Coming off of Wednesday’s Cronkite Global Conversation, one thing that I found particularly interesting was hearing how Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is the most followed person in Russia on the social media site Twitter (with 198,823 followers). With countries around the world entering the “social media age”, we are left to watch and see how world leaders respond and react. In the case of Medvedev, he has clearly chosen to embrace the use of Twitter as part of his personal branding. Other world leaders are also taking up social media as a platform of representation. Consider Barack Obama, who currently has 12,834,291 followers. For some slightly less obvious Twitter users, consider this article (although slightly outdated) from the Huffington Post about world leaders who tweet.
With such a new medium, inevitably there will be growing pains as leaders look to take on Twitter as a means of communication with those they lead. I will use Medvedev as an example again, and point to his “accidental retweet” of a profane insult aimed at his political opposition back in December of 2011.
Even Obama hasn’t been immune to the harshest Twitter lesson of all: the unfollow button. He reportedly lost some 40,000 followers in a 24-hour span after engaging in a day-long Twitter campaign.
With more and more leaders looking to use Twitter to communicate, it is important to remember that the person behind the tweets we see often may not be the leader themselves, but could be someone from their campaign or an aide. The internet removes the visual or audible connection to the leader we have in something like a speech. It will, however, certainly prove useful in some fashion as technology continues to evolve and play a more important role in policy.