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World Leaders on Instagram 2018

Diplomacy is becoming more visible and more visual through social media and especially Instagram. What was once hidden behind closed doors is now becoming public for everyone to see. History is now being immortalized on the mobile photo and video sharing platform

By: EBR - Posted: Friday, December 07, 2018

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Only Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping do not have personal accounts on Instagram. However, the Russian government maintains the official @PhotoGovernment channel and the Chinese State Council Information Office seems to have reserved the @ChinaSCIO account. As of October 1, 2018, the heads of state and government of 120 countries have a personal Instagram presence, representing almost two-thirds of all UN member states.
Only Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping do not have personal accounts on Instagram. However, the Russian government maintains the official @PhotoGovernment channel and the Chinese State Council Information Office seems to have reserved the @ChinaSCIO account. As of October 1, 2018, the heads of state and government of 120 countries have a personal Instagram presence, representing almost two-thirds of all UN member states.

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Consider the picture of the tense faceoff between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Trump at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Canada. 

The photo was originally posted on the German Chancellor’s Instagram account and then went viral, totally eclipsing the official summit family photo. Canadian, French, Italian, Japanese and U.S. officials all shared similar pictures of the scene, but none was as expressive and captured the apparent rift between world leaders as the picture posted by the @Bundeskanzlerin.

Instagram has become the fastest growing social media network among world leaders, governments and foreign ministers and is the third most used social media platform after Twitter and Facebook, with 81 percent of the 193 UN member states active on the platform. 

All leaders of the G7 and all but two of the G20 leaders have personal profiles on the platform. 

Only Russia's President Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping do not have personal accounts on Instagram. However, the Russian government maintains the official @PhotoGovernment channel and the Chinese State Council Information Office seems to have reserved the @ChinaSCIO account. As of October 1, 2018, the heads of state and government of 120 countries have a personal Instagram presence, representing almost two-thirds of all UN member states.

During the summer of 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined the fray and opened his personal Instagram account @SecPompeo «with some @statedept #swagger». 

His German counterpart, Heiko Maas, activated his personal Instagram account just hours before heading to the annual UN General Assembly in New York. On September 29, 2018, the Foreign Ministry of Romania (@MFARomania) became the latest foreign ministry to set up an official Instagram account.

Over the past five years, governments and world leaders have flocked to the social network to share their official pictures and their private stories with a worldwide audience. 

Over the past months, Instagram Stories have become a secondary channel for digital diplomacy and Instaplomacy, where word leaders meet, greet and tag each other. To see what world leaders are doing at international conferences and summits, it is useful to follow their Instagram accounts to glean valuable behind-the-scenes insights into the halls of power. 

At the UN General Assembly in September 2018, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov shared a fraternal embrace with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in sitting in the General Assembly hall. The picture, which had no caption, visually illustrated the good relations between both leaders and their countries.

The Belgian Foreign Ministry shared a picture of the brief conversation between Foreign Minister Didier Reynders and Donald Trump after the U.S. President had criticized globalism during his UN speech. 

«As a founding member of the United Nations, Belgium has always been a staunch defender of multilateralism», the Belgian digital diplomats shot back in the caption, a clear diplomatic broadside against the U.S. administration. 

How do world leaders use Instagram? «Just like millennials», posted 68-year-old Sebastian Pinera, the President of Chile on his Instagram story while being interviewed live on Facebook by the President of Costa Rica, 38-year-old Carlos Alvarado Quesada.

And just ‘like Millennials,’ world leaders and government post selfies and pictures with their loved ones, and they have started to use the full gamut of Instagram options, including emojis and stickers and live broadcasts.

As of October 1, 2018, the 426 accounts analyzed in this study, conducted by leading global communications agency BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), have a combined total of 98,297,274 followers and published 98,372 posts over the past 12 months, which have garnered a total of 860,448,598 interactions (comments and likes). 

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