An Uptick in Readership

I got an email from Google Analytics the other day. It told me that suddenly I’d had quite an uptick in readership of my blog. Hooray!

Progress?

This was exciting news!

Don’t get me wrong, my numbers are DISMAL. Absolutely abysmal. It could be because I’ve shamefully neglected this blog over the years. It could also be that I’ve never really written this blog with a mind to SEO or driving clicks.

But suddenly in February my numbers weren’t quite so dismal. (They were still bad, but not rock bottom bad, you know?)

What had happened??

I assumed that this was because I had returned to writing on a fairly regular basis.

I write an article and then automatically publish it to a number of social media platforms, including the (rather neglected) Facebook page I have for this blog.

But as anyone who works in the blogosphere knows, the more you write, the more people read.

So, hooray!

But that’s not all…

Granted, writing more frequently and publishing more on the blog is bound to attract a few more readers. However, what seems to be the catalyst in my readership increase is…

Drumroll please…

RAVELRY!!

Yup! That wonderful website, that glorious database of all things yarn is the reason for my (slight) increase in traffic on my blog.

Let me explain.

I checked out a local Stitch n’ Bitch group back in the fall, and as they haven’t kicked me out (and even seem glad to see me!), I’ve started to attend regularly.

The lovely ladies of this group have generously added me to their Facebook page, and also to their list of Ravelry friends. And since I have links to my blog sprinkled around my Facebook page and my Ravelry profile, BAM! Some of these curious souls clicked! And voilà!

I would never have known the reason for my blog’s sudden surge (HA!) in popularity (GUFFAW!) had one of my fellow stitchers (n’ bitchers) not mentioned to me last night that she had been reading my blog.

So to all you wonderful ladies of the Stitch n’ Bitch…

THANK YOU FOR READING!

It really does mean a lot to me.

And here’s where you can find my Facebook page, and my Ravelry profile.

losing_faith_in_social_media

Losing Faith in Social Media

Up until now, I’ve been billing myself as a social media specialist. I’ve worked as a social media manager, and I’ve done some consulting work in social media for small businesses.

But the truth is, I am losing faith in social media.

Lately, I’ve felt that social media is used far too much for marketing; it’s turned into an echo chamber (especially Facebook); and its value for providing engaging content has dwindled.

Social Media Marketing

I have written about social media marketing on this very blog. It has been, after all, my métier! But while I practiced social media marketing in my professional life, I find myself being put off by it in my personal life.

Ads are everywhere.

Every time I log into Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram now, I am faced with ads. This, of course, is completely to be expected! How else are these platforms going to make money to develop for their users? But what irks me is the way advertising is done.

Facebook right-hand column ads are notoriously bad. Twitter “promoted tweets” are hardly better. Instagram’s sponsored images are, at least, a little less annoying, since the images are usually nice. But for the most part, the ads are tacky, tasteless, and irrelevant–or worse, tastelessly relevant (one particularly badly timed ad for baby clothes showed up after I had had a miscarriage).

To be fair, that’s mostly because the people advertising have no idea what they’re doing, or how to target their ads. It’s no wonder management are constantly doubting the ROI potential of social media advertising.

Most brands get it wrong.

Then there are the brands that pay so that their content shows up in my newsfeed. There are very few brands that inspire enough enthusiasm for consumers to actively engage with them. Nike and others are the exception to the rule.

For the most part, the promos, Facebook contests, and “relaxed language” that brands try to use in social media fall very flat. It’s artificial, forced, and awkward. All things that are poison to social media users.

The Echo Chamber

This mainly applies to Facebook, due to their filtering practices. As soon as you like one or two baby pictures, wedding announcements, or articles of a feminist nature, that is all that you see in your newsfeed.

Just because I got married, had a kid, and have feminist sympathies, does not mean that I want to see only wedding shots, baby photos and articles about why the heating in my workplace is inherently sexist.

