Founder and CEO of @DigiTips, a Geneva-based boutique communication agency. I have 25 years of experience in digital and traditional communications.
My clients include leading international organizations (ITU, GAVI, WIPO, WHO, UNICEF, WWF etc.), as well as corporations wishing to improve their digital profiles.
Previously I was responsible for digital media at the World Economic Forum (WEF), where I designed and implemented the digital strategy. I am the founder of Twiplomacy, a study that examines how governments and international organizations use digital platforms. #DigitalDiplomacy
I am personally present on all social networks and I maintain the Instagram, TikTok and Twitter profiles of @LeJetdeau, the iconic attraction of Geneva. I also manage the Facebook presence of @Messery, the village where I live in France.
In 1991, I co-founded the In Your Pocket city guide series in Lithuania, which became the leading publisher of city guides for Central European cities. I am trilingual (English, German, French), speak Italian and have a basic knowledge of Russian.
Who are the most followed foreign ministers and foreign ministries on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube?
🟦 Foreign ministers and foreign ministries tend to have less followers than heads of state and governments. But there are exceptions.
🟦 Colombia’s Marta Lucía Ramírez stands out since she is one of the few women foreign ministers and consistently among the top 10.
🟦 The foreign ministers of Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Pakistan, and Turkey are among the Top 10 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
🟦 The US State Department is the most followed foreign ministry on all platforms. The foreign ministries of France, Israel, and Russia are consistently among the top 10.
Most Followed Foreign Ministers on Twitter 2022
🟦 Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister of the UAE has been the most followed foreign minister for several years. He is closely followed by the new and young Foreign Minister of Pakistan Bilawal Bhutto Zardari with 4.7 million followers.
🟦 The foreign ministers of Mexico, Turkey and Secretary of State Antony Blinken complete the top 5 with 2 million followers each.
🟦 Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was catapulted into 7th place with his occasional Twitter livestreams in English.
Most Followed Foreign Ministers on Facebook 2022
🟦 Italy’s Luigi Di Maio is by far the most followed foreign minister on Facebook with 2.6 million followers, four times as many as the runner-up, Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
🟦 Hungary’s Péter Szijjártó is only active on Facebook but has a sizeable audience of 350,000.
Most Followed Foreign Ministers on Instagram 2022
🟦 Luigi Di Maio, the foreign minister of Italy also tops the Instagram rankings with 870,000 followers ahead of Germany’s Annalena Baerbock with half a million followers.
🟦 Indonesia’s Retno Marsudi is in fourth position and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is in 10th place with 110,000 followers.
Most Followed Foreign Ministers on LinkedIn 2022
🟦 LinkedIn is somewhat of a niche social network with foreign minister from a range of smaller countries embracing the professional social network.
🟦 Swiss Foreign Minister and current President Ignazio Cassis is the most followed foreign minister on Linkedin with 18,000 followers. Togo’s Robert Dussey and Belgium’s Sophie Wilmès complete the top 3 with more than 11,000 followers.
Most Followed Foreign Ministries on Twitter 2022
🟦 The leading foreign ministries maintain Twitter accounts in several languages to reach the widest possible audience. We have summed the different language accounts marked with a *.
🟦 The US State Department has by far the most followers on Twitter with 8.7 million, more than twice as much as the Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia with 3.5 million followers. The Foreign Ministry of Russia is in third place.
🟦 However, since the Trump administration the State Department does no longer follow any other foreign ministry or foreign leader, whether ally or foe.
Most Followed Foreign Ministries on Facebook 2022
🟦 The US State Department leads the Facebook rankings with 3.4 million followers ahead of the foreign ministries of India, Egypt, the Philippines, and Mexico.
🟦 Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry is in eighth place among the most followed foreign ministers with 600,000 followers.
Most Followed Foreign Ministries on Instagram 2022
🟦 The US State Department leads the Instagram rankings with 1.5 million followers ahead of the foreign ministries of India, Israel, and Russia.
🟦 Instagram diplomacy is widely popular in the Middle East namely the foreign ministries of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar.
