Pope Francis has amassed more than seven million Twitter followers – more than three times what he had just a few months ago, but still far fewer than Lady Gaga and Beyonce Knowles.
A week after white smoke appeared over the Vatican in March to mark his elevation, Pope Francis already had 2 million Twitter followers
, and that was just on his English-language account.
As the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Argentinean-born Jorge Mario Bergoglio had assumed control of the holy @Pontifex Twitter account from Benedict XVI.
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Benedict had attracted many followers since the papal Twitter account was launched in December last year, according to The Independent, but the growth to seven million under Francis has been dramatic.
In Twitter perspective, though, Pope Francis trails far behind celebrities like Lady Gaga, who has nearly 39 million Twitter followers, and Beyonce, who has 9.5 million. The Pope remains a long way behind President Barack Obama, who has 33 million followers, The Independent reported.
"With his presence on the social network, Pope Francis is attracting an increasing number of people, especially the young, who are the internet's biggest users," reported L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper.
Like his predecessor, Pope Francis tweets in nine languages, including English, Italian, Latin, Arabic and French. Spanish is the most popular of the feeds, with more than 2.7 million followers, a reflection of the Pope's South American heritage,
The second largest group of followers, at 2.6 million, are English speakers. The third most popular language is Italian, followed by Portuguese, French, Latin, German, Polish and Arabic, with 68,000 followers, The Independent reported.
Unlike celebrities or many ordinary people on Twitter, the Pope does not give insights into his daily routine, but instead sends out snippets of religious instruction.
"It's a global church, and the Twitter followers are starting to reflect that. Clearly we expect to see a bit of a jump with Pope Francis, and not only in Spanish," Vatican communications strategist Greg Burke told USA Today in March. "I can't wait until @Pontifex in Spanish passes up the English. Latin America is where we have to get the message out, and Pope Francis can do that."
Pope Francis has the help of two American undergraduate social media interns from Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
"We're hoping it becomes even more frequent than what Benedict had before," intern Sean Hudgins told Mashable. "Benedict's [tweets] were kind of sparse, and I think a lot of people want to see with this Twitter how to be more connected to the people, and I think Pope Francis, that's something that his brand is — to be more of a people person. So we're hopeful these tweets will be that."
Techies say the Twitter platform presents a huge opportunity for Pope Francis to bond with the people. After all, his election was the second biggest Twitter event of all time behind President Barack Obama's reelection, according to Mashable.
"The @Pontifex account is likely to be a central piece of the Vatican’s new media strategy for years to come," wrote Forbes tech writer Alex Kantrowitz after the election. "As a new pope takes over, it will be interesting to watch how the strategy evolves."
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The Pope does not give insights into his daily routine on Twitter, The Independent reported, but instead sends out snippets of religious instruction.
"Consumerism has accustomed us to waste. But throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry," was one recent tweet, reflecting the Pope's concern for the poor.
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