The top 35 think tanks by Twitter followers

Here’s the  top 35 (well, 40 now since we’ve added a few as a result of updates) most well-known UK think tanks ranked by Twitter followers (this is only for the main organisational Twitter feed, i.e. it doesn’t include dedicated team or issue feeds, or individual feeds):

  1. Chatham House (19,320)
  2. The RSA (18,597)
  3. new economics foundation (18,214)
  4. Joseph Rowntree Foundation (15,807)
  5. IPPR (14,324)
  6. Demos (14,220)
  7. The King’s Fund (13,462)
  8. The Overseas Development Institute (11,841)
  9. The Fabian Society (11,572)
  10. The Young Foundation (9,955)
  11. Adam Smith Institute (8,927)
  12. Open Europe (8,553)
  13. The Institute of Development Studies (7,863)
  14. New Philanthropy Capital (6,027)
  15. Compass (5,828)
  16. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (5,615)
  17. Policy Exchange (5,578)
  18. Transform Drug Policy Foundation (5,009)
  19. The Institute for Government (4,810)
  20. ResPublica (4,405)
  21. Ekklesia (3,359)
  22. Centre for Policy Studies (3,253)
  23. LGiU (3,185)
  24. The Work Foundation (3,143)
  25. Centre for Cities (2,927)
  26. Runnymede (2,439)
  27. Reform (2,357)
  28. New Local Government Network (2,307)
  29. International Longevity Centre – UK (1,969)
  30. Centre for Social Justice (1,881)
  31. Social Market Foundation (1,848)
  32. Resolution Foundation (1,718)
  33. The Institute for Economic Affairs (1,383)
  34. Centre for Local Economic Strategies (1,362)
  35. CentreForum (1,140)
  36. British Future (1,089)
  37. Civitas (657)
  38. Policy Studies Institute (328)
  39. Politeia (52)
  40. RAND Europe (1).

(The last one is odd – you have to request to be a follower. I’m not sure that RAND, despite their other considerable capabilities, really get social media.)

For the sake of comparison:

  • UK Uncut (40,082)
  • Mumsnet (23,405)
  • 38 Degrees (12,500)
  • Lady Gaga (20,860,123).

869, if you’re asking.


20 Comments on “The top 35 think tanks by Twitter followers”

  1. Interesting. It puts things into perspective. Are think tanks influential? Should we worry so much about their influence?

    Or does this meant that think tanks ought to pay more attention to what these other players have to say?

    I wonder why you did not consider the Overseas Development Institute (11,837) or the Institute for Development Studies (7,862).

    I’ve put together a list of UK think tanks with twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/onthinktanks/thinktanksuk -any help updating it is welcome please let me know @onthinktanks

  2. Thanks Enrique. You’re right to point to missing think tanks such as ODI and ISD – the list rather betrays my own social policy focus. Two main things surprise me about the list: the relatively low position of think tanks such as Policy Exchange and Reform, given their current influence on the UK Government; and that in general these aren’t huge follower numbers compared to the quite high profile that think tanks have in other media (especially newspapers and trade journals). Thanks for compiling the twitter subscriber list, that’s very useful.

    • Maybe not so surprising. Visibility does not necessarily lead to influence. There is lots of interesting research in the US by Abelson and Rich, for example, that demonstrates this. Other things matter more: identifying the problem, the length of the policy process, who controls it (parliament, government departments, the media, etc.).

      This is why James McGann’s think tank index is so questionable. Being popular does not imply being influential.

      On ODI and IDS I think the point is that ‘international development think tanks’ exist is some world of their own detached from mainstream politics.

  3. Andy says:

    Actually our 2 month old http://Www.sportsthinktank.com has 653 followers – so delighted that puts us ahead of the bottom 3!

  4. Great post here, but not perhaps as exhaustively researched as it could be?.

    British Politics and Policy at LSE (at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/ ) has 9,000+ Twitter followers and so LSE Public Policy Group, (which runs it) should be Number 11 in your listing.