Most Followed Foreign Ministries on LinkedIn 2022
🟦 LinkedIn, was mainly used as a recruiting platform by the State Department hence the name DOScareers of its page which has 638,000 followers.
🟦 The UK Foreign Office, and the foreign ministries of France, Canada and Argentina engage in economic diplomacy on what is seen as the professional social network.
Most Followed Foreign Ministries on YouTube 2022
🟦 The US State Department leads on YouTube leaderboard ahead of the two channels of the Indian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Foreign Ministry.
🟦 Of note the good showing of Uzbek’s Foreign Ministry in eighth place.
For more on digital diplomacy & digital tips follow @DigiTips on social media and join the #DigiTips Community on Twitter for useful tips & tricks.
Who are the most followed leaders on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok & Telegram as of May 1, 2022? Here is what you need to know about the most followed world leaders on social media in a nutshell.
🟦 They are mainly men and very few women leaders and most of them are part of the G20.
🟦 They have accumulated armies of followers with several millions of soldiers.
🟦 But quantity does not always mean quality. Many of their followers may be bots and fake accounts.
Top 10 World Leaders on Twitter 2022
🟦 Leaders of the most populated countries have a clear advantage to garner millions of followers.
🟦 The Prime Minister of India has 126 million followers on his personal and institutional accounts (@PMOIndia @NarendraModi) twice as many as @POTUS @JoeBiden.
🟦 Pope Francis tweeting @Pontifex clocks up 53 million followers on his 9 language accounts.
Top 10 World Leaders on Facebook 2022
🟦 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden also lead the Facebook rankings.
🟦 Strangely, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has 13 million followers almost as many as Cambodia has inhabitants (16.7 million).
Top 10 World Leaders on Instagram 2022
🟦 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky almost doubled his followers year-on-year and has become the fifth most followed leader.
🟦 Zelensky’s Facebook page has registered the most interactions of all world leaders with 280 millions likes, comments & shares since the start of the 2022.
Top 10 World Leaders on LinkedIn 2022
🟦 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leads the LinkedIn rankings by far.
🟦 Two women, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern make it into the Top 10 of the LinkedIn world leader influencers
🟦 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is in 10th place and the only African in the top 10 of any social media.
Top 10 World Leaders on YouTube 2022
🟦 YouTube is a useful video repository, but many world leaders neglect YouTube as a social media platform and their channels are dormant for months.
🟦 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the YouTube rankings.
🟦 Queen Elizabeth is in 6th place with the Royal Family channel which covers global family events live worldwide.
🟦 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s personal videos shot on hand-held devices in the presidential palace have catapulted him into 8th position of the most followed leaders on YouTube.
Top 10 World Leaders on TikTok 2022
🟦 TikTok is very popular among Latin American leaders.
🟦 El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele’s skits have made him a TikTok star.
🟦 Chile’s young President Gabriel Boric has already half a million followers.
Top 10 World Leaders on Telegram 2022
🟦 Telegram is mainly used in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
🟦 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s war communication and personal videos have made him the most followed leader on the messaging app.
🟦 Many leaders have recently lost followers as Telegram deletes bot accounts.
For more on digital diplomacy & digital tips follow @DigiTips on social media and click below to join the #DigiTips Community on Twitter.
An increasing number of governments, foreign ministries and world leaders are signing up to Telegram one of the last remaining social media platforms accessible in Russia.
Telegram has become the frontline in the information war between Russia and Ukraine.
It is on Telegram that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dressed in military fatigue, posts his daily video messages, encouraging his citizens to #StopRussianAgression.
It is also the platform where Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, lends support to his troops on the ground in Ukraine from the comfort of his gilded office in Grozny.
Thousands of Ukrainians have flocked to the platform for the latest official government news about the war; Russians have massively migrated to the app after the ban of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in their country.
Since Telegram is the last open window into Russia, NATO and a handful of foreign ministries have opened Telegram channels over the past month in the hope of reaching ordinary Russians.
