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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Mr. Popular.
ALMOST THERE

Narendra Modi is the second most followed world politician across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

By Ananya Bhattacharya

Narendra Modi is not just India’s social media king—he’s close to topping the world charts, too.

The Indian prime minister has become the second most followed politician on social media platforms globally with a total audience of nearly 111 million across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, according to a new study by the Boston-based online visibility management and marketing analytics firm SEMrush.

The only politician that has him beat is former US president Barack Obama, who reaches over 182 million. The Indian National Congress’s Rahul Gandhi is the only other Indian to appear in the top six.

The secret to Modi’s success seems to be his ability to leverage Twitter’s reach.

“…of all the social media platforms, Twitter serves as the nest of the maximum number of active political audiences, both domestic and global,” the report noted. “Modi is the most active politician on Twitter; he has tweeted 458 times in March-April 2019.”

However, it’s important to note that not all Twitter followers are genuine. A crackdown on fake and automated accounts by the microblogging site in July last year saw the firebrand leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) losing 300,000 followers. Yet, he leads Gandhi by a mile.

However, though the Congress president has accrued only 12 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, his strength appears to be engagement, in which he trumps Modi by a massive 65%, other research has shown.

In SEMrush’s study, the most engaged tweet in April was one where Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar addresses Modi—it has over 18,000 retweets and 90,000 likes—but the next most engaging tweet mentions Rahul Gandhi. A tweet from the professional boxer Vijender Singh about joining the Congress party received 3,837 retweets and 20,721 likes at the time of analysis.

Modi faces an engagement problem, clocking in fewer interactions than even the Brazilian president or Pakistani prime minister—both of whom have fewer followers but post better audience engagement rates.

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.