It was announced this week that the Pope has signed up for Twitter and will begin tweeting on December 12. Um, what? Why in the world would the Pope need a Twitter, you may ask. That is a good question, and one I am also asking.
It has to do with the fact that everyone thinks that everyone should be on social media these days. They hear about social media and how it’s the thing and the best way to reach people. But the truth is it really isn’t for everyone. Social media is not the be all end all. It’s not a requirement.
Yes, it can very much help a company, brand, or person to get out there and spread their word and build community. But it has to make sense for the specific company, brand or person. It’s not right for everyone, and using social media just for the sake of using it can be worse than not having a social media presence at all.
There are many things to consider when deciding if social media is the right route to take, and which specific social media outlets to use. These include the time it will take up, the followers you wish to have, the ways you will interact with followers etc. The overall point here is that there needs to be a reason to have the Twitter– it should be serving some purpose that helps achieve your overall goals. I don’t pretend to be religious in the least, but I never thoughts the Pope’s job had anything to do with hashtagging overconnected teens who #askpontifex who would win in a fight between Jesus Christ and Wolverine.
As a communications professional, I can almost see where the Pope’s misguided team was coming from. They got caught up in the idea of social media and connecting with people all over the world on another level. They thought it would open up the lines of communication in a way that the Pope never had with his followers before. They just didn’t think about two main things.
First of all, while it seems that everyone in the world is on Twitter these days, they’re not. You cannot consider Twitter a viable representation of everyone in the world. For an American brand, maybe—most of your audience probably is on, or has access to Twitter. For Christianity? Nope. Tons of people all over the world don’t even know what Twitter is, much less have access to is, so using it as a way to connect with the Pope’s followers is going to obviously be very skewed toward those areas and age groups in which is is prevalent.
Also, in order to use Twitter effectively it is important to engage with followers. After all, that is the whole point. I don’t care how many people are employed on this social media team but there is no way they are going to be able to interact with everyone who tweets at the Pope. There is no way they will want to. The account hasn’t even gone live yet and a quick Google or Twitter search brings up tons of inappropriate tweets to the Pope that they will have to ignore. Even the serious tweets will be coming in so fast that there will be no way to keep up with them in an effective way that helps build the online community or makes people feel heard.
This Twitter handle seems like a big waste of time for the Pope, who should have larger issues on his hands. Instead of being a way to connect with and interact with followers, it will inevitably be nothing more than a way for the Pope to spew his thoughts to his followers whenever he sees fit and is able. That just is not the point of Twitter. He may as well start a blog instead.