The Tweeting Pope has a lesson for your business

The Pope on TwitterHis Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is more engaging than Justin Bieber. Even though The Pope has only 1.25m followers on Twitter, compared with Mr Bieber’s almost 32m, His Holiness appears to say things which people are more interested in. Justin Bieber’s most re-tweeted missive was repeated by only 0.7% of his followers, says the New York Daily News, whereas The Pope is re-tweeted by around 5% of his followers. So why the difference?

Part of the explanation is about what these two do outside of Twitter. If you are a Roman Catholic, then The Pope is a prominent feature in your life. You also get to hear about The Pope on a regular basis when at church. For the Justin Bieber fans the pop star is less prominent. You may play his music regularly, but other than his regular Tweets he is not “in your face” so much in the “real world”. To the Justin Bieber fan he is much more virtual than the Pope is to Roman Catholics. In other words, The Pope has a much greater “real world” presence and influence than Justin Bieber might have.

It is a lesson to all of us. Whatever we do online it connects to what we do in the “real world”. If we don’t have enough of a real world presence our online activities appear to have less impact. Besides The Pope and Justin Bieber there are other examples too which demonstrate the real world impact. For instance, the recent Google Zeitgeist showed that in 2012 the most popular searches in almost every category were for things we were engaged with in the “real world”. It suggests that if your business has little or no real world presence or impact your online influence is less than it might be. Goodness, even Amazon has a “real world” presence with loads of PR and its boxes and logo appearing on almost every delivery van in Britain and piled up in receptions of offices throughout the country. You can hardly move for this ubiquitous logo in the real world – and they are a completely online company.

There are though completely online businesses, such as LinkedIn, which do very well online but with only 200m users are not in the same league as Facebook, which is “in your face” every day with media coverage in the “real world” you cannot miss. Whilst LinkedIn is without doubt a huge success, millions of people in the UK have never heard of it; they’ve all heard of The Pope.

The Pope on Twitter is a reminder that if you want your online business to achieve its maximum, then you need a significant real world presence. Online success and being present in the “real world” go hand in glove. Oh – and so does creating a deeply committed following. Religions generally get more engagement on Twitter than pop stars – that’s down to the commitment people have. With religious beliefs people tend to be much more committed than they are to a pop star who may be a passing phase. So not only does your business need to be real world to achieve online success, it also needs to be seen as fundamental and vital to your customers.

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