The NY Times Magazine published a great story this weekend by Jesse Lichtenstein titled “Digital Diplomacy” that focused on the State Department’s very proactive stance in using new tools and technologies to advance the department’s sweeping mission.
Traditional forms of diplomacy still dominate, but 21st-century statecraft is not mere corporate rebranding — swapping tweets for broadcasts. It represents a shift in form and in strategy — a way to amplify traditional diplomatic efforts, develop tech-based policy solutions and encourage cyberactivism.
The story is a must-read, but that’s not the point of this post. As I dove into the article, the author pointed out that two of the leaders of State’s efforts, Jared Cohen and Alec Ross, were some of the most-followed Twitter users in Federal government:
On Twitter, Cohen, who is 28, and Ross, who is 38, are among the most followed of anyone working for the U.S. government, coming in third and fourth after Barack Obama and John McCain. This didn’t happen by chance. Their Twitter posts have become an integral part of a new State Department effort to bring diplomacy into the digital age, by using widely available technologies to reach out to citizens, companies and other nonstate actors.
Declaring Cohen and Ross the third and fourth most followed in government struck me as odd, mostly because the standard statistics GovTwit.com automatically generates charts Cohen and Ross in the top 50, but not up toward the top 10…or so I thought.
So I did a bit of digging, reviewing the GovTwit directory sorted by follower numbers. Using that method I found that Cohen ranks as #31 and Ross directly behind him at #32 overall of the nearly 3,000 IDs listed in GovTwit (as of 7/19/2010).
Now, the great thing about GovTwit, in my humble opinion, is that it includes IDs from all facets of the business of government. The directory includes individuals, agencies, contractors, academics, state/local, gov outside of the U.S. and more, all tagged by keywords. While this makes finding a wide variety of gov-related Twitter IDs easy, it doesn’t allow easy viewing of which U.S. Federal employees using Twitter may have the most followers. So while Governor Schwarzenegger may rank #5 overall in GovTwit (as ranked by number of followers), for the purpose of the NY Times story, he doesn’t get counted.
Looking only at individuals’ U.S. Federal Twitter IDs (removing government agency Twitter IDs, media and the like), Cohen and Ross actually rank as #4 & #5 with regard to Twitter followers. NASA’s Mike Massimino takes the third slot. Since I took the time to go through the data, thought others may be interested as well and decided to share here.
Below are the Top 10 individual Federal Twitter IDs. All links open to their GovTwit directory profile, which lists follower stats, date joined, site rank and more.
Top 10 Federal Twitter IDs
#1: @BarackObama (#1 overall)
#2: @JohnMcCain (#6 overall)
#3: @astro_mike (#14 overall)
#4: @JaredCohen (#31 overall)
#5: @AlecJRoss (#32 overall)
#6: @astro_jose (#36 overall)
#7: @PressSec (#47 overall)
#8: @jimdemint (#81 overall)
#9: @clairemc (#86 overall)
#10: @astro_127 (#87 overall)
Thanks for doing the analysis! I’m glad there are so many astronauts in the top 10!
Excellent work – though the next step is rank users on something more significant than mere followers.
@Justin, agreed. I’ve been wanting to add user-based star/thumbs up or other ranking system to the directory, but takes development dollars/time and the site is self-supported and powered through the kindness of the guys over at Squeejee (who built the Floxee platform).
Congrats on the NextGov mention, my friend: http://techinsider.nextgov.com/2010/07/topping_the_twitter_charts.php
Fascinating! Thanks for putting this together, Steve.
Very useful…I dig it.
Ditto Justin. Number of followers is meaningless, considering more factors than worth writing here.
@Andy @Jay @Steve thanks. @Ari – not totally meaningless, but finding a way to add qualitative stats of some kind (again, user rankings/ratings, etc) would be nice.
Oh, and thanks @teri for the comment as well!