Meet 50 of the most influential political tweeters in emerging markets


Social media in emerging markets is poised in a delicate position. A number of governments are trying to clampdown on various platforms, all while they’re experiencing phenomenal growth.

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Given this situation, it’s worthwhile seeing who the most influential political tweeters in some of the biggest emerging market countries are. It is they, after all, who drive debate and help form the national political opinion.

Using research from PR and communications firm Burson-Masteller and social influence measuring tool Klout, we can get some idea. It should be noted that there are members of the web community who aren’t exactly what you’d call fans of Klout.

The service claims to analyses “engagement across social networks and creates a Klout Score based on this data to help users understand and unlock their influence”.

It should also be noted that the most influential tweeters in each country are drawn from a list of close to 1 000 people on Twitter who are politically influential in the G-20 nations, drawn up by Burson-Masteller analysts.


  • Ricardo Noblat: 156 081 Followers
    Noblat is renowned for being one of Brazil’s most well-informed and connected political journalists.
  • Dilma Rousseff: 1 265 021 Followers
    Rouseff was elected president of Brazil in 2010 and currently has around 60% of the popular vote.
  • Geraldo Alckmin: 98 574 Followers
    The Governor of the State of Sao Paulo is also a former presidential candidate.
  • Jose Serra: 956 566 Followers
    Serra is currently running for Mayor of Sao Paulo — a position he has held previously — and is Ruseff’s chief political rival.
  • Leonardo Boff: 57 753 Followers
    Boff is a theologian, academic, and writer who is known for his commentary on social issues.
  • Luis Nassif: 54 390 Followers.
    One of the biggest defenders of Brazil’s Workers Party, Nasif is a columnist for Carta Capital Magazine.
  • Miriam Leitao: 455 344 Followers
    Like Noblat, Leitao is a columnist at O Globo newspaper and is considered one of the country’s most important economic writers.
  • Lauro Jardim: 108 172 Followers
    Jardim is the Chief Editor and Columnist of Veja Magazine; the largest Brazilian weekly magazine with over one million copies sold per week.
  • Cristovam Buarque: 286 015 Followers
    Barque is a senator and has previously been minister of education and governor of Brazil’s Federal District.
  • Soninha Francine: 66 975 Followers
    A former MTV VJ, Francine is now a Sao Paulo City Councillor, currently running for the mayoralty.


  • Anand Mahindra: 473 971 Followers
    Mahindra is the man behind the Mahindra Group, which has operations in over 100 countries around the world.
  • Digvijaya Singh: 15 993 Followers
    Singh is an elder-statesman of India’s ruling Indian National Congress party.
  • Jonathan Shainin: 7 472 Followers
    A senior editor at The Caravan — India’s first narrative journalism magazine. Singh is popular among academics and intellectuals.
  • Narendra Modi: 567 131 Followers
    Modi is the chief minister for the Indian state of Gujarat, and is widely credited for turning its economic fortunes around.
  • Derek O’Brien:69 171 Followers
    His Twitter bio pretty much sums it up: Quizmaster, TV anchor, author. Member of Parliament (Trinamool Congress) from Bengal.
  • Shashi Tharoor: 1 314 408 Followers
    A young, well-educated MP, Tharoor is reportedly a hit with the ladies.
  • Sushma Swaraj: 253 397 Followers
    Swaraj made her name as a lawyer, is a renowned orator and a respected leader.
  • Dr. Subramanian Swamy: 63 250 Followers
    Swamy is a Harvard-educated politician, with a reputation for rooting out corruption and taking on those in power.
  • Kiran Bedi: 396 286 Followers
    Bedi is a former cop with a nose for corruption. She once towed the prime minister’s car “for traffic violations”.
  • Vir Sanghvi: 552 593 Followers
    Snaghvi is a journalist and TV anchor. At 23, he was the founder-editor of the Bombay magazine, before moving on to edit Imprint, and finally editing Sunday magazine, which he did for over 12 years. He later was appointed editor of the Hindustan Times.


