Pope Benedict XVI, AKA @Pontifex, sent out his first series of tweets at around 11am today, 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.
Ever since joining Twitter to much fanfare over a week ago, the timing of the Pope's first tweet has been hotly anticipated. The Vatican announced he would not begin tweeting until today, and as it's 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 via the micro-blogging site. That is if Armageddon didn't come first. He tweeted his first message at 12.12pm in Italy, thereby neglecting to consider 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. A series of scheduled tweets using TweetDeck could have helped with this. Clearly, his Holiness forgot the first rule of Twitter: Timing is everything.
2) Be generous
His Holiness began 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 a lack of the generosity of spirit one needs to survive in the Twittersphere. @Pontifex has not "favourited" any tweets, has made no lists, 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 hashtag for extra finesse, something catchy and alliterative, like #lifelessons, or #findingfaith, but it sets out a theme, it's a nice, open question, and it tells you a bit about the Pope's interests, in case you hadn't figured it out from the whole mozetta, cross and preaching about Jesus shtick. 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. You should ask a question, then let people debate it with you. So what if you're the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, successor of Saint Peter the Apostle, and have a direct line to God himself. It doesn't mean you have all the answers.