Dubai: Since he first stepped into the world of social media in June, 2009, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has accumulated more than a million followers.
With 516,407 followers on Facebook and 599,060 on Twitter, the status updates, tweets, picture and video uploads are shared, re-tweeted and liked thousands of times.
The social media accounts were created in a bid to open up lines of direct communication with the citizens and residents of the UAE through the internet.
The first direct interaction of a country's leadership with its people was through Shaikh Mohammad's official website as Prime Minister, through which he answered questions posed by the press and citizens on the federal government, its strategy, direction and ministers.
In June of 2009 Shaikh Mohammad opened a private page on Facebook, which was flooded by friendship requests in a few days and had to be migrated to a public page that had more capacity, namely www.facebook.com/sheikhmohammed.
Shaikh Mohammad's page not only carried official news but his comments on various issues as well as pictures that allowed virtual friends a peek into the life of the UAE Vice-President as a family man and a sportsman.
His unrestricted profile allows the general public to view his photo albums, videos, personal information and ‘poke' him (to get his virtual attention).
Shaikh Mohammad also shared some moments of his family life with Facebook users by posting family photos and photos of his personal moments of leisure. His profile lists his beliefs, hobbies and reading interests.
A month later, Shaikh Mohammad joined Twitter, ‘tweeting' under the name HHShkMohd and his account was officially verified by Twitter.
Since then, he had been updating ‘followers' on his life in 140-character messages. The tweets include news about decrees he issued, opinions about current affairs and personal news and opinions.
Apart from his recent call to honour mothers on his fourth accession anniversary, Shaikh Mohammad posted short news stories about visiting Emirati mothers on this occasion as well as pictures of the visits.
Followers of Shaikh Mohammad got a chance to interact with him, as he replies to many messages and answers questions. Lately, many proudly re-tweeted his messages to them when he wrote back, asking them to honour their mothers or convey his greetings, offering words of advice, or praying for them and their families.
Some of his tweets are religious, such as "Reciting the Holy Quran has many virtues. Quran is a source of reward, knowledge and sets comprehensive approach in life," and "We were blessed to perform Omrah during Ramadan. May Allah accept good deeds from us all and wish you Eid Mubarak."
Shaikh Mohammad used his social networking accounts to promote the use of public transport. "I used Dubai Metro yesterday while conducting an official visit. I encourage all to utilise Dubai advanced transportation," and, "Metro Green Line a landmark on Dubai's mission to offer modern service. I invite all to use sustainable transport system," he said at the opening of the Green Line last year.
Other messages included comments on current affairs, such as "I wish all students and education professionals a prosperous new academic year, and I call on you to work hard in striving for excellence," and "At the end of the school year and beginning of summer, I encourage students to be proud of their accomplishments."
Showing his affection
Showing his affection for the father of the UAE, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Shaikh Mohammad wrote: "On the anniversary of Shaikh Zayed's death, I say: May God have mercy on a soul that taught me to conquer the impossible."
And to keep up with the latest tweets and status updates, he invited users to "Stay updated with my latest news through the newly developed iPhone application http://bit.ly/qWivx8."