    New think tanks operate in new ways, with blogs as key. So PPG and LSE IDEAS were jointly named as the fourth most influential university-linked think tank in the world in a recent American ranking of global think tanks, behind only three Ivy League places. See the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at University of Pennsylvania, http://www.gotothinkank.com

    The U.Penn global ranking also contains useful estimates of influence for many of the top UK think tanks above, showing that they are doing very well against European competitors. Since these estimates are based on wider indicators than just Twitter or web traffic rankings, they might address some of the issues raised by previous comments above.

    If you were able to update your estimates, we’d love to run them on the British Politics and Policy blog

    and also on our ‘Impact of the Social Sciences’ blog at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/ – another LSE Public Policy group blog with 2100+ Twitter followers – which maybe should be at number 27 on your listing?

    • Thanks Patrick – you’re right to point to (and challenge) the exclusion of university-based units and groups from the list. Although I didn’t make it clear in the original posting, the loose criteria I applied was a) whether organisations self-describe as ‘think tanks’, and b) whether other sources also generally refer to them in this way. On both grounds I think there’s a fair argument that you wouldn’t normally include university-based researchers and groups. This said, studies such as the U Penn rankings and others do include university groups – rightly so – and this project is about developing a new kind of think tank even though it’s highly unlikely that it will end-up being described as such (at least by us). On this logic, I’d be more than happy to include LSE Public Policy and other groups in an updated list – and if the offer still stands for this to be published on the blog (of which I’m an increasingly frequent reader and retweeter). We’re also posting a list of individual think tank tweeters starting next Monday – and individuals from LSE Public Policy will be included. Thanks again.

  5. I’m glad you mention the oddness of RAND Europe in this list – I think perhaps they’re treating Twitter like a members-only service! Very exclusive indeed.

    Thanks for the list (and other subsequent lists on this site) – useful information to know.

  6. Thanks for this comment Alexis – we’ve started to publish a longer list of individual think tank tweeters, and after we’ve published the full list we’ll also do a bit of analysis on what it suggests about think tanks’ use of social media, which I hope you also find interesting.

  7. […] The top 35 think tanks by Twitter followers « New Think Tank […]

  8. You have missed out Transform Drug Policy Foundation-(see http://www.tdpf.org.uk/AboutUs_Introduction.htm) – with 5007 followers as of this morning. Be nice if you could update the list (we are at number 17). Thanks

  9. Tom Phillips says:

    Interesting. I imagine that public policy researchers are increasingly having to consider such things as Twitter trends, although it gives me a headache to think about how one would approach such a task. The sheer number of interacting elements and the diversity of relationships involved would make simple numbers very difficult to interpret. Regarding think tanks, I imagine that those tackling a wider range of issues find it easier to attract followers. This would probably have to be taken into consideration along with the size of the organisation and its audience demographics.

    I also wanted to point out that The Work Foundation doesn’t appear in your list – I believe we come somewhere in the middle!

    • You’re right Tom, my apologies for missing The Work Foundation off this list – I’ve added you now, see: http://bit.ly/wGYdkc The Foundation was however included in a subsequent post on website popularity: http://bit.ly/zHV5Rg It’s reasonable to assume that those organisations with a broader remit would benefit in such a simple (crude) analysis, but then again look at Chatham House and The King’s Fund – both are focused on a particular set of issues/sectors but they obviously have strong and reputable ‘brands’ and seem to have done more than other organisations to use social media as part of their work. Sorry once again about the oversight, and good luck with your work.

  10. Open Europe says:

    Great list Michael.

    Any chance of a mention for Open Europe (www.openeurope.org.uk / @OpenEurope) with over 8,500 followers?

    We also recently participated in a discussion designed to educate EU and government spokespeople about how to communicate government policy through social media and other innovative communication tools which might be of interest:
    http://consilium.europa.eu/media/1406243/web4gov-programme150212.pdf

    Many thanks!

    • Now added – thanks for spotting. As I’ve mentioned before, the omissions do rather point to my own social policy bias, so it’s good to improve the list with organisations outside of my own field. Good number of followers as well, congratulations.

  11. Tom says:

    I’ll add one – 20: The Institute of Welsh Affairs: 4,652

  12. Tom, Thanks for adding the Institute of Welsh Affairs. Significant that the list does not include any think tanks that concentrate on Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. The IWA’s 4,652 followers seems pretty good to me for an organisation that is primarily concerned with governance over a mere 5% of the population, though it does touch on wider UK themes from that perspective.


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