Looking at my Facebook feed, you’d think that breastfeeding mothers are being expelled from dining establishments all across North America. I can tell you that I’ve been breastfeeding in public on a regular basis for more than nine months (and in more than five countries!) and no one has ever asked me to cover myself up or nurse my child elsewhere.

The algorithm of boredom

It seems like Facebook is targeting content at me based on what its algorithms think will delight, incense, outrage, move, and otherwise scintillate me.

On the contrary, I now find Facebook extremely boring. It’s a sad, uninteresting person who only wants to hear their own ideas and opinions shouted back at them. There is no back and forth, no debate (I don’t count people hurling insults at each other and spewing vitriol as debate), and very little room for thoughtful interaction.

I’d much rather have a face-to-face conversation over a coffee, than kill even 5 minutes on Facebook.

So what does that make me?

I’ve called myself a social media specialist. I’ve maneuvered myself into this niche of online content marketing. And yet I find it boring.

The one social media platform I enjoy spending any time on is Instagram, and that’s because my closest loved ones are there. I keep my profile private, and share moments of joy from my daily life with those I love best.

But other than that, I’m over Facebook, Twitter, and the lot. So what do I do now? Career change? I can’t very well market myself as a social media expert when I spend very little of my own time there.

Well for the moment, I cannot be said to have a career. I’ll just have to continue writing (which I do like), trying to read broad and varied content, and keeping up my knitting, which is a great way to meet new, and interesting people.

Is there any way I can make meeting people through crafts my career? Any ideas?

#worldcup

The FIFA World Cup and Social Media

#worldcupA Marketing Love Affair

The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off last week, and already it’s being hailed as the world’s most “social” sporting event ever. It is slated to be the single most talked-about sporting event on social media.

Marketers are getting on the bandwagon. A couple notable examples include Activia partnering with Shakira to support the World Food Program, and adidas and their #allin campaign. Coca-Cola is, as always, an official sponsor, and all kinds of sports channels are getting in on the action (ESPN, etc.).

Twitter is an enabler for marketers

Twitter is making it easy for fans and marketers to connect over the FIFA World Cup and social media. The #WorldCup hashtag center allows you to follow all tweets with the hashtag, to see the teams that are on Twitter and follow each individual game.

Magazines, brands, teams, fan clubs, individuals are all tweeting. Following the hashtag you are bound to find content from all these groups that will appeal to you. Some are trying to not-so-subtly connect their products to football, but others are fully dedicated to World Cup coverage.

How to get in on the marketing action

Offerpop and Crimson Hexagon partnered to make an infographic providing analysis of the marketing opportunity that this world-wide event presents. Take a look for some inspiration for how you and your brand can get involved in the FIFA World Cup on social media.

Offerpop’s World Cup Infographic:

World Cup Infographic

 

How-to-use-googleplus

Why You Need to be on GooglePlus

google-hummingbird

 

“There’s nothing happening on GooglePlus!”

I hear this all the time. It’s true, fewer of your friends and family are on GooglePlus and its interface is completely different from Facebook’s. But for businesses (even small ones!), brands, and anyone who wants to make a name for themselves on the web, GooglePlus is vital to your success. Here is why you need to be on GooglePlus.

1. Google is the king of search.

Google has become so ubiquitous when it comes to online search that “to google” is now a verb. That means that your brand, business, or whatever it is, needs to show up in Google search results.

According to a presentation by Google at Social Media Week in Los Angeles at the end of last year, they perceive GooglePlus as “the future of Google.” Meaning, content shared in GooglePlus will have a big influence on what shows up in search results.

Basically, instead of thinking of GooglePlus as a social media platform, think of it as a search engine.

With its release of Hummingbird (its new search algorithm), Google has increased the importance of producing quality content in order for businesses and brands (as well as individuals) to establish themselves as experts in their fields and show up in search results. That means: blog, blog, blog! (And Hangout, and YouTube, and, and, and…)

2. An Authorship link will increase your visibility in search results.

You’ve heard it a million times: businesses should blog! We know the supposed benefits, but GOOD LORD it is a time investment!