And finally, foreigners are signing up in droves to follow the war in Ukraine live as reported by the key actors. Telegram has reported an average of 2.5 million new users daily in the last three weeks, a 25% increase from the weeks prior.
Contrary to WhatsApp, which is less suited for mass communication, Telegram allows users to create groups with up to 200,000 users and set up public channels.
Initially Telegram founder Pavel Durov considered blocking Telegram in the warring countries given Telegram channels and groups are often used to spread disinformation; it is also physically impossible to confirm the veracity of each publication. But after massive pressure from users he decided against the closure.
The messaging app, which has more than 550 million monthly users globally, is widely popular in Russia with 67 million users or 65% of all internet users in the country according to data from eMarketer. It is reportedly the most popular messaging service in Ukraine. The adoption of the messaging apps Telegram and Signal has surged by almost 200% in both Russia and Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion according to a report by market intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
With the ban of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in Russia, tens of thousands of Russians have moved over to Telegram which is still freely available in Russia. Reuters reported on March 21 that Telegram had overtaken WhatsApp to become Russia’s most popular messaging tool.
Telegram is especially popular in the countries of the former Soviet Union, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. It comes as no surprise that the governments in these countries maintain active channels on the platform.
Russian authorities have embraced the messaging app, which was created in 2013 by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte (VK), Russia’s Facebook clone.
In 2018 the Russian government attempted to block Telegram for not cooperating and handing user data to the Russian security services. However, the ban was ineffective and was lifted in summer 2020. Even the Russian Foreign Ministry posted on the platform during the ban. Given the Russian government and many ministries maintain public channels on the platform, experts believe it is unlikely that Russia will ban Telegram which has been dubbed ‘the last app standing’.
Digital Diplomacy on Telegram
Telegram has been part of the Russian digital diplomacy toolkit since 2016. The Foreign Ministry created its official Russian and English channels @MID_Russia and @MFARussia on November 1, 2016.
In March 2022 both channels grew exponentially, doubling and quadrupling their subscriber numbers which now stand at 102,234 and 19,367 respectively. At the same time the Foreign Ministry in Moscow set up separate channels in Arabic and Spanish, becoming the leading foreign ministry on the platform to total 127,000 subscribers on all four channels. However, that number pales compared to the 321,280 subscribers of the personal channel of Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman @MariaVladimirovnaZakharova.
The Foreign Ministry of Israel is the second most followed foreign ministry on Telegram with more than 53,000 subscribers on its Russian, English, and Farsi channels; @IsraelinRussian is its most followed channel.
The Telegram channel of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry @Ukraine_MFA was initially set up in March 2020 to spread information about the coronavirus pandemic, but it has since changed tack to share “information about the Russian invasion and the operational situation on the diplomatic front”. It is in fourth place of the most followed foreign ministries with more than 16,000 subscribers.
The U.S. State Department was an early adopter of Telegram when it created an official channel in Farsi on December 4, 2015, to counter the ISIS narrative under the Obama administration. However, the channel @USAdarFarsi which still has 14,709 subscribers, was mothballed in December 2021: it asked its community to follow @USAbehFarsi on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter instead to receive “the latest news and cultural content about the USA”.
The foreign ministries of Armenia, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Singapore, Kazakhstan, and Moldova complete the top 10 list of the 28 foreign ministries on the platform.
How do you reach the Russian population in Russia?
On February 27, three days after Russia’s attack on Ukraine the State Department created a bespoke Russian-language channel on Telegram @USApoRusski. It only has 2,159 subscribers.
The EU External Action Service followed suit on March 2 with a video from the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Josef Borrel on the @EUinRU channel managed by the EU Mission in Moscow: “We know that millions of Russians do not want war. And I sincerely wish your leader stop this fratricidal war.”
“We must keep communication channels open”, said EU External Affairs spokesperson Peter Stano via email of the decision to create a Telegram channel. “Since the Kremlin imposed heavy restrictions on most of the social platforms and international media, which are not accessible in Russia anymore (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), Telegram seems to be one of the very few remaining and accessible channels”, he added. In short succession foreign ministries from the leading G7 countries took to Telegram to stay in touch with Russia’s social media users.
