Pope kicks off Easter week by triumphal entry into ... Instagram
Not a donkey in sight as Vatican overlooks Google, Apple platforms
The pope has celebrated the most solemn week in the Catholic calendar by expanding his social media presence and signing up to Instagram.
In the process, he has also perhaps flagged up where Apple and Google are going wrong in their own social media efforts.
Pope Francis has already continued his predecessor’s social media ministry via Twitter, under the handle @pontifex. The papal channel of tweets has amassed almost nine million followers so far, steadying their faith with messages such as:
Earnings and capital are not more important than the human person, but should be at the service of the common good.
However, while in the beginning was the word, Francis has clearly decided the picture and video are also pretty important too, and popped up on Instagram over the weekend, under the handle @Franciscus.
Viewers looking for guidance on matters spiritual, and for whom 140 characters is just a bit much, can feast on three pictures of the pope praying, one video of him standing before a bookshelf, and one snap of a papal hand grasping a palm wreath. Because it was Palm Sunday yesterday, of course.
However, those five pics have clearly been enough to feed the multitudes' curiosity already - the papal piccy feed has amassed 1.5 million followers already. In the old days, holding the attention of just 5,000 followers required five fish and a couple of loaves.
Yes, yes, enough with the biblical puns you say, what does it tell us about the difficulties of faith in the modern world?
Difficult to say.
However, it does tell us that there's an art to gaining a Papal endorsement - and a Papal blessing too.
Instagram founder Kevin Systrom reportedly met Catholicism’s CEO just a few weeks ago “to discuss the power of images to unite”, and Systrom received a "blessing" from the man himself, and posted effusive messages about his meeting with His Holiness. Systrom reportedly returned to the Vatican to help Francis hit the button on Saturday.
Systrom’s visit came just weeks after Eric Schmidt and Tim Cook took their own turns around Vatican City. And yet Christ’s vicar on earth clearly doesn’t see any need to go heavy on Google+ for example. Similarly, unless we’ve missed it, there’s no Vatican radio channel on Apple Music. Neither Schmidt or Cook reportedly received blessings, and they didn't seem to hit social media too hard either.
Which just leaves a question mark over Twitter. As far as we know, beleagured CEO Jack Dorsey has never received an official Papal blessing, yet the Vatican remains a fan.
Perhaps it's time for Dorsey to hot-foot it to Rome and request his own personal blessing now. It’s Easter week after all, and suffering followed by resurrection is on the agenda. ®