U.S. President Barack Obama may have the most number of followers on online social networking and microblogging service Twitter, but he is not the portal's most influential world leader. Pope Francis is.
The @BarackObama account (here), as of presstime, has 43.7 million followers. The @Pontifex handle (here) comes second with 14 million followers. Started by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on February 2012, the @Pontifex account has nine versions, including English, Spanish and Italian.
Matthias Lüfkens, who leads the annual Twiplomacy survey, said it is not the number of followers that determine how influential a world leader is, but the number of times a leader's tweet was retweeted.
"It's not the number of followers which is really important, but the reach, the engagement," he said.
Pope Francis' tweets on the Spanish handle gets retweeted 10,000 retweets for every tweet, while the English account, 6,462 retweets per tweet.
President Obama's tweets, meantime, are retweeted at just a measly average of 1,442 times per tweet.
Twitter, according to Lüfkens, is an increasingly-powerful tool. "It helps you to broadcast, and if you broadcast to the right audience, that has huge impact," he said.
It enables enables politicians to create a sense of intimacy and even interact with one another in public. It also engages world leaders to follow one another mutually, which by itself is already a strong statement.
Rounding off the top five on Twitter's most influential world leaders are Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the White House and Narendra Modi, India's new prime minister.
"He (Modi) is expected to surpass the United States White House account within the next days and is using Twitter as a power tool to broadcast his messages," the study predicted.
But there is one called most engaging, and that is Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi with the @AmamaMbabazi handle. He actually takes times to respond to his followers and others who tweet at him. Majority or 95 per cent of his tweets are replies.
"Twitter has become a powerful channel for digital diplomacy and 21st century statecraft," Lüfkens said. "World leaders might not necessarily read the tweets addressed to them, but their teams certainly monitor the Twitter activity."