The French Foreign Ministry launched its bilingual French and Russian channel @FranceDiplomatie on March 11, the @EuropeanCommission created its channel on March 23 and the German Foreign Ministry tasked its Embassy in Moscow with the creation of the @Germania_Online channel on March 24. In a service tweet in Russian the German Foreign Ministry explained the purpose of the account: “to continue to provide our subscribers in Russia with factual information.”
The European Commission promised: “regular EU updates on our latest announcements, our support to Ukraine, our sanctions against Russia and our practical information for refugees.”
Within the first week of operation the EU Commission shared 54 posts mainly in English and a few in Ukrainian to its 2,321 subscribers.
NATO has become the latest international organization to set up shop on Telegram on March 4. @NATOpoRusski fired its first Russian-language post on March 12, promising: “the truth about our activities, deployments, summits and more.”
NATO’s counterpart, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan started their Telegram channel on January 12, 2022, with the announcement of an extraordinary meeting of the CSTO Council of Defence Ministers to discuss the peacekeeping operation in Kazakhstan. The @ODKB_CSTO channel has close to 6,000 subscribers.
Few international organisations have set up shop on Telegram. Human Rights Watch maintains channels in Chinese, English, and Russian since early 2018 but with few subscribers. The World Economic Forum which has always been leading on social media, has been sharing its popular videos since June 2018 with an audience of 2,365 subscribers.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) opened his personal Telegram channel on March 24 and within a week it had almost 1,600 subscribers.
Probably one of the most impactful uses of Telegram was the arrival of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the platform @AASchwarzenegger. The Austrian bodybuilder, American actor and former Governor of California shared a very personal and heartfelt 10-minute-long video message to his “Dear Russian friends”. Speaking about his affection and respect for the people of Russia he compared his father’s fight in the Wehrmacht during the siege of Leningrad in WWII to Russia’s war in Ukraine. “When my father arrived in Leningrad he was all pumped up on the lies of his government. And when he left Leningrad, he was broken, physically and mentally. He lived the rest of his life in pain”, he said.
The Russian Ministry of Defence has been active on the social media platform since December 10, 2016, and the @MoD_Russia channel counts 175,000 subscribers. On March 5, it added an English language channel for foreign audiences @MoD_Russia_en with 41,000 followers.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence only joined Telegram on March 8, 2022, in an attempt to #StopRussia and counter Russian propaganda, but so far it only counts 20,000 subscribers. However, the Ukrainians can count on Mykhailo Fedorov, the Minister of Digital Transformation who is credited with having raised a 300,000 strong IT army of Ukraine, a Telegram channel which aims to take down Russian websites in concerted DDOS attacks.
Governmental Channels on Telegram
At the start of Russia’s aggression, the Ukrainian government repurposed its @COVID19_Ukraine Telegram channel and started to share important information about the war. The Ukrainian-language @UkraineNow channel has 1,186,793 subscribers is available in Russian (1,080,665 subscribers), English (subscribers), French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Polish with a combined number of 2.4 million subscribers making it the biggest government channel on Telegram.
The Indian government has 1.1 million subscribers on its @MyGovCoronaNewsdesk , making it the single largest government channel, set up in March 2020 to provide information about the pandemic.
The Ukrainian presidential administration, which started on Telegram on July 4, 2019 as @OP_UA has become the third most followed government channel on Telegram with more than 640,000 subscribers, almost six times as many as the Russian Government channel @Government_rus which counts 117,944 subscribers. Neither the Kremlin nor Vladimir Putin have an official presence on Telegram.
The Telegram channel of the Singapore government @GovSG was set up on April 1, 2020, to share “updates on the latest information about COVID-19” and two years later it nearly 300,000 subscribers. The @SyrianPresidency has been sharing official photos of meetings of Bashar al-Assad since October 2015 and has over 105,000 subscribers.
