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Social Media and the Pope

When the white smoke rose from the chimney at the Vatican, cheers went up, church bells rang out, and tweets went flying. Facebook shares spread the news. Thousands of people exchanged text messages and emails. The election of Pope Francis occurred amidst a flurry of social media activity in mid-March. Catholics still have a way to go to catch up with their other Christian counterparts in the online world, especially in social media. But with Pope Francis, they may have renewed hope in more ways than one.

Smartphones at the Vatican
The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was followed closely not only by major newspapers, magazines, and news networks, but also by people who use social media as their primary means of getting news. When the white smoke emerged, the world of social media went wild with speculation as to who the new pope would be. More than 150,000 people were gathered in St. Peter’s Square to welcome the new pope, many of them with smartphones on hand to document the experience on Twitter and Facebook.

Services Emerge to Follow the Conclave
A service called PopeAlarm had emerged at the time to update what was happening with the smoke at the Vatican. Since the election, PopeAlarm now provides important news updates regarding the Pope. The website AdoptACardinal.org was set up to encourage Catholics the world over to “adopt” a cardinal to pray for. The end result was that more than 550,000 people had adopted a cardinal to hold up in prayer. Before the conclave convened, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa thanked his Twitter followers for adopting the cardinals, saying that their prayers would help them “discern God’s will.”

Holy Hashtags
Popular hashtags on Twitter during the papal conclave were #whitesmoke and #HabemusPapum. A seagull perched on the world’s most watched chimney sparked the creation of several Twitter accounts, the most popular being @SistineSeagull, which quickly gained followers. The announcement of the Pope resulted in more than 130 million tweets sent across the globe to share the news. #ReplaceMovieTitlesWithPope was also a popular hashtag that received plenty of action and sparked lots of laughter.

Tweets from His Holiness
Pope Francis can be found by the Twitter name @Pontifex. It was the old account of Pope Benedict XVI who resigned in February. Pope Benedict had only begun using Twitter in December 2012, but the account was locked when he announced his resignation. Only 40 tweets had been sent from the account, but all have been deleted since Pope Francis took it over. The first tweet sent from the account after the election was on March 13, 2013, and read “HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM”, translated, “We have a Pope Francis!” This particular tweet was retweeted more than 54,000 times.

Hesitantly Hopeful about the Vatican’s Social Media Presence
Although many are hopeful that Pope Francis will reach out more via social media, it may not be as much as everyone had hoped. Although he had a Facebook account before he became Pope, Bergoglio still used a typewriter for work, and the Facebook page was managed by his supporters. His Holiness’s Twitter account is followed by more than 2 million people, but he follows none of them. Still, there have been several tweets sent from the Pope’s account, each with thousands of retweets. His first official tweet was retweeted more than 37,000 times and dubbed a “favorite” by more than 21,000 people.

If you want to follow the Vatican’s example and increase your social media presence and online penetration, social media marketing may be just what you need. For advice and assistance in this arena, contact Infintech Designs.

Sources:
https://twitter.com/Pontifex/status/313247631054864384
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/13/pope-francis-first-tweet_n_2869147.html#slide=more286132
http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/13/tech/social-reaction-to-pope
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/03/13/pauls-rome-social-media.html

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