Move over American bald eagles, Venezuelan troupials, and Turkish redwings. Although each represents a national bird, it seems that they have all been replaced on a much grander scale. Based on a recent study by the Digital Policy Council (DPC), one might consider Twitter to be the new “International Bird”. According to the DPC study, 123 heads of state are actively tweeting, out of a possible 164, as of December 2012. That means that roughly 3 out of 4 heads of state are on Twitter. Significantly, this number is up from 69 from just a year ago, a dramatic 78% upswing in the adoption rate. And, considering the relative youth of Twitter, the international traction that Twitter has gained is remarkable.
This high adoption rate is not by accident either. Twitter allows these extremely public figures to communicate directly with citizens without the conventional media middleman. The heads of state are able to interact and give followers a sense of immediacy that a press conference cannot. Take the first and second most followed heads of state in the world: Barack Obama and Hugo Chávez. Both used Twitter extensively during their campaigns to connect with voters. In fact, Chávez was able to utilize Twitter to overcome a significant challenge to his campaign: being bedridden with sickness. Unable to communicate through traditional means, Twitter allowed Chávez to continue to continue to speak candidly.
Twitter transcends boundaries
But in an even more remarkable sense, Twitter has transcended boundaries of language. Although at first considered a quirky English phenomenon, Twitter has proven its multilingual utility. Importantly, of the top 10 followed heads of state, only three tweet predominantly in English. The other seven leaders speak languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, and Russian. Leaders around the world have not ignored the benefits of Twitter, and its flexibility means that it continues to be a useful tool for communication. It would seem then that interactivity and immediacy recognize neither language nor national boundaries. And, for an “International Bird,” such a designation only makes sense.