On February 24, the day of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine the government of Moldova inaugurated its bilingual Moldovan-Russian Telegram channel aptly entitled: “First source/Original Source”@Prima_Sursa_MD, designed to debunk fake news and urging“the media not to share unconfirmed information.” Telegram is used by the governments in 34 countries. The channels of the governments of Brunei Darussalam, Brazil, and Togo are among the 10 most followed.
World Leaders on Telegram
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become the most followed world leader on Telegram with 1,460,812 subscribers. According to Time Magazine, his channel saw an “explosive growth” from 65,000 followers on February 23 to 1.5 million by mid-March. More recently, his account has been losing followers, but he remains ahead of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro with 1,337,872 subscribers. The Brazilian President is heavily promoting his Telegram channel on Twitter.
Zelenskyy set up his personal Telegram channel @V_Zelenskiy_official on July 30, 2019, two months after becoming president with a post showing himself working out in a gym. Over the past years he has maintained a very personal presence on Telegram, often addressing his community directly from his laptop.
His defiant video-selfie recorded on February 25 late in the evening outside the presidential administration building and surrounded by his leadership team, has become one of his most watched videos with 5.3 million views. Occasionally Zelenskyy speaks in English and even in Russian to address his target audience. His team has started posting subtitled versions of his videos in English for his growing foreign audience.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed complete the Top 5 list of the most followed world leaders. Moldova’s President Maia Sandu makes it into the Top 10 and she is the only female leader on Telegram.
Over the past years some governments have abandoned Telegram. The Italian Foreign Ministry started an Italian language Telegram channel in 2016 but stopped a year later after having shared 3,274 posts and only garnered 627 subscribers.
Telegram is the 10th most used social media platform worldwide, but it is still a nascent app in the world of digital diplomacy and government communications. As of April 1, 2022, the heads of state and government and foreign ministers of 56 countries had a presence on Telegram. DigiTips has identified 121 public Telegram channels of heads of state and government and foreign ministries, 36 of which have been verified.
It is interesting to witness the digital diplomacy activity of international organisations and foreign ministries in recent weeks, adopting a new channel to reach new audiences. As the iron information curtain has descended on Russia it seems the use of Telegram is the only way to reach and connect with the Russian population.
However, two weeks after inception the NATO channel and most foreign ministries have less than 500 subscribers. Reaching the Russian population to change hearts and minds promises to be a long and arduous battle.
For more information about world leaders on Telegram follow @DigiTips on Telegram.
Germany has a new Foreign Minister. Annalena Baerbock is Germany’s first female foreign minister and she hit the road running with trips to Paris, Brussels, and Warsaw on the day of her nomination.
On social media she decided to start from a clean slate: archiving her personal Twitter account with 419,000 followers (@ABaerbockArchiv) and creating new @ABaerbock account for her new role as Foreign Minister. The new account is growing fast and already counts 80,000 followers barely a week after inception.
In line with digital diplomatic etiquette, she has made digital overtures, unilaterally following all G7 and many EU foreign ministers as well as the foreign ministers of Andorra, Australia, Israel and Norway on Twitter. In total she has extended a digital welcome to a group of 30 peers, mainly men with a few female foreign ministers.
Guess how many have reciprocated? So far only seven foreign ministers, namely the foreign ministers of Austria, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Slovenia have reciprocated. The UK Foreign Secretary @TrussLiz, Norway’s @AHuitfeldt, Andorra’s @MubachFont, Finland’s @Haavisto and Belgium’s @Sophie_Wilmes follow her archived account.
Her first overtures on Twitter were for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, these three men have not reciprocated, despite having met physically with Annalena Baerbock in her first days in office. To put it into diplospeak not following her on Twitter is like refusing to shake hands, a clear case of a diplomatic affront.
Josep Borrell and Jean-Yves Le Drian would be well advised to have a closer look at who they follow. There might not be much point in following the archived accounts of former @SecPompeo and the @WhiteHouse45 nor the former foreign ministers @KonoTaromp @PavloKlimkin and @SigmarGabriel. It pays to keep on top of your followers and those you follow.
