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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Takes Over Former President Obama’s Top Spot as the Most Followed World Leader on Instagram

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken over former U.S. President Barack Obama’s position as most followed world leader on Instagram with 6.8 million followers on his account, closely followed by U.S. President Donald J. Trump in second place with 6.3 million followers, according to the newly released 2017 “World Leaders on Instagram” study by leading strategic communications and global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.

Pope Francis is in third place with 3.7 million followers, ahead of the White House account with 3.4 million followers. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has seen a 673 percent growth in his followers over the past 12 months, putting him in fifth position with 3.4 million followers.

Modi, who has only posted 53 photos during that period, is also the most effective world leader on Instagram, considering that each of his posts receives an average of 223,000 interactions (comments and likes). Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is in second position with 141,000 interactions and Pope Francis’ Instagram posts receive 138,000 interactions on average. At 9.67 percent, the Turkish President has one of the highest interaction rates, which is the total number of interactions divided by the number of posts and the average number of followers over the past 12 months.

The study analyzes the activity of the 325 Instagram accounts of heads of state and government, and foreign ministers over the past 12 months using aggregate data from Facebook’s CrowdTangle tool. As of April 1, 2017, the accounts have a combined total of 48.7 million followers and published 61,281 posts in the past 12 months which have garnered a total of 371.7 million interactions (comments and shares).

The World Leaders on Instagram study also found that 140 of the 193 United Nations member states maintain an official Instagram account, four more than in the 2016 study. Seventy-three heads of state, 38 heads of government and 28 foreign ministers maintain personal pages on the platform, which tend to get better engagement than institutional accounts. World leaders use Instagram to get their messages across in interesting and creative ways, tapping the full range of Instagram features. World leaders create breaking Instagram stories and use grand picture collages; they even post so many videos that now one in 10 posts contain them. The selfie has now taken the place of the traditional handshake photo, clearly signaling the new diplomatic environment in 2017.

“Burson-Marsteller’s second installment of the World Leaders on Instagram study demonstrates the popularity and effectiveness of visual communications in the public sector,” said Don Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, Burson-Marsteller. “Leaders around the world are creating online communications that convey global social and political context while also sharing a sense of personality and creativity. Leaders of business and all other sectors can learn from governments’ use of Instagram.”

On January 20, 2017, the White House Instagram account, set up under President Obama in January 2012, and all its 1,747 posts were archived on the @ObamaWhiteHouse Instagram account. A new @WhiteHouse Instagram channel was set up for the Trump administration, which started with a clean slate yet kept the 3,586,458 followers accumulated under Obama. So far the Trump administration has only posted 33 times, and since the transition the account has lost more than 100,000 followers as Obama supporters have unfollowed the Trump White House Instagram account.

Other key findings include:

  • President Trump tops the most interactive world leaders ranking with 114,554,016 total interactions. He is followed by Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in second place, with 89,090,894 interactions and then Pope Francis with 45,408,641 interactions
  • The Government of Brunei has the most active account, posting on average 16 times per day. It is far ahead of Kuwait‘s Ministry of Foreign Affairs which posts 6.6 times per day and Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo who posts 4.7 times per day.
  • World leaders have taken to Instagram’s new video feature – sharing video posts has more than doubled over the past 12 months and videos receive an average of 2,027 more interactions than simple photo posts.

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