Pope Benedict XVI, AKA @Pontifex, sent out his first series of tweets at around 11am yesterday, taking a tentative leap into the confusing world of social media, and making a few Twitter blunders (Twunders?) along the way. Admittedly, he had a hundred-strong audience watching him write his inaugural missive into the Twittersphere, which must have put the pressure on, but that's no excuse for poor Twitter etiquette (Twettiquette?) is it? So, if His Holiness will excuse me, here's my critique of his first Twords, and a few tips on how to improve them.
The Vatican announced he would not begin tweeting until yesterday, and as it was 12/12/12, an auspicious day in the Mayan and Hopi Mesoamerican Long Count calendars, many thought the Pope would choose 12.12pm to send his first message to the world. That is if Armageddon didn't come first. He tweeted his first message at 12.12pm in Italy, where he resides, thereby neglecting his Catholic audience across the globe. A cleverer, though somewhat trickier way to tweet would be to use his eight different Twitter accounts, which cater to various languages, to tweet at 12.12 in their timezone. Clearly, his Holiness forgot the first rule of Twitter: Timing is everything.
2) Be generous
His Holiness be gan well, with a tweet thanking his followers: "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart," he wrote. This gets top points for familiarity – calling the followers "friends" is lovely. But... a closer look at the Pope's account shows @Pontifex has not "favourited" any tweets, has replied to not even one of his followers and, despite having over 723,000 followers he only follows seven people, all of which are alternative versions of himself. Nil points.
3) Social media
The Pope's second tweet asks the question "How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?" Nice work Your Holiness, questions are a great way to trigger debates on the social network. Perhaps he could have added a catchy hashtag, like #lifelessons, or #findingfaith, but it sets out a theme. But then, just three minutes later, in the ultimate Twitter faux pas, he answers his own question. "By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need." No, no, NO. That is not the way to make friends online and it's certainly not the way social media works. So what if you're the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church? It doesn't mean you have all the answers.