It is unlikely that Antony Blinken will ever reciprocate and follow @ABaerbock. Not because he doesn’t like Annalena Baerbock or Germany, but because he doesn’t follow any other peer. While @SecBlinken and the @StateDept promised to “revitalize our ties with our allies and partners” in early 2020, neither account follows any other foreign minister, foreign ministry, and not a single world leader, nor ally or international partner.
Is Digital Diplomacy dead?
The State Department is the most followed foreign ministry with 6.2 million followers and over 200 world leaders and foreign ministriesfollow the @StateDept, but it does give all of them the cold shoulder or is it the middle finger? Not following friends and allies on social media is a digital diplomatic faux pas, considering that the State Department once followed some of its allies and foes and has unfollowed them under the Trump administration.
Over the past decade world leaders have build armies of followers on Twitter. Nine of the 10 most followed current world leaders have more than 10 million followers on Twitter but they are not connecting with their peers. President Joe Biden, Pope Francis, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of India, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sheikh Mohammed, Queen Rania of Jordan and King Salman of Saudi Arabia don’t follow any other users Twitter user. The Indonesian President Joko Widodo follows one other leader, namely Narendra Modi and Modi in turn does follow a host of other leaders, and tellingly he doesn’t follow Joe Biden.
Whether it is digital sloppiness or diplomatic ignorance, it does spell the death knell of digital diplomacy as leaders are no longer interacting on social media as they once did.
For the record, Bulgaria’s new Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska joined Twitter this week. So far she is only followed by her counterparts from Austria, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia and her account isn’t verified yet.
When was the last time you did a Google vanity search? If you are a public figure, representing an organization and noteworthy enough to have a Wikipedia entry, you will probably also have a Google knowledge panel. These information boxes appear on the right-hand side of the search results. The Google knowledge panels are generally based on the Wikipedia pages and are designed to give a quick snapshot of information on a person, an organization or a place.
The knowledge panel of former U.S. President Barack Obama includes a link to his website, the first paragraph from his Wikipedia entry, his date and place of birth, height, his party affiliation, and the names of his parents.
The panel also includes books he has authored including his memoirs with a link to their respective Wikipedia entries or Google Books. And finally, the panel lists his social media profiles and suggests other persons people also search for such as his wife, Michelle Obama, current President Joe Biden and his predecessors.
Interestingly, Barack Obama has not yet claimed his knowledge panel like many other world leaders, blissfully unaware of this possibility. However leaders and organizations would be well advised to claim their knowledge panels by simply clicking on the link at the bottom of the box. Using their social media channels YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter they can get verified and enhance their presence on Google.
Claiming the panel allows prominent individuals to suggest changes to information that appears on search, including images, stats, or other facts, according to Google. While you cannot control all the content that appears in the information box, you can somehow influence the narrative. Those who have claimed their knowledge panel can even select a featured image from images available on the web. And finally, you will need a Google account (Gmail or YouTube) in order to claim the panel, but it’s definitely worth it.
Read more on how to update your knowledge panel and how to get verified on Google.
Hashtags are the lubricant of social media. Just as oil makes engines run smoothly, tags and hashtags help aggregate and categorize similar content on social media.
A popular and trending hashtag might make your social media post stand out; however, hashtags are no silver bullet for your content to go viral. The historic tweet picturing a plane in the Hudson River went viral without any hashtag. Former U.S. President Donald Trump rarely used hashtags in his tweets and his messages still reached a global audience.
Hashtags have become so ubiquitous on social media that some platforms limit their use to avoid abuse. Instagram has limited the number of hashtags to 30 per post and 10 per story to prevent users from abusing them. If you try to include more hashtags your caption or comment simply will not post. Instagram even has a list of banned hashtags including #sex, #drugs and #shit which will not be indexed by the platform.
