Top aid personalities on Twitter

William H. Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Photo by: Ben Fisher / GAVI Alliance / CC BY

Impatience drove Melinda Gates to Twitter.

In a Sept. 21 blog post announcing she was joining the twitterverse, the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stressed the urgency underlying the charity’s work.

“There is not a moment to waste when millions of people’s lives and futures are at stake,” she said in the blog. “This impatience is why I’m happy to be joining Twitter officially today as @melindagates. After all, what’s more impatient than a tweet?”

Five tweets later, she had nearly 20,000 followers. Some observers were quick to point out that she obviously got help from a very influential figure.

“Melinda, welcome to @Twitter! I may be biased, but I think we should all follow @melindagates,” Bill Gates tweeted.

Today, Melinda Gates’ followers are a few notches shy of 27,000, quite far behind her husband’s 3.7+ million. With that number, Bill Gates, a Twitter denizen since Jan. 20, 2010, leads all prominent figures in international development on the social networking site, based on our research. Melinda Gates, however, has yet to crack the top 10 but will likely get there soon.

So, who also made it to our list of top 10 aid personalities on Twitter? The roster includes a few of the usual suspects and some surprises.

Top 10 Aid Personalities on Twitter

*as of Oct. 9, 2011

Development leaders typically use Twitter to advance their causes. If they head or are part of specific organizations, they take to the social media site to inform their followers and the public who they are meeting next, where they are delivering remarks and what they are busy with in aid of their organizations’ programs. Expect, too, a slew of mentions and retweets of messages from groups they support.

Melinda Gates made it clear in her blog that she intends to use Twitter to “pass along stories that inspire me.” On Oct. 5, she gave a shoutout to Charles Kenny (@charleskenny) for his Foreign Policy article, where he argued that “smarter patients,” not better doctors, are key to improving health in developing countries.

Aid figures rarely tweet details of their personal business. But they do open up on their personal feelings about events and global luminaries.

Following the death of Steve Jobs on Oct. 5, Bill Gates posted a tweet expressing his sympathies to the Apple co-founder’s family. Gates and Jobs’ relationship as friends and competitors ran for nearly three decades.

“For those of us lucky enough to get to work with Steve, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.,” Bill Gates said in a tweet.

About the author

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.