But you’ve got to do it. And you’re better off using your real name and personal identity when you do, and linking your GooglePlus profile to your blog with Google Authorship.

GooglePlus-in-search-results
Search results will incorporate more information from GooglePlus

The new search algorithm means that more quality content from individuals in your GooglePlus circles (or connected to your circles) will show up in search results. Between two excellent blog articles, a Google search will favor the one written by John Smith who is in 345 circles, rather than the article written by “The BusyBee Honey Blog.”

Why is this? Because Google knows the value of a thought leader; a trusted person who is seen as a credible authority. People are more likely to find value in information provided by people they know (or know through the internet) than a corporate blog.

3. Google demands quality content.

Okay, so you’re blogging, and you’ve learned how to use GooglePlus. You’ve created your profile or your company page, and you’re sharing all your articles. That should do the trick, right?

Wrong.

It’s not just enough to write stuff and put it out there. It’s got to be good. And it’s got to be relevant. Your content needs to answer the questions that people are asking when they do a Google search.

If you’re just writing company news or making heavily promotional videos, no one is going to see them. Sharing them on GooglePlus will get no reaction, and it could, in fact, hurt your SEO standing because you’re spamming up the internet with content no one cares about.

Answer your customers’ questions with your content. If you’re a pet grooming business and people are searching “how often should I groom my dog,” write an article or create a short video that answers that question.

4. Being active on GooglePlus will help establish credibility.

So now you have awesome content AND you’re sharing it on GooglePlus.

How-to-use-googleplus

Now’s when the social media side of GooglePlus kicks in. It’s not enough to just put your content out there. You’ve got to help people find your content by connecting with them and building relationships.

Start out by finding communities to join, commenting on posts, and sharing other people’s good content (giving credit, of course). Then start sharing your stuff, making sure it’s relevant to discussions.

Finally: Have fun!

Contrary to popular belief, GooglePlus is fun. Lots of savvy individuals, businesses and brands are active there, and you’ll find useful and entertaining information. I’ve “met” people on GooglePlus who have enriched my understanding of wider social media, and I’ve followed news sources and joined great communities that cater to my interests.

Invest a little time in GooglePlus and good content, and you’ll see the benefits for your online presence.

The Grinch Hates Noise

Oh the Marketing Noise, Noise, Noise, NOISE!

Sometimes, I feel like the Grinch from Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The Grinch Hates Noise
“Oh the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!”

But in my case, I’m not griping about Whos in Whoville, but marketing noise in social media.

What Is Noise in Marketing?

“Noise” in marketing terms refers to material that distracts from an intended message.

“Good marketing,” according to one source, “engages and informs potential clients” with a “clear, compelling message.”

Bad marketing causes noise. And noise is obnoxious.

Boy, Tweeps Are Loud

As anyone who spends time online knows, advertising is becoming more and more pervasive in social media. You can’t scroll through your Facebook newsfeed or your Twitter feed without coming across an ad in the form of a promoted post or a promoted tweet.

Marketing Noise on Twitter
Pipe down!

Today, Josh Constine at TechCrunch.com wrote about decelerating Twitter user growth. The number of Twitter users is growing, but more slowly than historically. Constine partly attributes this to crowded and overwhelming Twitter feeds.

His article really rang true for me. Lately, I have found hanging out on Twitter more stressful than enjoyable. I follow 880 people and have never organized those people into lists.

The result is, my feed is full of clutter. But rarely do I see a promoted tweet. No, I am talking about individual marketing noise.

Shameless Self-Promoters

We all know them. They look something like this:

Okay, to be fair Jeff Bullas does write some pretty good content. But check out his tweets. They are ALL. THE. SAME. When your Twitter feed is full of variations of the above, it can start to get, well, BORING.

Twitter is full of people, far less credible than Jeff Bullas, who are trying (like me, admittedly) to position themselves as social media gurus (#8 is totally me).

But do you know what? There are only so many “6 tips for this” or “10 ways to do that” articles with which the internet can put up.

How to NOT Make Marketing Noise

“But Jane!” you say, “Didn’t you recently write an article with 7 tips for first-time bloggers?” Well, yes. Yes I did. In my defense, writing this blog has been a learning process. That, however, is no excuse.

The truth is, though, that I can’t promise not to write more articles of the same ilk. Why? Because people do read them.

That said, the way to avoid contributing to social media overkill (especially on Twitter) is to:

Avoid being noise by being yourself

Yup! Interact on Twitter! Post a lame joke! Don’t just shamelessly self-promote. Show that there’s a reason you’re a social media guru. It’s because you are awesomesauce.

Be Yourself in Social Media
Being my goofy self at the Social Media Success Summit 2013 get-together on Twitter

So, can we all agree to stop posting “8 tips” and “3 ways” and “5 reasons” articles over and over again on Google+ and Twitter? We self-proclaimed gurus need to work to make social media a less noisy and more fun place to hang out.

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

Several people have contacted me with requests for tips on starting their own blog.

First of all, this is *HUGELY* flattering!  Thanks guys!  Starting this blog has been a real learning process, and I’m happy to share some tips that I’ve learned along the way.

So, without further ado, here are 7 tips I’ve learned for first-time bloggers:

1. Own Your URL

I wanted a specific URL, so I bought my domain name from GoDaddy and used WordPress to build my blog.

If you want to use your blog to build a portfolio, see if you can own your name as your domain (I couldn’t, as apparently there are 5,000 realtors named Jane Kennedy).

2. Get a Site Hosting Service

You can easily create a blog on any number of platforms like Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress or Blogspot.  Originally, I went with GoDaddy for my hosting services.  I was disappointed with how slow it was, though.  Upon a colleague’s recommendation, I switched to SiteGround, which is more expensive but much faster.

If you’re a first-time blogger, though, and you have no idea about designing a website or web hosting (and you don’t have an awesome pair of brothers who know all about this stuff like I do–thanks bros…), I highly recommend WordPress.com.  It’s a great platform and you can choose some great templates for your design.

For examples of blogs that use WordPress.com for hosting, check out my friend Anna’s, and my friend Caroline’s blogs.  My friend Laure uses Blogspot for hers.

3. Design Your Blog

Once you’ve got your URL and your hosting service, it’s time to design your first blog.

There’s an important rule here: Keep it simple.

You want to make it easy for people to read your articles.  You also want to strike a balance of space for your text and room for some interactive content in the right-hand column (or however you set up your blog).

The rule for the right-hand column content is simple: Make it relevant, interesting, and useful.  Make it easy for people to browse through your blog history, and to find your articles by title, topic and date, and connect with you on social media.  Always provide a search bar.

4. Start Writing!

Here’s the first rule: Write about what interests you.

Don’t waste everyone’s time by trying to write about stuff that you think people *want* to read.  If you write well about what you love, people will enjoy it and come back for more.  For a great example of a blog that focuses on a specific interest, see my friend Ysa Belh‘s blog.

Second rule?  Write a lot.

Be prolific!  Establish a ground base of good content and write, write, write!  It’s good practice, and you’ll find your voice.  When you get started with WordPress, they provide lots of great advice about getting started.  One tip I particularly retained was to practice by doing.

5. Some Search Engine Optimization Basics

SEO is the internet buzz word and it’s how you get your blog noticed.

Basically, it means filling your articles with frequently searched-for terms and keywords.  It also means installing plugins that help make your blog easy to find for people who are searching for stuff you’re writing about.

You can use tools like Google Adwords Keywords Tool (apparently this will only be available to non-paying users for a little while longer, so hop on it while you can).  This tool allows you to put in your article topic and see what similar search terms people are googling.  That’ll give you ideas for other keywords to seamlessly integrate into your content.  You can also find terms by starting a regular Google search and seeing what phrases Google suggests for autocomplete.

