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Kurz saves face for Austria on Twitter

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Kurz saves face for Austria on Twitter
Sebastian Kurz holds a Tweet chat. Photo: Twiplomacy
11:53 CEST+02:00
Although Austrian leaders are lagging behind when it comes to social media, the youthful foreign minister Sebastian Kurz is the country's most connected politician on Twitter, a new report released on Tuesday showed.

The annual Twiplomacy study, by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, analyzed the Twitter use of accounts of 669 heads of state and government, foreign ministers and their institutions in 166 countries worldwide.

The study notes that the Austrian government’s attempt to establish a lasting presence on Twitter was thwarted in November 2011 after it came under heavy criticism for using fake profiles to post positive comments on their Facebook page.

Since then the government has been contemplating a new social media strategy but has halted all its social media activities.

However Kurz, or @SebastianKurz, is making up for it and while he may not yet be in the running for the world's most connected foreign minister on Twitter (that goes to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius) with over 55,000 followers he is doing pretty well.

He was also praised in the report for his personal tweets in German and English and his willingness to sit down for Twitter chats, personally answering selected questions sent by his followers.

With up to four tweets a day he is very active and often shares pictures from his travels. He regularly organizes Tweet chats with the hashtag #kurzgefragt which is a pun on his name and literally means ‘quick question’.

His most popular tweets are the ones in which he takes a stance on current affairs, as he did when the Turkish government blocked Twitter in 2014.

He is very well connected to his peers, mutually following 37 other world leaders.

A personal account for Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann was set up by his party but the account is inactive as indicated in two tweets from 2009: “The account was reserved for Werner Faymann, head of the SPÖ but is currently not active.” 

Despite being inactive the account has more than 580 followers including Portuguese President Cavaco Silva, the Croatian government and the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

The Twitter activity of the Austrian ‘Chancellor’s Team’ @TeamKanzler was similarly short-lived. Just hours after starting their Twitter account, the Chancellor and his team were lampooned in an online video, and the account has been dormant since November 2011.

“Over the past years Twitter has become the channel of choice for digital diplomacy between world leaders, governments, foreign ministries and diplomats,” the Twiplomacy report states. 

“Social media in general and Twitter in particular is no longer just an afterthought but an essential communication tool for governments to interact and broadcast 140 character messages and six-second soundbites.”

As of March 24th, the most-followed world leaders were US President Barack Obama at 57 million followers, Pope Francis at 20 million followers across his nine different language accounts and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at about 11 million.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who once vowed he would “wipe out Twitter”, banning the social media site temporarily in the country - was also among the top five with 6.1 million followers.

The Pope beat Obama for most effective world leader, with an average of 9,929 re-tweets per tweet.

The report showed the Mexican presidency account to be the most prolific, with an average of 68 tweets per day.

“This study illustrates that governments are becoming savvier and more professional in the use of social media,” said Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa, in a statement.

“It is interesting to see how foreign ministries have honed their social strategies and built substantial dedicated teams to manage their online channels. We believe corporations can learn a lot from governments and their leaders on Twitter.”

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