What the Pope’s Twitter success can teach brands


Pope Francis’ social media team clearly knows what it’s doing when it comes to Twitter. In a tweet on Sunday, the head of the Catholic church announced that he now has more than 10 million followers on the social network, and he thanked his social flock.

The divine tweet from @Pontifex:

Dear Followers I understand there are now over 10 million of you! I thank you with all my heart and ask you to continue praying for me

Since Pope Francis took over, the number of followers on the papal Twitter accounts has tripled, according to a Reuters report.

This is one of several lessons that brands can learn from the pope when it comes to Twitter (and all other social networks) – appreciate your followers. Maybe asking for prayer isn’t your thing, but any brand or marketer can express some gratitude to folks for tuning in and it’s a little sincere appreciation costs nothing and goes a long way.

Other lessons brands can take away from the pope:

  • Know your audience. The pope’s Twitter account in English is @Pontifex. But he also has seven other Twitter feeds: one each in Spanish, Italian, Polish, Arabic, and (yup) Latin. Brands should be using analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Twitter Analytics to get a deeper understanding of their followers. What languages do they speak? Where do they live? What are their interests? Then create content based on that data, in more than one language if necessary.
  • Keep your message to the point. One problem the pope does not have is communicating a clear message. Since he took the helm of the Holy See, Francis has focused repeatedly on the role of mercy and the importance of helping the poor. Those same messages comes through in his Twitter posts, such as these:





Brands should be doing the same thing – communicating the same message across multiple channels in as few words as possible. In fact, according to Msgr. Paul Tighe, second in charge of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in an NCR report, the pope’s messages are retweeted more than any other public figure in the world.


  • Use hashtags to bring attention to a particular issue or message. The pope called for a day of prayer for peace in Syria in September, and used hashtag #Prayforpeace. “The hashtag created this almost subversive network of people who were getting the word out there, even though it wasn’t getting a huge amount of play in the mainstream media,” Tighe said to NCR.

Often times, the most shared posts on social media include photos or videos. However, the pope has not used any photos or videos in his tweets as of yet. Before Oct. 29, you had to click on a tweet to see a photo, but starting Oct. 29, when you scroll through the Twitter feed, photos appear right away in the feed.

That’s cause for marketers and popes alike to say “Amen.”

Readers, do you think the pope’s social media team should focus more on visual content on Twitter?



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About Tim Sohn

Tim Sohn is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and on Twitter @editortim. Also, check out his website at TimothyJSohn.com.