Basically, the rule about writing about what interests you applies here.  There’ll be other people on the internet interested in the same things, that’s for sure.  Hey, it takes all kinds, right?

6. Share What You’ve Written

Once you publish an article, don’t just sit back and expect people to stumble upon it and find it.

Share in social media, and shamelessly plug your new endeavor to your nearest and dearest (I love you, Mom and Dad!).  Don’t be obnoxious about it, but share your articles in context (this is especially easy if you’re writing about current, trending events).

7. Get on Google+

If you want Google to help people find your blog, create a Google+ profile and link it to your blog.  You can download a Google+ Author Link plugin which allows you to connect your blog to your Google+ profile.

Add your blog to your profile, and whenever you write something, publish a link to the article on Google+.

But don’t leave it at that.  Actually use Google+!  I say this for two reasons: Google likes it (yes, we are all slaves to the Google), and it’s also growing into a great, dynamic, informative and fun platform.

***

I could go on, but this article is long enough.  Later I’ll write about my favorite WordPress plugins.  Some are visible on my homepage and some are behind-the-scenes whizzes that make thebraininjane.com the magical place it is.  Hee!

My brothers were instrumental in making this website happen.  Visit my brother Austin’s website over at PaperScenery.net.

How to Get a Celebrity to Answer You on Twitter

As anyone who has ever been retweeted, favorited or answered by a celebrity on Twitter knows, it’s an amazing feeling.

Andrew WK Follows Me!
The day Andrew WK followed me I rejoiced.

What is more validating than a famous person answering your tweet?  The thought of a celebrity being amused by what you have to say, or chuckling to him or herself at your pithy quip is delightful.  It makes you feel good.  As a social media professional, I feel qualified to give some tips on how to get a celebrity to answer you on Twitter.

This involves some Dos and Don’ts.

DON’T:

  • Beg.  For the love of Pete, keep your dignity! “@justinbieber OMG PLZ FOLLOW ME I LUV U SOOOOO MUCH XXXX” is just sad.
  • Be sarcastic.  You may think your sarcasm is witty and clever, but it is rarely well understood when written, so don’t try to catch a celebrity’s attention with sarcasm.
  • Be insincere.  Though sarcasm can be hard to spot, insincerity is easily identifiable in 140 characters. “@jtimberlake I looooooved you in ‘Bad Teacher,’ I totally thought it was oscar-worthy. Please follow!” Well that combines insincerity (because please, no one thought “Bad Teacher” was a good movie) and begging, so it’s a double no-no.
  • NEVER LIE.  Related to insincerity, lying will get you nowhere and will most likely get you into trouble later.  That’s not really about getting retweeted by a celebrity, but just Twitter advice in general.
  • Promote yourself.  “@BrunoMars My band is playing covers of your song at our concert. Can I get a RT?”  No.
  • Be irrelevant. Tweeting at a celebrity about a topic in which they are likely to have absolutely no interest is simply not going to get you anywhere.

Twitter LogoNow, a disclaimer: I’m about to list some Dos, but you should note that lots of celebrities don’t have their @ setting enabled (they don’t get notifications when they’re tweeted at), so they won’t see your tweet.  Also, if you’re tweeting at someone who has millions of followers, your tweet is likely to be missed.  That said, here are some ways to get yourself noticed and tweeted back.

