Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Twiplomacy in Latin America

Twiplomacy is a new study done by Burson-Marsteller, a PR firm. As the name suggests, it looks at world leaders' use of Twitter. Here are the most followed presidents in Latin America:

It's a great read with a lot of detail about how different leaders deal with Twitter, how they promote it, how they interact with each other, etc.

But from a social science perspective there are a number of problems with the study. Most importantly, it does not really define "influence." Having a lot of retweets indicates "effectiveness," they write, but what does that translate into? According to the study, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández is incredibly "effective." So what? Does that help him achieve his policy goals?

I wrote about this exact issue four years:

Further, this tells us nothing about effectiveness. Presidents want to reach people and thereby gain support, but as yet I've not seen any evidence--perhaps with polling?--about whether it benefits them politically. An aide to Dilma Rousseff said that she thought Twitter is a "total waste of time." Clearly others disagree, but we don't have a good grip on how to evaluate that.

We still don't have a good grip on it. According to the study, Latin American leaders tweet the most of any region, with Mexico and Venezuela at the top. The presidents of both countries are extremely unpopular and clearly ineffective. So we could potentially even argue that hyperactive tweeting is a sign of desperation and weakness.


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