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4 Twitter lessons Pope Francis can learn from the Dalai Lama

Let's face it: Pope Benedict XVI wasn't very good at Twitter.


Kris Holt


Posted on Mar 14, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 9:41 pm CDT

Let’s face it: Pope Benedict XVI wasn’t very good at Twitter.

Oh sure, he had more than 1 million followers on his English account, @Pontifex, but that’s easily achievable if you’re the head of a religion with more than 1 billion devotees. His tweets were usually boring missives like “What does Sunday, the day of the Lord, mean for us? It is a day for rest and for family, but first of all a day for Him.” Nothing exactly groundbreaking.

He quit as pontiff, and the Vatican scrubbed @Pontifex of all trace of Benedict’s tweets. That paved the way for Pope Francis, elected by cardinals Wednesday, to stake his claim as an actually interesting person to follow.

As a Twitter newbie—the now-suspended @JMBergoglio did not belong to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio—Francis has much to learn about how this newfangled thingamajig works. His predecessor believed social media is the future of evangelism, but couldn’t get a handle on it himself (perhaps that’s the real reason he quit?).

Francis’s first tweet on @Pontifex 2.0 was akin to someone crashing a karaoke party, grabbing the mic, and yelling, “Yo, I am here!” The all-caps Latin text, which translates to “We have Pope Francis,” was pretty bombastic.

If Francis wants to really make a splash, here are four lessons he can learn from the Dalai Lama, a religious leader who’s actually good at Twitter. 

1) Share photos of you meeting rock stars.

Many religions are battling to keep youngsters hooked in an age of many distractions. What better way to show how hip you are than by shaking hands with a super cool rock st—ah, never mind. It’s Dave Matthews.

2) Never chat with followers.

Talking with followers, a fundamental of Social Media Marketing™, is something the 77-year-old has neglected to do in his three years on Twitter. It hasn’t hurt his follower numbers, however: He has more than 6.5 million of them. Maybe they’re all waiting to be the first to break through.

We’ll leave this one up to you, Francis.

3) Be positive.

These are among the Dalai Lama’s most retweeted posts:

4) Tweet out news articles trumpeting your early Twitter success.


Photo via AssociatedPress/YouTube

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*First Published: Mar 14, 2013, 1:12 pm CDT