DO:

  • Follow interesting people.  Follow people who tweet things that are relevant and interesting to you. Don’t follow people just because they’re celebrities.
  • Tweet interesting things. Foster your Twitter presence by tweeting frequently (without being a spam nuisance) and by sharing interesting content.  Link to good articles, retweet fun things, make pertinent, clever and smart observations.  It is possible to be eloquent and interesting in 140 characters, and you don’t want to fill your Twitter history with inanities.
  • Get to know the celebrity.  If you spend enough time on Twitter, you’ll get to know the kinds of things that celebrities retweet, mention or comment on.  If Kevin Bacon tends to tweet about his musical activities and his movies, then tweet at him about seeing him in a show or a movie.  Get to know celebrities’ interests, then share in them.
  • If you’re really desperate, identify the softies.  Russell Crowe’s heart will absolutely melt if you tell him it’s your birthday, you’ve been a fan for a long time, you’re running a race today and you’d really appreciate a retweet.  Bingo.  Cesar Millan will swoon if you tell him you just went out and got your son a rescue pit bull pup for his birthday and can you get a shout out (n.b. include a photo in this one).  Figure out who the celebrities are who like to make people feel good by answering their tweets.  There you go.  Sorted.  (But remember what I said about insincerity!  Don’t do it!)
  • Be yourself.  Just tweet about what you like.  If you’re having a whale of a time on Twitter, then people (including celebrities you mention) will notice.

Celebrity Interaction
Brendan Kelly is a local Montreal radio personality who apparently also likes the Rolling Stones!

Interactions with celebrities on Twitter are great.  But they are not the whole point of the platform.  The best way to get noticed, get mentions, retweets and gain followers, is to put out fun and good content.  Essentially, have a good time on Twitter and Twitter will have a good time with you.

Simples.

Guerrilla Marketing: You’re Doing it Right

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have seen one of the many hilarious GIFs floating around the internet.  Like this one of Jennifer Lawrence at the Met Gala a few weeks ago.

JenniferLawrence
Seriously, can we be best friends??

GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format” and it’s what makes animated images.  Invented in 1987 by Steve Wilhite, both the GIF and its inventor were honored this week at the Webby Awards.  Wilhite’s 5-word acceptance speech (delivered as a GIF) sparked a debate all over the internet.

“It’s pronounced ‘Jif’. NOT ‘GIF’.” -Steve Wilhite

Cue: OUTRAGE!!  “But we’ve been pronouncing it ‘gif’ this whole time!”  “Bah, you fools, everyone knows it’s pronounced ‘jif’!”

This is where the guerrilla marketing comes in.  Like Oreos did so brilliantly at the Superbowl, the folks over at Jif peanut butter had a marketing creative on hand who was struck with a genius idea.

And, of course, that link takes you to this:

 

It's Pronounced Jif

 

Don’t stare too long, you might have a seizure.

GENIUS!!  Timely, apt, clever and très à propos!

This tweet got nearly 2,000 retweets and garnered new followers for Jif on Twitter.  They still don’t have an enormous following, but if they continue to engage in awesome guerrilla marketing tactics like this, it won’t take long for their fan base to grow.

This and the Oreo ad from the Superbowl show the value of having a connected and empowered social media team.  When brands invest in social media monitoring and allow their social media managers to take action (within guidelines, of course), they open the door to these moments of creativity that give their brand visibility and popularity.

Build social media strategies, give employees free reign to come up with engaging content, and your brand will come out a winner.

Well done, Jif.  Next time I’m in the market for some peanut butter, you will certainly get my dollar!

The Lady Does Love a Pun

I really do love a silly pun.  George Takei has got to be my favorite purveyor of puns in social media.  This weekend, Mr Takei was honored with a Shorty Award, an awards show which honors the best in social media. Here he is, delivering his acceptance speech:

Mr Takei joined Facebook in March 2011, and went from being that guy who played Mr Sulu on Star Trek to an internet superstar with 3,886,703 fans on Facebook, 616,661 followers on Twitter, and countless other fans in platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr.

On average, George Takei’s Facebook posts get up to 50,000 likes and roughly 30,000 shares, not to mention tens of thousands of comments (numbers from Mashable, and are probably outdated).  No one else comes close to getting that kind of engagement.

