Labour definitely needs to stop posting so much. Most importantly though, is the content. Content is king and neither party has got it right. Politics is an emotive topic, and over 50% of eligible voters will vote for one of these parties at the next election. There are huge issues to debate out there, and both sides could do with striking up more of a debate with their audience by asking more questions and relaying soundbites of party leaders. More photos shared into the newsfeed can really help tell more of a story, not to mention catching the eye of fans in their newsfeeds.

Japanese Prime Minister starts blogging and Tweeting

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"Japanese Flag"
Image by Marcus Vegas via Flickr

We’ve written before about the ways in which politicians are using social media, from US President Barack Obama, to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. These politicians, like many others, are using social media as a way of engaging directly with the public. They often use they use these tools as a way of focusing on specific topics or issues that are of interest to them. And social media can be a great way to open up and bring people inside the organisation and see what is going on and feel like they have a direct connection with those people making decisions. Just as this is beneficial for brands, so it is also beneficial for organisations and governments

The latest world leader to start using social media is Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama (鳩山由紀夫). On the 1st January 2010, he started Tweeting (@hatoyamayukio) and blogging (Hato Cafe).

He currently has almost 150,000 followers on Twitter, not bad for his 12 updates. He says in his bio that this account is not just to talk about politics and the updates so far range from politics to insights into Hatoyama’s life and routine. On cold mornings he likes a warming cup of tea and a walk, apparently. Even sharing a video of the pigeons in the garden of the residence from one such walk. On the blog - Hato Cafe (or Dove Cafe) he has reported on his trip to India and his discussions with Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, from the International Space Station.

On the blog, Hatoyama explains what he is using social media for:

I started this blog as a first step to burying the gap between people and politics as well as changing this country together.

It will be interesting to watch how this use of social media develops and changes. The update so far have been a mix of personal reflections, insights into the Japanese Prime Minister’s life and reflections on official trips and events. He talks about engaging the public in public policy debates via both the blog and Twitter and this would be a fascinating development in the Japanese political landscape where traditionally engaging people online has not been part of policy during elections or governments.

But there is a lot to be said for just using social media to engage people and let them see behind the scenes and into the live and perspective of the Hatoyama himself. Social media tools can be a great way to let people understand more about the individuals - what they do, think and experience. This is, on its own, very important - breaking down barriers between the public and politicians in a way that has previously not been possible to do on such a large scale. Whilst a small number of people might once have heard a Japanese Prime Minister’s story of the birds in his garden as he takes his morning walk, we can now all know about this and even experience it with him through his video. Do not underestimate the importance of this. The more we understand about people the more we engage with them.

Iran - a social media election

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Iran Qom _DSC7574Image by youngrobv (Rob & Ale) via Flickr

There has been a lot of talk over the last year of Obama’s election as the first social media election. And it is certainly true that there is much we can all learn from how Obama used social media as a candidate during the election process. But over the last couple of days we’ve seen another use of social media in elections - reporting on the fallout from the election results in Iran.

The presidential election in Iran was held on the 12th June, between incumbent Ahmadinejad and rival Mousavi. The result was a landslide for Ahmadinejad, and opposition supporters have since been protesting the results. There has been mixed coverage of this in traditional media - with many criticising CNN for its coverage, and the BBC seemingly blocked in Iran as a result of its reports on what is happening.

It is in social media that the wealth and depth of information is to be found. And some of this is quite remarkable:

  • Twitter is perhaps the best place to follow what is happening in real time (#iranelection). And it is also the source of some particularly unique insights, such as the Tweet from Mousavi saying that he had been placed under house arrest.
  • Blogs allow coverage in more detailed form from bloggers both inside and outside Iran and from all parts of the political spectrum
  • YouTube is a source of video content from inside Iran, often in a raw and unfiltered manner.
  • Flickr is building a library of user-created images of riots and the aftermath of the election.

In all, the amount of information that is being shared about what happened, and is currently happening in Iran is huge. People are creating content and, thanks to efficient search, others are able to find it.

If Obama’s use of social media showed how candidates can harness it to support their own campaign, and to build their own brand, the case of the Iranian elections shows how the public can use social media to express their own opinion and to show what is happening.

One of the real developments that we are experiencing at the moment online is a exponential proliferation of information. Cases like the aftermath of the Iranian election are a great example of this. We can follow things in real-time thanks to services like Twitter, but we are also documenting the events for the future and doing so through the words, voices, eyes and ears of users themselves. Perhaps that is equally important.

Gordon Brown’s YouTube trauma

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This week Gordon Brown made a major announcement on YouTube that totally backfired. The UK press has been right to jump on this poor use of social media as a disaster for the Prime Minister. But let’s be clear, this is an example of how not to use a social media tool, it is not an example of the tool being broken.

Brown’s mistake, in this instance, was poor management and a lack of empathy. On a matter dear to the hearts of all MPs - their pay and expenses - rather than consult, he pronounced his verdict. That he used YouTube to do it is a sideshow. But it does provide a valuable lesson.

Social Media tools are just that. In the hand of a craftsman they can achieve great things, but if used in a sloppy manner they will not magically give great results. It’s the same for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and online communities.

And it’s exactly what I found myself talking about on a Social Media Panel at Internet World Expo this week. There can be an unhealthy obsession with getting a brand page up on Facebook or being sure to have a company Twitter account.

Don’t do it. Unless you have a good reason.
Separately, I noticed that Gordon Brown turned off the ability for viewers to comment on his video. Closing down the conversation - perhaps something purists would rally against. However, I suspect in this case, it was pretty good crisis management. Sure, people took the conversation elsewhere, but it did start to die down.

As ever, we’d be interested to hear your views.

You can watch the video is all it’s glory (including his special smile) here: