Prime minister Narendra Modi is the third most followed and fifth most influential leader globally, according to a new report called Twiplomacy 2015, a study of world leaders on Twitter Inc by global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller.

The study identified 669 Twitter accounts of heads of state and government, foreign ministers and their institutions in 166 countries worldwide to analyse each leader’s Twitter profile, tweet history, and connections with the others. More than 100 of the 669 accounts analysed saw their follower numbers double since June 2014, the study said.

Modi continues to be the third most followed leader with almost 11 million followers on @NarendraModi, trailing US President Barack Obama with close to 60 million followers and Pope Francis with close to 20 million followers on his nine language accounts.

Modi has also become the fifth most influential leader globally, on the basis of an average 1,094 re-tweets per tweet.

“Despite the account’s massive following," the report said, Obama’s tweets are “on average ‘only’ retweeted 1,210 times". Pope Francis is “by far the most influential tweep (a person who uses the Twitter) with 9,929 retweets for every tweet he sends on his Spanish account and 7,527 retweets on average on his English account".

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud emerged as the second most influential leader with 4,419 retweets per tweet on an average and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is in third place, with 3,198 retweets per tweet on average.

However, the report said, it is possible that some governments may be paying for retweets of their leaders’ tweets.

“It is impossible to say whether governments pay to promote the accounts of their leaders but we have seen an interesting pattern on the @IndianDiplomacy (official account of India’s Public Diplomacy, Ministry of External Affairs) and the @MEAIndia (official spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, India) accounts whose tweets are automatically retweeted by an army of 90 tweeps who all follow each other and whose sole purpose is to retweet the tweets from @IndianDiplomacy, @MEAIndia and @TOIIndiaNews, three accounts listed on each of their public Twitter list, aptly entitled “RT"," the report observed. “Thanks to their dedicated action the tweets of @IndianDiplomacy and @MEAIndia are consistently retweeted 100 times but rarely favourited."

India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj @SushmaSwaraj has become the most followed foreign minister with 2.4 million followers, far ahead of Abdullah Bin Zayed, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, who has 1.6 million followers and Turkey’s Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu with 376,429 followers.

“The meteoric rise of the Indian prime minister and the large following of the Turkish president and the King of Saudi Arabia shows that leaders of the most populous countries and countries where Twitter penetration is high have a clear advantage in garnering a large army of dedicated followers," the report said, adding that the number of followers of a country’s leader has in some cases become a question of “national pride".

Governments around the world that are putting more financial and human resources into their digital communications are often the ones who are the most effective, the study said.

“While Twitter is certainly not the only governmental communication channel, a number of heads of state and government now enjoy massive followings, which often dwarf the circulation of the main newspaper in their respective countries," it added.

Twitter has more than 4,100 embassies and ambassadors active on the microblogging website. While 86% of the 193 United Nations member countries have a presence on Twitter, 172 heads of state and heads of government have personal accounts on the social network, as per the data collected on 24 March.