Social Media Strategy: Learning from The Pope

13 Dec Social Media Strategy: Learning from The Pope

In 2013, he was named Time Magazine’s most interesting person, one of the most talked about people on Facebook, and one of the most tweeted topics of the year, according to USA Today. So, what can we learn from Pope Francis about creating our own successful social media campaigns?


First let’s look at some stats (some borrowed from the PR Daily article here) about the Pope, the last Pope (Benedict XVI), his audience and his social media presence:

  • 92% of Catholics view the Pope in a positive way and 95% feel the same way about the church. (Up 19 % over the last pope who stepped down less than one year ago)
  • Pope Benedict XVI had 1.5 million Twitter followers before leaving the platform on Feb 28
  • Pope Francis (@Pontifex) now has 3,364,047 Twitter followers
  • Papa Franciscus’ latin Twitter account (@pontifex_ln) has 191,963 followers (as of 12/13)
  • The Pope’s tweets are retweeted some 22,000 times on average from his English account
  • The Pope’s Facebook page has 434,816 likes


Ok, so what makes the Pope so successful on social media?  To keep it simple, here’s the top 3 things that have helped propel him to the top:

  1. CONTENT.  Just like any of our social campaigns, content is key.  If you don’t have anything to say or share, you won’t be able to build the momentum needed to attract followers and establish you or your company as an expert in your space and a “must follow” for others in your industry. The Pope has so much to work with, it’s almost not even fair – The Bible, Catholic rules, sacraments and commandments, as well as many years of experience to pull from.  This helps keep a tremendous back log of content for when there isn’t a specific campaign or project going on to promote.
  2. STRATEGY.  The Pope has a social media advisor, Msgr. Paul Tighe, who helps him keep his messages on point so they are effective in reaching his audience in the right tone.  He strives to keep the Pope’s account positive, most likely to be more appealing to an audience who are following him to be inspired (Disclaimer: this is my opinion).  Either way, it is important to have a plan in place and a well-thought out social strategy constructed that is tightly aligned to your social media goals. Posting without purpose can be risky and often not produce great results.
  3. ANALYSIS/MEASUREMENT.  I’ll be honest, I really have no idea what type of measurement or social analysis the Pope or the Vatican have going on.  BUT, in good news, their increase in followers and 19% increase in positive view of Catholicism means that someone is paying attention, whether its internally or not, and making it very obvious things are going well.  Unfortunately, the results aren’t always so obvious and most companies don’t have as little competition as the Pope or Vatican.  Unless you’re looking at the Vatican as part of the Pope’s brand, and a tourist destination. In which case, I’d guess we’d be competing against the Taj Mahal.  (Just for fun, I just looked up the Taj Mahal on Twitter. I found the Taj Mahal Palace, which has only 6,200 followers. The official Vatican page has 14,275.)


In case you haven’t seen them, here are the 2013 Top Trends on Facebook:

  1. Pope Francis
  2. Election
  3. Royal Baby
  4. Typhoon
  5. Margaret Thatcher
  6. Harlem Shake
  7. Miley Cyrus
  8. Boston Marathon
  9. Tour de France
  10. Nelson Mandela


I hope you’re looking forward to seeing what social media brings in 2014. Who knows, maybe we’ll see your company on that list!

Kate Nesbitt
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