Several of the largest and oldest think tanks that promote the importance of the free economy, like the Heritage Foundation, continue to rank on the top in most social media platforms. But it is an open market, and younger organizations with relevant messages and proper media strategies are attracting a large following promoting efforts essential to a free society.

I have been ranking think tanks’ social media impact since 2014. The most subjective part of this effort is determining which organizations qualify as being in favor of a free economy. I have spent my career, often in leadership positions, supporting think tanks and other pro-free society organizations in the United States and around the globe. I draw on this experience to make my selections for these rankings.

Based on the most up-to-date open-source information available, these are my rankings as a Forbes contributor; they are not an official Forbes ranking. As usual, I ask readers to notify me if they know of a pro-free society organization performing better than those on the list.

For the first time since I started compiling these rankings, the Heritage Foundation achieved the top position among traditional U.S. think tanks on all the social media platforms I consider. When we include international groups, Fe & Trabalho, a relatively small Brazilian think tank founded in 2021, ranks first in Instagram followers, even ahead of mighty Heritage.

Below are the free-market think tanks scoring first or second in the United States and from around the world (data compiled during the last week of March and first week of April 2024):

  • Most Facebook likes (U.S.): #1 Heritage (1,900K) #2 Acton Institute (742K); (Non-U.S.): #1 Instituto Millenium, Brazil (403K) #2 Fundación para el Progreso, Chile (273K)
  • Most X followers (U.S.): #1 Heritage Foundation (693K) #2 Cato Institute (366K); (Non U.S.): #1 México Evalúa (142K) #2 CEDICE, Venezuela (119K)
  • Most monthly visitors to the website (statistics compiled from SimilarWeb) (U.S.): #1 Heritage (1,800K) #2 Cato Institute (990K); (Non-U.S.): #1 Fraser Institute, Canada (196K) #2 Instituto Rothbard (195K).
  • Most subscribers to YouTube (U.S.): #1 Heritage (413K) #2 FEE (312K); (Non-U.S.): #1 Fundación para el Progreso, Chile (251K) #2 Fundación Libertad y Progreso, Argentina (139K)
  • Most views of YouTube video (longer than 2 minutes) uploaded in past twelve months (U.S.): #1 Heritage (6,600K) #2 Acton (2,900K); (Non-U.S.): #1 Fundación Para el Progreso, Chile (229K) #2 Fundación Libertad y Progreso, Argentina (132K)
  • Most LinkedIn Followers (U.S.): #1 Heritage (81K) # 2 Cato (52K); (Non-U.S.); #1 Fraser Institute, Canada (22K) #2 Centro de Estudios Públicos, Chile (15K)
  • Instagram followers (U.S.): #1 Heritage (256K) #2 FEE (64K); (Non-U.S.): #1 Fe & Trabalho, Brazil (268K) #2 Instituto Mises, Brazil (171K)

Groups that excel in some areas, such as video production, continue to win year after year. Fundación Para el Progreso in Chile and Fundación Libertad y Progreso in Argentina again ranked among the top two in the world. The Chilean think tank did well on most platforms, which is even more impressive considering Chile’s population is under 20 million, much smaller than other countries with several think tanks competing for influence.

As the following numbers show, traditional think tanks have considerably less social media impact on most platforms than organizations that focus on videos, news, and films.

World leaders in video, news outlets, and magazines include:

  • Most Facebook likes: #1 PragerU (4,500K) #2 CNSNews (2,200K)
  • Most X followers: #1 PragerU (991K) #2 BrasilParalelo (835K)
  • Most monthly visitors to the website (SimilarWeb): #1 National Review (7,000K) #2 Reason (3,200K)
  • Most subscribers to YouTube Channel: #1 BrasilParalelo (3,800K) #2 PragerU (3,200K)
  • Most views of YouTube video (2 minutes or longer) uploaded in last 12 months: #1 PragerU (4,300K) #2 Daily Signal (4,300K)
  • Most Instagram followers: #1 BrasilParalelo (2,900K) #2 PragerU (2,200K)

BrasilParalelo’s reach continues to be impressive; it is now ahead of PragerU in Instagram and YouTube subscribers. This is despite Brazil’s population being over one-third smaller than the United States, and English is a much more widely used language than Portuguese. Like other pro-free-market and conservative organizations, BrasilParalelo has been suffering from the pressures of a politicized supreme court that discourages it from producing programs on some controversial current political and economic issues.

Instituto Mises Brazil and Instituto Millenium are also among the top think tanks in the world on several social media platforms. Most impressive is Fe & Trabalho (Faith and Work), which became the think tank with the most Instagram followers in the world in just a few years. Fe & Trabalho promotes low taxation and regulation, describes the importance of the Brazilian agricultural sector, and focuses on defending a Christian view of competitive and free economies. For those who want to learn more about the role of social media in promoting a free society in Brazil, a doctoral dissertation by Alexandre Gonçalves, Social Media and the Rise of the New Right in Brazil, completed in 2023 at Columbia University and due for publication, is the most thorough analysis I have ever read on how Brazilian organizations and intellectuals have used social media to influence a country.

Although in recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of university-based centers that promote a free economy, most have yet to achieve a significant presence in social media. The Hoover Institution (at Stanford University), with its impressive number of past and present scholars and online material, continues to dominate. Mercatus Center (at George Mason University) ranks second among pro-free-market university-based centers. Mercatus continues to conduct market studies and support the online educational website Marginal Revolution University (MRU). It also goes beyond economics and expands its focus with efforts such as its Program on Pluralism and Civil Exchange. Its budget, close to $50 million during these past years, puts it among the top ten best-funded think tanks favorable to a free economy.

