Pope becomes record-breaker on Instagram
With a simple tap, Pope Francis joined Instagram and quickly set a record for gaining 1 million followers.
The launch of the ‘Franciscus’ account on 19th March, the feast of St Joseph and the third anniversary of the formal inauguration of his papacy, was preceded by huge media coverage. The Holy Father hit the million-follower mark in just 12 hours, making his “our fastest growing account on Instagram to date,” according to Stephanie Noon, an spokeswoman for Instagram. He broke the record previously held, for almost a year, by David Beckham, who took twice as long to gather 1 million followers.
Joining Instagram, Pope Francis jumped into a community that tends to be younger and more complimentary than people on Twitter, although with similarly impressive ‘engagement rates’.
‘Twiplomacy’, an annual study conducted by the communications firm Burson Marsteller, found Pope Francis — through his @Pontifex accounts in nine languages — to be the most influential world leader on Twitter three years running. US President Barack Obama has more followers, but Pope Francis’ average ‘retweet’ and ‘favourite’ rate is more than eight times higher than Obama’s.
Pope Francis’ Instagram account is showing a similar pattern. The 17 photographs and two video clips posted by early morning on 31st March had an overall average of 212,200 ‘likes’ and 6,299 comments each.
The photos on the Franciscus account are taken by photographers at L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. They are posted by staff at the Secretariat for Communications.
Mgr Dario Vigano, prefect of the secretariat, told Vatican Radio, “The idea is to recount the story of a pontificate through images to let everyone who wants to accompany or wants to know the papacy of Pope Francis enter into his gestures of tenderness and mercy.”
While the @Pontifex twitter account is ‘institutional’ — it was launched by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 — the Vatican’s choice of the more personal ‘Franciscus’ as the account name was dictated by reality of the platform, Mgr Vigano said.
The photo-sharing site uses images as an “iconic sign,” he said, and so “immediately evokes the face, the smile and the posture of the pope. Every pope has his own facial expressions and his personal way of looking at people, caressing them and blessing them.”