Following a strict social media blackout at the Vatican, news of the election of Pope Francis spread like wildfire across digital channels. Moments after the announcement, Twitter boomed with hashtags relating to the pope, including "#whitesmoke," "#HabemusPapam and "#Papa." Trending topics like "Bergoglio" and "Argentina" received thousands of mentions.
The Vatican also reactivated the Pope's @Pontifex Twitter account.
Now that the pope has been selected by the Conclave, what does this mean for the future of papal social media presence? Some social media agencies wonder if his conservative nature will hinder his participation on social media - but others claim his beliefs in social justice may prompt more social activity.
To answer this question, we have to look at Pope Francis himself. He's a quiet, humble man who doesn't even own a car. CBS reported that he previously used public transportation at his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While he's traditional, he's a bit of a social justice reformer. This could signify his willingness to be more involved with the social matters of the world - potentially including involvement and reach-out in social media.
The signs are looking pretty good. His native Latin America has the fastest growing number of Catholics in the world. It's also the most socially engaged region in the world, according to a ComScore study last year. The study revealed that Latin America's social networking audience is about 127 million. That's a 12 percent increase from 2011, meaning the majority of Latin Americans use social media - numbers are continuing to increase. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or the Brazilian-based network, Orkut, Latin Americans spend at least eight hours a day on social media.
Could this mean that there's a decent chance for this traditional pope to explore social media options? It seems likely. There is already an unofficial Twitter account for @JMBergoglio, a supposed handle for Pope Francis' birth name, Jorge Bergoglio. Though this account seems like it's just paying homage, the swift reactivation of the official pope Twitter account, @Pontifex, shows the Vatican's support of social media. Hopefully, due to his humble nature, his devotion to the people, and the prevalence of social media in his homeland, Pope Francis will choose to use digital media to engage and enlighten.