Pound for pound, some of the stupidest commentary online and on TV as media prognosticators waited for the Pope to be revealed today was the notion that the next Pope needed to be on Twitter. Or what? Social media gurus were going to totally abandon the Catholic church in droves? Twitter addicts were going to stop donating all that money to the church?
At any rate, the next pope, Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio, was already on Twitter!
Or so certain media people who decided to Google him discovered. This afternoon, a number of folks (including one journalist who should have known better) discovered the account of @JMBergoglio. And unlike the last Pope's, this one was fairly active. It was also in Spanish, which some of us don't read because we took French in high school.
So the tweets went out, including an unfortunate one in which I bragged that I had more followers than the pope.
Which was true as of 3:26 p.m., when @JMBergoglio, who as far as we knew was the real deal, had only 3,500 or so followers.
Then two things happened.
First, Kevin Meyers pointed out the inconvenient truth that the account was a parody account. Egg on the face and all that. (Especially since I'm that guy who ruins Facebook fun by dropping Snopes bombs on people's ridiculous urban legends.)
Again, had I been able to read Spanish, I might have figured it out from tweets such as: "If I'm pope, kids will love me more than Santa Claus" and "I may be too humble in saying that I'm a simple representative of God on earth, and he represents me in heaven."
Second, despite the account being fake, its follower account began to skyrocket. Over the course of an hour, here's the trajectory:
- 3:26 p.m. -- 3,500
- 3:44 p.m. -- 48,000-plus*
- 3:55 p.m. -- 69,000-plus*
- 3:57 p.m. -- 90,840
- 4:04 p.m. -- 103,081
- 4:12 p.m. -- 111,095
- 4:26 p.m. -- 123,577
Still, Fake Pope is unlikely to trump Justin Bieber. As of 5:11 p.m., he's only at 138,621 followers; Bieber has over 35 million.
The lessons here? Check and double-check. Even fake popes can get massive social-media followings. Don't brag about your social-media following. The Pope needs to be on Twitter as much as Barack Obama needs to be on Reddit. And, finally, learn Spanish.*For these two figures, I couldn't read the last three digits that I scribbled down.