a jesuit approach to digital stories

Leopold Stuebner SJ

Gathering around #synod14

Over 230 bishops are gathered at the Vatican for a two-week assembly on family issues. As millions of Catholics around the globe follow their discussion on twitter the Holy See Press Office gets excited about social media.

A lot has changed in Rome since Jesuit Jorge Maria Bergoglio was elected to be Pope Francis. While the reorganization of the Vatican's news outlets is still under way, the Roman Bishops Synod sheds some light on what to expect.

Pope Francis' twitter account is ranked #336 worldwide

Francis predecessor Pope Benedict XVI started the papal twitter channel that is now one of the Global Top twitter accounts. But most other Vatican twitter feeds have only a few hundred followers.

Now the interest in the highly debatable Catholic teaching on family and sexuality leads to a solid growth of followers for the @HolySeePress channel. The Holy See Press Office shares daily briefings, photos and comments on the progress of the synod. 

the majority of reach is generated by shared media

But the true success lies not just in gaining a few thousand followers but in the tremendous reach that is generated through re-tweets. While only 7,500 users follow @HolySeePress directly, their tweets are seen by up to 1,3 million twitter users.

Interest in #synod14 by location
The Vatican seems to do fine in terms of reaching out to their target audience: The analytics of the users location matches almost perfectly the map of countries with strong catholic communities (e.g. Philippines, US/Canada, Europe).

One of the main themes of Francis' papacy is compassionate openness. The synod and it's efforts to reach out to people throughout the world via social media seem to mirror this principal theme.