Obama was famous for it, Trump is infamous for it. We all know that social media is a powerful tool for brands, personal brands and businesses, but while the rest of us have known the power of Instagram for a while, many politicians and world leaders have just started waking up to it. We took a look at the most popular politicians on Instagram and considered the lessons businesses can learn from them.

The British Royal Family

The Royal family’s social media presence has been very much front and centre in the last couple of weeks, as they took radical action to counter online abuse targeting the Duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge. Even so, they have embraced social media in recent years with great success, promoting the work and relevance of the younger royals in particular across social platforms including Instagram in a gently accessible, observant tone of voice void to heavy sales and PR and peppered with more natural shots of public visits.

7.1m followers

Business lesson: you can have social media and still have professional boundaries.

 

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Jetsun Pema, Queen of Bhutan

The Queen of Bhutan has shown herself to be a savvy online presence. Rumoured to influence her husband, who is known for introducing democracy to Bhutan in 2008, she has embraced a younger generation with affectionate photos of her and her husband on her Instagram account. She also uses the account to champion environmental issues and her charity work. It’s said to have promoted an epidemic of hand holding in Bhutan.

117k followers

Business lesson: know your audience.

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Donald Trump, President of the United States of America

It’s probably no surprise that the man who did reality TV and just about everything else for fame before becoming POTUS has his own social media accounts in addition to the official U.S. president Instagram account. Some of it has to be seen to be believed, but that’s not necessarily a surprise. He is said to have Tweeted: ‘My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL!’ Maybe he has a point?

12.2m followers

Business lesson: modern businesses are on Instagram.

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Michelle Obama, Former FLOTUS

A woman who has always managed to get the tone just right in both her official role as FLOTUS, and now as she lets her hair down a little in life after The White House. Michelle Obama has thrown off the shackles of first lady and appears to be loving every minute. Using her Instagram account with characteristic warmth, there’s a real sense of personality and lack of strategic curation to it.  Whether she manages it herself or not, that’s certainly the impression it gives – good, honest, warmth from the ‘girl from the South Side’.

27.5m followers

Business lesson: be real.

 

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Barack Obama, former POTUS

The man who soared to the White House on a sea of social media support, Obama’s account describes him succinctly as ‘Dad, husband, President, citizen’, showing that perhaps sometimes a few carefully chosen words is all you need. Perhaps a touch more formal than Michelle’s account when it comes to the imagery, it remains a warm insight into the official movements of a man that many felt they came to know through his public life.

21.3m followers

Business lesson: Sometimes less is more.

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Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

A proficient user of social media, in August 2018 Narendra Modi urged people not to use social media to ‘spread dirt’, saying the issue was not about any ideology but it simply ‘does not behove a decent society’. Using the platform as you might expect; to document his movements a PM, he has also voiced an acute awareness and lament for the way people use social media in negative ways.

18.9m followers

Business lesson: Perhaps best summed up as – ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

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Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia

Creating a buzz on social media after a video sequence shown at the opening ceremony of the 18th Asian Games culminated in the 57-year-old leader roaring into Jakarta’s main stadium on a powerful motorbike. Personally keeping an eye on direct messages. Then orchestrating a crackdown on a social media movement calling for a change of president. Joko Widodo has clearly shown a keen understanding and enjoyment of the positive powers of social media, but has been criticised for curbing freedom of speech with the latter move as well. Nonetheless he’s leagues ahead of his political rivals.

17.2m followers

Business lesson: You can’t control everything.

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Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai

Also known as Fazza – with no reference to state or title in his bio. It’s like being Madonna, sometimes one name is enough and evidently 7.4 million people following his animal loving, adventure fuelled lifestyle agree. The human embodiment of everything Dubai wants to be to its visitors – luxurious, glamorous, fun, warm, engaging – Fazza is a tourism board’s dream.

7.4 million followers

Business lesson: build a recognisable brand.

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Ani Ydhoyono, First Lady of Indonesia from 2004 until 2014

The wife of former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono remains one of the most popular political leaders on social media. Professing her love of family and gardening, but also using it as a platform to promote extra curricular activities such as the launch of her autobiography last year, and why ever not? A comparatively up close and personal account, it has become something of a sensation. In part perhaps because she is a keen photographer (all her photos bear her copyright), but also the way she interacts with followers, which at times has been controversially emotional.

6.3 million followers

Business lesson: Don’t use stock imagery.

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Rania Al-Abdullah, Queen Rania of Jordan

This superbly glamorous and elegant woman shows a softer and more humorous side to her nature on Instagram. Still very much a professional platform peppered with glossy official photos, she describes herself succinctly as ‘a mum and a wife with a really cool day job’. She has called on Arab social media influencers to use their popularity for good, even at the risk of losing followers, saying the internet has turned from a valuable tool into a realm of hatred.

5.1 million followers

Business lesson: It’s cool to be kind.

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey

After being President for 15 years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent comment that “if one day our nation says ‘enough’, then we will step aside” is backfiring on social media at the moment with campaigns calling for him to step down. Historically, he has used social media to turn the tide on disaster, using an appeal through the Internet and FaceTime on iPhones in 2007 when he was on the brink of being overthrown by a section of his military. Will he manage it again? Time will tell.

4.9 million followers

Business lesson: don’t underestimate the power of picking up the phone.

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