The Pope, Twitter, and the Man from Madrid

Gustavo Entrala is one in-demand dude. And why not? He’s the guy that put the pope on Twitter. Quite literally.

That’s right, the pope’s on Twitter, and by all measures doing quite well with it.

popeBut it’s Entrala, not the pope, who is the brains behind the account. And he told his story to those attending the conference I was at in way that held us all captivated. The next day, I had the pleasure of sitting beside him as we took a bus to the small town of Araxa.

My first question to him was, “how carefully do you measure the impact of Twitter on the papacy?” His response–“Not very.” We track relatively simple metrics, he said; mostly, we pay attention to what messages are resonating with what groups of people.

Come again?

The pope’s Twitter account recently topped 10 million followers. You read that right, 10 million. Entrala and company must have data coming out of their ears. But for all of that, they choose to focus on the relatively simple metric of how do tweets play with people, measured mainly through how often, and by whom, something gets retweeted?

There are two key take-aways here.

1. It’s not the size of your following (or the number of friends) one’s social media channels have. Instead, it’s what those who follow or befriend you are telling you about your thoughts when the react–or don’t–to what you’re transmitting. To benefit from this, you don’t require 10 million followers. You can learn the same lessons with 10, or 50, or 100 followers. Run your ideas up the flag pole, see who salutes, and react accordingly.

2. If Entrala, the brains behind the pope’s massive Twitter account, is looking mostly at what people are revealing about themselves when they retweet the pope’s messages, it re-inforces a notion we at SLC talk a lot about. The value of social media lay not in how it helps you grow. As a growth tool, it’s unreliable at best. But as a tool that provides insight into what people really want, it’s unparalleled.

Of course, I am simplifying here. Both Entrala and his work with the pope’s Twitter account are far more complicated than I’ve conveyed. He’s no hack who happened to stumble on a big customer. (Learn more about Entrala here, here, here, and [if your Spanish is good] here.) But the core of his message as conveyed here is correct.

As you think about your groups’ social media channels, think long and hard about what you’re learning. If you’re not, you’re missing out on the most powerful component social media offers you.

Just ask the pope.