Hashtags are key to drive community engagement on Twitter. Tweets with hashtags get twice as much engagement as tweets without hashtags, according to Buffer. Tweets with two hashtags garner the highest engagement, but the engagement declines as the number of hashtags increase.
Using a trending hashtag in your post is no panacea. Your post might still drown in the maelstrom of tweets. However, choosing the correct hashtag allows you to be part of the conversation. The hashtag #DigitalDiplomacy is consistently followed by a small but influential group of diplomats, scholars, and social media managers in foreign ministries around the world.
On Instagram you can add up to 30 hashtags per post and 10 per Story and it pays to choose them wisely. There is no right number of hashtags nor a magic number of hashtags for every post. Hashtags are hit and miss on Instagram: sometimes posts will get very little engagement from hashtags, other times hashtags will be the main driver of the engagement. These two posts from @LeJetdeau reached 16,000 and 15,000 users respectively with the latter receiving more than 7,000 views from hashtags while the former only received 1,323 views from the same set of hashtags. Often, a powerful visual does not need a hashtag to go viral.
Research has shown that Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags receive nearly 80% interaction, compared to just 22% when using only one hashtag and 41% when using two hashtags. Sometimes these hashtags will drive engagement to your post, but sometimes they will have no effect at all. Instagram does not itemize engagement per hashtag and therefore it is impossible to decide which of the 30 hashtags generated the most engagement.
In conclusion your content must be relevant for the hashtag and the hashtag should be relevant for your content. Contrary to popular believe, it is not always the most popular hashtags that drive engagement and adding #love to your corporate content will not endear you with users. On the contrary, popular hashtags are prone to misuse and will therefore become less effective to generate likes and engagement.
Having the same handle on all social media platforms is certainly a nice to have. But is it essential for your digital branding?
One of the key questions when starting your company is whether the name is available on all social media platforms. Chances are your favourite name has already been taken…
I am very happy to report that @Twiplomacy and the @InYourPocket city guides I founded have secured their brand names on all platforms. At DigiTips we were lucky enough to secure the Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter handles but we haven’t been able to secure the YouTube channel despite being dormant for more than a decade.
But do these vanity URLs actually matter? Having a single brand name on all social media channels is certainly a nice to have since it looks good on business cards and corporate stationery. However is it a must-have?
Consider the case of the UK Foreign Office. When the Foreign Office merged with the Department for International Development (DfID) in late 2020 they decided to reflect the merger also on their social media handles: on Twitter @ForeignOffice became @FCDOgovUK. On Instagram the @ForeignOffice became the @ForeignandDevelopmentOffice and on Facebook the short link was changed from @ForeignOffice to @ForeignCommonwealthAndDevelopmentOffice. The handle with 39 characters is neither short nor memorable and it certainly doesn’t look very good on paper. However, it did not seem to have an adverse effect on search. Despite the long name it is still easily searchable and once you follow the page or the account, the handle does not really matter.
Being present on social media also increases your search engine optimization. When searching for ‘DigiTips’ on Google four of the 10 results on the first page point back to our website and our social channels despite not being very active for the past months.
It is very difficult to claim social media handles which have been registered, even if they are dormant. And it is almost impossible to claim social media handles which are active. My former employer @BCW was unable to secure the @BCW handle and added ‘global’ to the brand name instead, becoming @BCWGlobal on social media. Burson-Marsteller did not get the two-letter @BM handle and had to settle for @B_M with a pesky underscore.
Social media handles are attributed on a first come, first served basis and you cannot buy these dormant handles which is against the terms & conditions of the social media platforms.
The domain names on the other hand are traded freely and can be purchased from their respective owner. The Digitips.com domain is considered a ‘premium domain’ and is for sale for a whopping €8,900 which is a bit too expensive for our budget. We opted for DigiTips.ch instead for a mere €15/year. We thought about registering DigiTi.ps using the Palestine .ps extension for €50 but that might be a tad confusing as the dot splits the brand name.
In summary, make sure you research the social media availability before deciding on a company name to make sure you have the same name on all platforms.