According to a recently released report from the Digital Policy Council (DPC), Twitter is becoming a key communication tool for many government officials and their offices.
It is a well-known fact that United States President Barack Obama (@barackobama) has embraced social media and other social tools as a campaign and communications tool. He not only had an AMA on Reddit earlier this year, but is also the number one head of state on Twitter according to the DPC report.
Despite this designation,Obama isn't the only government official to use the site; 123 other heads of state from 164 countries have started tweeting. Those who have been using micro-blogging website include United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron and Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi to Queen Rania (@QueenRania), Jordan’s Queen Consort and President Rafael Correa from Ecuador.
The DPC started looking at government social media trends in 2010. Over the past two years, they've noticed that there has been a 93 percent increase of government departments and officials who are using Twitter.
Governments have started to see that Twitter is less of a way for people to comment on consumer trends and pop culture, but as an innovative tool that can improve or destroy their public image. Therefore, a typical government Twitter account will be composed of statements from the actual official, representatives from their office or a combination of both.
The sheer popularity that social platforms like Twitter possess make it clear that traditional media channels are no longer adequate or in some cases, even effective. Leaders seek to be where their people are, and are recognizing, more than ever, that the options for communicating with their electorate have been redefined,” says the report.
Despite this, many politically unstable countries are wary to use the micro-blogging site, as it can be used as a digital activism tool. The report notes that not all countries with political unrest follow suit, with officials from India, Ghana and Egypt are trying to use Twitter to connect with their country.
How Did This Start?
The report says that this idea of governments using Twitter started when Obama introduced the open government directive, which in turn helped develop a Open Government Partnership between countries. The idea of using social media not only makes governments more approachable, but has allowed those participating “to empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance and support the implementation of multilateral commitments.”
Who’s on Top?
As was mentioned, Obama is the most followed government official with about 24 million followers. He’s followed by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, who both have about two million followers. The top four is rounded off by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, who ended 2012 with 910,000 followers.
Government and Technology
Governments can no longer avoid the sway that technology has. Many companies have started to develop government specific tools that can enhance the functionality and productivity of the political organization. For example, in December 2012 the UK public sector introduced Terminal Four, a Web CMS system, while the White House introduced their Digital Government Strategy in June. Microsoft announced in March that they were working an Office 365 product that is designed for government usage.