Pope social media guru, vatican social media

Digital Leadership Insights from The Pope’s Social Media Guru

Are you surprised to learn that the Pope has a social media guru? It turns out The Vatican is an early adopter of communication innovations. Here’s why.

“If the church in some way is not present in the digital, we’re going to be absent from the experience and from the lives of many people,” Tighe said. “If we withdraw, then we’re leaving those areas to the trolls. We’re leaving it to the bullies.”  — Expert from LA Times article Vatican social media guru: Catholics should give Internet ‘a soul’ by Chad Garland

Let’s set aside for a moment any opinions about the Catholic Church and its role in history and humanity and look at this through the lens of social media as a tool for thought leadership.

1) The Vatican has considered social media important enough to have a dedicated social media advisor since 2007. This doesn’t really surprise me. The Church considers dissemination of its ideas and message its primary mission and has consistently been an early adopter of communication technology. It was one of the first to have a radio station. If you want to spot the next trend in technology communication watch the Catholic Church.

They even hosted a conference to teach representatives from schools and parishes both the art and the technology of engaging on social media. Imagine what would happen for your company if all the components of your organization worked together on a well crafted digital strategy.

2) Read this again: “If the church in some way is not present in the digital, we’re going to be absent from the experience and from the lives of many people.” The same is true for your business. 

3) Read this again: “If we withdraw, then we’re leaving those areas to the trolls. We’re leaving it to the bullies.” When I taught special education. I had only 2 classroom rules. The first was, “Leave the world better than you found it.” When I first introduced this idea to students they understood this to mean picking up trash. Over time I helped them understand it means much more. It means engaging with people in a way that their day is better for having crossed your path. It means filling the void with the positive. 

Not feeding the Trolls with responses to their bile is still the best way to handle an infestation. And what if we took up Tighe’s challenge to go one step further and consciously make the internet a positive place.

I’m not talking about Pollyanna sugar coating. There are some tough issues in our world these days. Some unpleasant stories must be told to generate change.

The question is who is leading the discussion? If the thoughtful leaders who make an effort to understand the big picture and the shades of gray don’t take the lead those who would perpetuate simplistic divisive perspectives fill the void.

Here are Tighe’s other tips for engaging in the digital culture:

I did actually laugh out loud that the fourth comes from The Vatican’s social media guy!

  • Be respectful, honest and objective. Tighe said that authenticity and consistency are keys to engaging others online.
  • Seek out and collaborate with the “good Samaritans,” those who are using social media positively.
  • You don’t have to always create new content. It’s OK to simply share what’s already there.
  • Experiment with various online platforms. Tighe repeated advice he said he read in the Economist: “Be promiscuous, but don’t marry any of them.”

Photo Credit: Flickr