Why is he so popular?  As the Mashable article I linked to explains, it’s his humor.  George Takei posts visual and verbal puns (usually terrible) and regularly sets people giggling.  In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek in February 2012, Mr Takei said his philosophy for sharing is to use crowd sourcing and humor.  He likes to “share laughter as a community” on his pages, and does so to great effect.

It’s not just that Mr Takei posts humorous content, but it’s also the kind of humor he shares.  He’s all about nerdy humor that frequently references Star Trek, Star Wars and other supposedly “nerdy” franchises.  For some reason, this kind of humor has struck a chord with the internet population, and the result is that George Takei has a seriously dedicated fan base.  Like me, many of these fans aren’t even Star Trek fans (I’ve never seen an episode.  Yes, you can wipe that shocked look off your face now), but that doesn’t seem to matter for Mr Takei’s internet popularity.

George Takei Cologne
See? Terrible (yet hilarious) puns.

Occasionally, George Takei will post something about a project he’s working on, or share his activism for LGBT rights.  His response to the so-called “Don’t say gay” act sparked the now popular phrase: “It’s okay to be Takei!”  He will also often post about his quest to prevent the American public from forgetting the episode of interment of ethnic Japanese in camps during the Second World War.

As a professional who works in social media, I can tell you that for brands, frequently sharing things other than content that invites followers to comment can often lead to loss of fans.

Mr Takei hardly needs to worry about that.  He has established a healthy trend for maintaining fans: He overwhelmingly posts humorous plays on words and intersperses his funny posts with other content only occasionally.  The result is his impressive following.

As I said, I love silly puns.  I also completely agree with Mr Takei’s philosophy of creating community through humor.  I think that the causes he actively supports are important ones.  For these reasons, George Takei is my all-time favorite internet celebrity.

I look forward every day to his amusing posts, which hardly ever fail to make me smile.  It’s such a pleasant, simple way to brighten up your day.  So do yourself a favor and follow George Takei on your social media platform of choice.  You’ll be glad you did!

Twitter #Hashtag of the Week: #PopeFrancis

As I’m sure pretty much the entire world knows, habemus papam!  We have a pope!  Or, well, as a non-Catholic I suppose I should say, “Habent papam.”  They have a pope.  This was hands-down the most tweeted papal conclave ever, so this week’s #Hashtag of the week is #PopeFrancis!

Pope Francis I
Photo credit: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

If the news reports from yesterday and today are anything to go by, this pope has already become something of a media darling.  Though he didn’t out-tweet Barack Obama upon the occasion of his re-election, the pope did get 132,000 tweets per minute at the height of the frenzy, according to Mashable.com.

Francis I won hearts from the very moment he chose his papal name.  A Jesuit, he took the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of Italy.  St. Francis is also known for his life of poverty, a lifestyle the new pope emulates.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio reportedly refused to live in the bishop’s residence.  He took public transportation to work, cooked his own meals and maintained a simple lifestyle.  Apparently there’s no need to put these facts in the past tense, because according to the New York Times, he seems to have no intention of changing those habits as pope.

So why does all this matter?  Why was #PopeFrancis a trending topic on Twitter?  And why should anyone care?

Well, frankly, because 1.2 billion people in the world are Catholics, and because this man is now their religious and spiritual leader.

Another reason people should care is because the Catholic Church, whether we like it or not, is a powerful institution.  Its doctrines and teachings guide the beliefs and practices of many of those 1.2 billion.

Is #PopeFrancis, therefore, likely to be a great reformer?  No, probably not.  As everyone now knows, he opposed the legalization of gay marriage in Argentina in 2010.  He seems to take a traditional stance on women’s roles in the church and the celibacy of priests.

But maybe, just maybe, this man’s humility, honesty and down-to-earth mentality will help move the church a step forward.  One hopes he will address issues of corruption in the Vatican and the sexual abuse scandals.

One also hopes that his new perspective on these issues will add a little oil to the rusty old machinery of the Church and help crank it slowly into the 21st century.  Preferably before the 21st century is over.