, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 – “Dear young people do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!” Pope Francis tweeted in April 2013 and got over twenty thousand retweets almost instantly.
While he may not be the first Pontiff to join Twitter, Pope Francis, who has over 22 million followers on Twitter alone across his multilingual accounts, has used the platform to amass his influence online both at a cultural and religious level while narrowing the gap between the church and the people.
And he is succeeding.
According to People Magazine, the Pontiff’s January 2015 tweet addressing Philippines is the third most retweeted tweet by a world leader with over seventy thousand retweets.
This is clear evidence of his approval among people online worldwide.
The Pontiff is especially using social media in a bid to connect with the younger generation. For instance, prior to his recent trip to the US, the Vatican launched various campaigns including hashtags such as #PopeisHope and #GoodisWinning to connect with young people. Popemojis were also used to encourage more young people to connect with the pointiff.
According to Fortune Magazine, in just four days, more than thirty thousand people had downloaded the popemoji keyboard and sent them over two hundred and thirty thousand times.
Such efforts have seen his target audience largely interact with him online, hence narrowing the gap of communication between him, the Vatican and the people as he passes his message of hope and inclusivity to.
“What has been dubbed the ‘Francis Effect’ among millenials is the Pope’s ability to unify and reignite how the church and spirituality becomes part of everyday life,” wrote CNBC the Pope’s influence online.
Popularly known as the “Pope of the People” Francis has also worked on uniting people during times of difficulties online.
For instance, he tweeted a photo of Catholic Relief in Iraq as his first ever image post which was seen as a display of solidarity with humanitarian efforts in Iraq during a time of turmoil in the country following violence launched by Islamic Militants in 2014.
“I pray every day for all who are suffering in Iraq. Please join me,” he tweeted in addition.
Such measures have seen the Pope being named the most influential world leader on Twitter according to a study by Twiplomacy
“Although Pope Francis is the second most followed world leader, he averages 9,929 retweets for every tweet he sends on his Spanish account- that’s more than 8 times the retweets US President Obama (the most followed world leader on Twitter) averages,” said PR firm, Burson-Marsteller when commenting on the study by Twiplomacy.
Ahead of his arrival in Kenya this evening, hashtags such as #PopeinKenya on Twitter have already been started to kickoff a conversation about his presence in the country. Although he may not directly participate in such hashtags, his influence will be felt through online trends he is expected to create in the country.
The Pope is also on Instagram using the handle @newsva, an account that has over forty one thousand followers. He is however not on Facebook although several groups and pages have been started about him.