“Sede Vacante” replicates real-life events on the Pope’s Twitter account

Pontifex_SedeVacante by inesmergel
Pontifex_SedeVacante, a photo by inesmergel on Flickr.

On February 28, 2013, pope Benedict XVI, stepped down and vacated his chair – literally. The pope who had just recently started to tweet also vacated his Twitter account. This symbolic gesture had an impact on the Internet community. While people were still watching the pope emeritus arrive at his temporary home at Castel Gandolfo (the summer residence), Twitter moved all his existing tweets to an online archive on News.VA:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/inesmergel/8515914705/sizes/m/in/photostream/

While these events had a Dan Brown novel taste to it, what the communication and public relations folks missed behind this move is that the pope has actually build an online community on Twitter with over 1.6 million people who actively want to receive updates. They ignored the significance of a community that trusted the online relationship the pope created with them through a medium that they prefer over other media.

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About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

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