  • Roustem Adagamov:57 062 Followers
    Adagamov is a blogger whose site has been known to compete with some of Russia’s biggest dailies.
  • Mikhail Prohorov: 238 604 Followers
    Prohorov is a businessman renowned for his opposition to Russia’s ruling party.
  • MedvedevRussia: 1 147 566 Followers
    A relatively informal account, @MedvedevRussia gives people at least some degree personal insight on the Russian president.
  • Alexey Navalny: 220 720 Followers
    Navalny is best known as a blogger with a penchant for exposing corruption.
  • Alexander Plyushchev: 53 615 Followers
    Well acquainted with Navalny, Plyushchev is a journalist renowned for holding an independent opinion on nearly every issue.
  • Dmitry Rogozin: 72 744 Followers
    Rogozin is a politician who speaks four languages and holds a doctorate in philosophy.
  • Konstantin Rykov: 27 243 Followers
    Rykov is reportedly very pro-Kremlin and promises to follow anyone who replaces their Twitter profile picture with a Russian flag.
  • Tina Kandelaki: 456 562 Followers
    Kandelaki is a TV presenter and reportedly very popular among young people.
  • Vladimir Soloviev: 160 601 Followers
    Soloviev is a blogger, as well as TV and radio journalist who is well known his witty remarks, impartiality and civic-mindedness.
  • Vladimir Zhirinovsky: 254 471 Followers
    Zhirinovsky is leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and has been since its founding in 1991.

Given that Twitter is banned in mainland China, Burson-Marsteller was forced to find an alternative in the immensely popular Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo:

  • Zhiwu Chen: 4 407 673 Followers
    A professor of finance at Yale School of Management, Chen is an expert on finance theory, securities valuation, emerging markets, and China’s economy and capital markets.
  • Zhiguo Han: 3 938 794 Followers
    Han is an economist, professor, and head of the Beijing Bond and Wealth Research Institute.
  • Kaifu Lee: 12 435 097 Followers
    Lee is the CEO of Innovation Works and founding President of Google China. A massively respected IT voice in a country with the world’s largest online population.
  • Xianping Lang: 8 992 979 Followers
    Another key economic voice, Lang is a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and an expert on finance and corporate governance.
  • Chengpeng Li: 49 805 528 Followers
    A former soccer commentator, Li has since switched focus to political affairs and enjoys a massive following.
  • Shiyi Pan: 9 953 565 Followers
    Pan is the chairman of one of China’s largest real-estate companies and is regarded as one of China’s most influential businessmen.
  • Zhiqiang Ren: 7 437 293 Followers
    Another real-estate mogul, Ren shares something in common with former US President George W Bush: they’ve both had shoes thrownat them.
  • Chenggang Rui: 3 905 301 Followers
    Rui is a journalist who has conducted interviews with a number of international business, academic and political leaders.
  • Lan Yang: 9 447 716 Followers
    Yang is one of China’s best-known TV presenters.
  • Libo Zhou: 12 739 063 Followers
    A stand-up comedian Zhou is renowned for being quick to pick up on political issues.

South Africa:

  • Barney Mthombothi: 2 092 Followers
    Mthombothi is the editor of the Financial Mail, a leading weekly financial publication.
  • Daniel Silke: 750 Followers
    Silke is one of South Africa’s leading independent political analysts, a keynote speaker and has previously served as an elected official.
  • Ferial Haffajee: 22 000 Followers
    Haffajee is a seasoned journalist and current editor of the City Press.
  • Helen Zille: 133 688 Followers
    Leader of South Africa’s main opposition party, Zille is South Africa’s most followed politician Twitter. Her fortunes on the platform have varied from the sublime to the ridiculous.
  • Jacob Zuma: 109 807 Followers
    The President of South Africa recently turned 70, generating an upswelling of goodwill towards him, something he has not always been afforded in his presidency.
  • Lindiwe Mazibuko: 23 189 Followers
    Mazibuko is rising political star. In her early 30s, she is already the parliamentary leader of the country’s official opposition — The Democratic Alliance.
  • Professor Johnathan Jansen: 18 396 Followers
    Jansen is often credited with turning the University of the Free State from an institution divided by race into one in which students of any colour feel welcome.
  • Ralph Mathekga: 82 Followers
    One of South Africa’s leading political analysts, Mathekga has spent time at analysis company Clear Content, the National Treasury, and the Institute for Democracy SA.
  • Bobby Godsell: 1 092 Followers
    Godsell is currently the Chairperson of Business Leadership and a former CEO of AngloGold Ashanti Limited.
  • Zackie Achmat: 2 494 Followers
    Achmat is an activist best known for his work in getting medication to HIV positive people with NGO the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

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