The Pope joining Twitter is a defining moment for the mini-blogging platform and shows that life imitates social media.
It also gives rise to the odd situation where, at least for a few days, it is true to say that pop sensation Lady Gaga has more followers than the Pope – at least on Twitter. I expect that will change.
The day is significant for Twitter (like, ahem, Christmas come early) because it is all about communication to the masses. The Pope joining Twitter validates the platform’s mass appeal and reach.
Until recently, the ability to reach potentially millions of people with your message was the preserve of the rich, religious and political leaders. Social media has democratized that, and today there’s hardly anything to stop any individual from writing a blog, or sending a tweet that can be read by millions. Unless you happen to be in Syria, that is. It’s all about content.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense for the Pontiff to join Twitter – provided that his advisers really know what they’re doing. Here’s a handful of things that @Pontifex should be aware of, in addition to the obvious, which is to spread the word and encourage global peace and tolerance.
- Avoid following people. As the leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope’s role is to lead, not follow. (Following his own account in different languages is fine)
- Be careful on retweeting unless there’s a really, really good reason – and only then once the sources have been checked diligently. It’s too easy to be hoodwinked into repeating facts without checking your facts – for the Pontiff, this is very important indeed
- Stay on message and keep it simple. It might be tempting to tweet some words of encouragement for the Pope’s favorite football team (Bayern München? Vatican City?) but it’s not really appropriate. The people who will follow @Pontifex want reassurance and guidance. Act like a leader
- Provide weblinks to sites where people can follow-up if they’re interested in any particular tweet
- Try not to tweet during duller moments of church services