Think tanks and public interest legal groups focusing on legal defense, legal training, investigations, and judicial activism continue growing fast. This year I am placing Judicial Watch in the same category as other legal defense and advocacy groups. The rule of law is essential for a free economy, and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADFLegal) entered economic discussions with its program about attacks on free enterprise by the advocates of replacing growth and profit measurements with environmental, social, and governance measurements (ESG), as defined arbitrarily by activists. Last year they presented their work at the Mont Pelerin Society’s special meeting held in Bretton Woods. Judicial Watch and ADFLegal have budgets similar in size to Heritage, all close to $100 million. Although Project Veritas maintained the social media impact it achieved under James O’Keefe, its past leader, its future is unclear. I include Veritas in the table, but due to the uncertainties, although they would still rank as second in their category, I opted for ranking Alliance Defending Freedom, rather than Veritas, as second to Judicial Watch. O’Keefe Media Group already has twice the number of followers on X as Project Veritas (2.3 million versus 1.1 million).

U.S. judicial defense and rule of law organizations (data compiled during the last week of March 2024):

  • Most Facebook likes: #1 Judicial Watch (7,000K) #2 ADFLegal (1,700K)
  • Most X followers: #1 Judicial Watch (2,100K) #2 ADFLegal (84K)
  • Most monthly visitors to the website (SimilarWeb): #1 Judicial Watch (1,133K) #2 Institute for Justice (224K)
  • Most subscribers to YouTube (U.S.): #1 Judicial Watch (539K) #2 Institute for Justice (377K)
  • Most views of YouTube video (longer than 2 minutes) uploaded in past twelve months (U.S.): #1 ADFLegal (1,400K) #2 Institute for Justice (1,000K)
  • Most LinkedIn Followers (U.S.): #1 The Federalist Society (26K) #2 ADF (14K)
  • Most Instagram followers (U.S.): #1 Judicial Watch (973K) #2 ADF (61K)

TikTok, Podcasts and Independent Voices

The Heritage Foundation has led an effort to discourage TikTok from being used as a platform. Only a few leading free-market think tanks, usually in the libertarian camp, use TikTok. Among traditional think tanks, Acton Institute is the leader (29,000), FEE is second (19,000), and Cato (4,000) is third. The Institute for Justice (21,000) and Reason (18,000) also use TikTok.

Some conservative groups, like Judicial Watch and Voz Media in the U.S., Brasil Paralelo in Brazil, and the more libertarian Fundación Para el Progreso in Chile, are active on this controversial but popular platform.

Podcast numbers are more difficult to quantify; Chartable is one of the few resources for those who want to check the popularity of podcasts. Most think tanks have podcasts, but only some can compete with the leading stars in this market, such as Joe Rogan, Tucker Carlson, and Ben Shapiro. None of these, however, focuses on economics. Among those who do, I doubt anyone has more followers than John Stossel. He attracts one million followers on X, 938K on YouTube, and 147K on Instagram.

Some popular conservative hosts, such as Mark Levin and Charlie Kirk, have led organizations that defend private property and continue to be associated with them. Levin is Chairman of the Landmark Legal Foundation, and Kirk is founder and president of Turning Point USA. I have rankings but do not have listener numbers for their podcasts, but on X, Mark Levin has 4 million followers, while Landmark Legal has 515, making it almost nonexistent. Kirk has 2.9 million followers on X, while Turning Point has 659K.

In 2023, Heritage, the leader in other platforms, produced 781 podcast episodes across six shows: The Kevin Roberts Show, Heritage Explains, The Daily Signal Podcast, Heard at Heritage, Problematic Women, and SCOTUS 101. Across all shows, Heritage had 3.48 million downloads. Rob Bluey, former VP of Communications and now Executive Editor of Heritage’s Daily Signal reports that their podcast grew 3.6% year-over-year, with 2,748,401 listens. Two of Heritage’s podcasts peaked in the top 5 of their categories: The Daily Signal Podcast at No. 3 in news and The Kevin Roberts Show at No. 1 in government. Other think tanks and efforts scoring well include The Manhattan Institute, with its City Journal’s ten blocks, First Things, of the Institute for Religion in Public Life, and Capitalisn’t of the University of Chicago. Capitalisn’t is hosted by a renowned economist, Luigi Zingales, and Bethany McLean. It focuses on the many barriers that impede the free economy from producing its natural fruits. Capitalisn’t podcast has high Chartable rankings in many countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Spain.

Some leading conservative and free-market stars abroad also worked at think tanks, but social media allowed them to become one-person shows. Argentinian political philosopher Agustín Laje, with 1.1 million followers on Instagram, 2.24 million on YouTube, and 816K on X, is a prime example. Spaniard Juan Ramón Rallo trails with 110K followers on Instagram, 695K on YouTube, and 431K on X. Chilean Axel Kaiser, Chairman of Fundación Para el Progreso, attracts 241K on Instagram, 90K on YouTube, and 325K on X. Axel Kaiser also hosts one of the top podcasts in Chile, with a good following in Argentina.

Social media is only one way individuals and organizations try to influence public policy. Most think tanks spend considerable money growing their presence on different platforms. More than likely, most of those reading my analysis are consumers, supporters, or both of think tanks and organizations favorable to a free economy. I hope this analysis sheds some light on how think tanks invest their time and dollars to increase their impact.


 

Autor: Alejandro Chafuen | Fuente: Forbes

Disclosure

Las opiniones expresadas en esta publicación son de exclusiva responsabilidad del autor y no necesariamente representan las de CEDICE ni las de su Consejo Directivo, ni académicos, ni miembros

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