My daughter had just walked in the church with a procession of 100 other Confirmation Candidates. She looked so young, beautiful and a bit nervous to go before the Bishop. Fighting back the tears, I settled in for the sermon, excited to hear what he had to say, and hoping it would touch me in some way.
The Bishop began his talk directed to the kids about sharing their faith with others who may need it in tough times. It was nice and fairly typical. Then, he asked the 8th graders if they had ever heard of the internet. