First there was the smoke, ambiguous wisps at first, then voluminous clouds of clearly white smoke billowing out of the specially installed chimney on the roof of St. Peter's.
Then there was the roar of the crowds as they were introduced to the refreshingly unexpected choice of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Cardinal of Argentina, with the new name of Pope Francis – the first pope to take the name of the 12th century saint, known for humility and poverty.
Then there was the sign of the 21st century – the solemn reactivation of the papal Twitter account!
Now I'm guessing that there's nothing in the rule books to answer the protocol question for what do you do with the official Twitter account when there's a transition between popes.
In some ways it's a unique question for the Vatican, based on a unique choice made by Pope Benedict XVI in setting up his Twitter account. In the pope's case, the account is tied to the office of the pope. It's handle isn't specific to the holder of the office – the handle is Pontifex, the Latin word for “bridge builder.” (Just a side note – usually I recommend branding yourself on Twitter, and most individuals do; the Pope is a little bit of a unique case here!)
The handle didn't go with the now Pope Emeritus when he resigned the position. Instead, after his last tweet on February 28, the Twitter account was deactivated in symbolism of the “vacant See,” aka, the empty seat of the Pope.
Shortly after the new Pope's election, the account was brought back to life, and its first tweet was delivered: “Habemus papam franciscum,” translated as, “We have Pope Francis.”
The Twitterverse got in on the excitement of the new pope, and as you might have guessed, Pope Francis was definitely trending on Twitter!
Now, the former Cardinal Bergoglio isn't one of the cardinals who was known to have a Twitter account prior to the election. Still, people are hopeful, given his reputation for being a humble man, that the Vatican might use Twitter more effectively, maybe even consulting some social media strategists to help create a plan for truly engaging with the faithful using this remarkable tool.
What Twitter Can Do for Pope Francis – and Your Business
Religious and inspirational tweets are some of the most frequently retweeted materials. And Twitter accounts from religious and inspirational leaders have some of the largest numbers of followers!
At the end of the day, I think this speaks to the longing people have in their hearts to be encouraged and to be given hope, and the power of Twitter to accomplish this on a large scale is huge! This is one of the most important things you can learn from the Pope and other inspiring figures who use Twitter and experience great success.
Twitter – and especially Twitter marketing – isn't at all about hard selling. And if you approach it that way, you'll turn people off. You'll lose your credibility and their respect, and they won't want to do business with you. Period.
But if, like the new Pope and many other religious and inspirational figures, you discover how to use Twitter to spread a message of encouragement and hope, you'll be a natural choice for your followers to engage and retweet.
How will you encourage your followers on Twitter today? Leave a comment; I'd love to hear!