Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI joined Twitter using the name @Pontifex.
Within a day, he has racked up over 350,000 followers – without publishing a single tweet! In fact, the Vatican has confirmed that he will not be tweeting until December 12th. He will then answer a few questions submitted through the #askpontifex hashtag.
Is this a shrewd move to bring the Vatican into the 21st century, or will it backfire? A quick look at #askpontifex reveals a host of humorous, cynical, or even offensive tweets, but it’s very difficult to spot anything genuine.
We’ve seen so many hijacked hashtags in recent times that the Vatican’s social media team were surely expecting this. Or am I over-estimating them? Either way, I don’t think we’ll see the Pope answering “who could win in a fight between Jesus and Wolverine?”
The hashtag (or bashtag) may not prove to be the best idea, but that doesn’t mean the Pope’s foray into the digital world will not be a success. Just look at the Dalai Lama, who has a hugely successful twitter account with over 5.6 million followers listening to insights and news from His Holiness. After the initial Q&A, this is likely to be the approach taken by @Pontifex. He has already promised “pearls of wisdom” and with 8 different accounts tweeting in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish this could be a powerful way to connect with the church’s 1.2 billion followers in a way never before possible.
We’ll be carefully monitoring the chat around this over the coming days to see exactly what social media users make of it.
Guest post by Jeremy Taylor (Our Social Times)