Saudi King trumps US president in battle for attention on Twitter: Study

Saudi Arabia's King Salman only tweeted 10 times during the period covered by the study, but each tweet was retweeted more than 147,000 times on average.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman only tweeted 10 times during the period covered by the study, but each tweet was retweeted more than 147,000 times on average. PHOTO: EPA

GENEVA (AFP) - Donald Trump may be lighting up Twitter with strange new words and attacks on allies but in the battle for most attention per tweet, the US president is losing.

The world leader whose original tweets generate the most retweets is Saudi Arabia's King Salman, according the latest "Twiplomacy" study by communications firm Burson-Martsteller.

In terms of output, there is no contest: the Saudi king only tweeted 10 times during the period covered by the study - April 2016 to May 20 of this year.

But those 10 tweets were each retweeted more than 147,000 times on average, dwarfing Trump's 13,100 average retweets per tweet, said the study, the sixth of its kind by Burson-Martsteller.

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"He (King Salman) posts exclusively in Arabic and without any visuals, but every tweet is a digital home run," said the report, which was based on analysis of 856 official and personal Twitter accounts of leaders in 178 countries.

Retweets are only one measure of influence on the social media platform and Trump is gaining ground elsewhere.

With the Internet poking fun at his use of the word "covfefe" in a post on Wednesday (May 31), which followed his assertion on Twitter that US-German trade was "very bad" for Americans, the report found that @realDonaldTrump could be the most followed world leader account by August.

Pope Francis is currently in the lead with a combined 33,716,301 followers over his nine language accounts.

Trump lags by about 3.5 million followers but his account has grown by 5.7 per cent per month during the US election and start of his presidency, putting him on track to overtake the pontiff, the report said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood in third place with 30,058,659 followers.

For all of the news that Trump has generated on Twitter, Burson-Martsteller found that other leaders rarely engage with him on the platform.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Marshall Islands leader Hilda Heine and Puerto Rico's governor Ricky Rossello and the only three who have directly addressed @realDonaldTrump, the report said.

The pope and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have however engaged with Trump via sub-tweets, a form of posting typically used for criticism, it added.