Almost two-thirds of world leaders have a Twitter account, but while the social network offers direct interaction between users, almost half of world leader accounts don’t follow any of their peers, according to research from Burson-Marsteller aimed at identifying to what extent world leaders use Twitter.

Burson-Marsteller analyzed 264 government accounts in 125 countries. The findings indicate that over a quarter of all world leaders and governments are following Barack Obama. The @BarackObama Twitter feed mutually follows only Norway’s Jens Stoltenberg and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev but hasn’t established mutual Twitter relations with other world leaders.

European Union President Herman van Rompuy (@euHvR) is the best connected world leader, mutually following 11 other peers. Australian Prime Minister @JuliaGillard is the second best connected leader. Russian President Putin, Rwandan President Kagame, Singapore Prime Minister Lee, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and 35 other accounts do not follow any other Twitter user; effectively cutting themselves out of the conversation.

On the other hand Ugandan Prime Minister Mbabazi and Rwandan President Kagame are the most conversational world leaders on Twitter with 96 percent and 93 percent of their tweets being @replies.

“This study illustrates how Twitter is closing the communication gap between us and our world leaders,” says Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa. “On the one hand it allows heads of state and government to broadcast their daily activities and government news to an ever growing audience. On the other hand it allows citizens direct access to their leaders. Consequently, it is critical for these leaders to get it right on the social network.”

The study found that politicians often discover Twitter during election campaigns but once elected, their accounts tend to go silent. The accounts of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff @DilmaBR and French President François Hollande @FHollande abandoned their followers since taking office. Out of 120 personal accounts, only 30 world leaders tweet personally and then only occasionally.

Twitter is also used by small nations to put them on the world map and tweet eye-to-eye with their peers. The president of the Dominican Republic unilaterally follows 71 other world leaders. The president of Portugal and the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago both unilaterally follow over 50 other peers.

Twitter is most popular in North and South America with 80 percent of governments active. Barack Obama is the most followed world leader with 17,115,077 followers, globally in fifth place just behind Britney Spears. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is in second place with 3,152,608 followers, followed by the White House, Queen Rania of Jordan and 10 Downing Street, each of which have over two million followers.

Additional findings:
• Out of the 264 accounts of heads of state and government 90 have never ever sent a retweet and 99 have never sent an @reply
• US President Barack Obama was the first world leader to sign up to Twitter on 5 March 2007 followed the same month by @EPN, the account now used by Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto.
• Most popular tweet: "Same-sex couples should be able to get married." - President Obama”, retweeted 62,047 times on 9 May 2012
• World leaders tweet in 43 different languages. English is used by 34 percent followed by Spanish (15 percent). However Spanish and Latin American leaders tweet three times as much as their English counterparts