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Barack Obama and Narendra Modi most liked on Facebook

World Leaders on Facebook: Burson-Marsteller study finds governments are turning to Facebook to engage with citizens

Almost 90% of all governments have an official Facebook presence, and 87 heads of state, 82 heads of government and 51 foreign ministers maintain personal pages on the platform, according to a new study by Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and communications firm.

Based on data collected in January 2016, the World Leaders on Facebook study – the first installment of the 2016 edition of Burson-Marsteller’s annual Twiplomacy study – found that 169 of the 193 UN member states maintain an official Facebook page.

“This first study about governments’ use of Facebook provides valuable insights about the communications practices of political leaders around the world,” said Donald A. Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, Burson-Marsteller. “There is a great deal corporations, NGOs and other sectors can learn from the ways governments and their leaders use Facebook. By showing their human side, they are creating a closer relationship with their citizens.”

Over the past eight years, Facebook has become the platform of choice for world leaders and governments to engage with their voters and constituents. On 4 January 2016, all of the world leaders combined had accumulated a total of 230,489,257 ‘likes’ and had published a total of 302,456 posts.

“This study illustrates that governments are becoming savvier and more professional in the use of social media. An encouraging finding from this study is that, for governments, it seems that quality trumps quantity in terms of what they post,” said Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East & Africa and Global Chief Strategy Officer. “It is also very refreshing to see that successful politicians on Facebook behave just like any other Facebook user, sharing pictures of their home life, holidays and their children.”

U.S. President Barack Obama is the most popular world leader on Facebook with 46m likes on his Barack Obama campaign page. Obama is closely followed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with more than 31m fans on his personal Narendra Modi page and 10.1m fans on his institutional PMO India page, which is in third position. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi complete the top five list of the most popular world leaders with more than 5m likes each.

In November 2015, the US administration set up an official institutional page for the President of the United States (/POTUS) which has since attracted 1.3m likes in less than two months and is already among the 30 most popular pages of world leaders.

Modi has the most interactive fans, with more than 200m interactions in his Facebook ‘community’ in 2015 (the total number of post likes, comments and shares), more than five times as many as Obama. However, the White House’s posts, while attracting far fewer likes than Modi, are nevertheless shared more frequently.

Argentina’s new President, Mauricio Macri, is the most engaged world leader and has become the undisputed ‘Facebook president’ with a double digit engagement rate relative to the number of page likes of almost 12%.

The Facebook page of the Presidency of the Dominican Republic is the most prolific page, with an average of more than 27 posts per day in 2015. Almost as prolific are the governments of Botswana and the Philippines, each with an average of more than 20 posts per day. By contrast, the official POTUS page only publishes intermittently, but gathers more than 77,000 interactions per post.

Other key findings include:

Asia Pacific

Indian government leaders, including the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister dominate the rankings in the Asia Pacific region. The size of the country is clearly a decisive factor for these large audiences.

Facebook has been making inroads in other Asian countries and has become the platform of choice for Asian leaders. Philippine President Noynoy Aquino, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, Myanmar’s new leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen have all got sizeable audiences, with more than 1m followers each.

Middle East

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi leads the rankings in the Middle East and North Africa with close to 6m likes, ahead of Jordan’s Queen Rania, an early adopter with 5.5m likes, in turn well ahead of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai with 3m likes and Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court with 1.6m likes.

Latin America

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is the most popular leader in Latin America with 4.5m likes, ahead of the new Argentinian President, Mauricio Macri, with 3.5m and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff with 2.6m likes.


Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta is the most popular leader in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 2m likes ahead of John Dramani Mahama, the President of Ghana and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the foreign minister of Ethiopia, each with more than 600,000 likes.


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the British Monarchy, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russia’s Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev and Albania’s Edi Rama are Europe’s most popular leaders on Facebook.

The governments of only 24 countries have not yet established a presence on Facebook, including China, where the social network is banned and Switzerland, where the former president briefly set up a personal page in 2013 before deactivating it four months later.

About the Study

World Leaders on Facebook is Burson-Marsteller’s latest research into how world leaders, governments and international organisations communicate via social media. The research builds on Burson-Marsteller’s highly acclaimed annual Twiplomacy study. Initially focused solely on Twitter, the 2016 study is being expanded to other social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and more niche digital diplomacy platforms such as Snapchat and Vine. An analysis of each separate platform will be released each month in the run up to the publication of the complete Twiplomacy study in May 2016.


Witten by Rebecca Jarvis


Read 1839 times Last modified on Tuesday, 29 March 2016 13:04
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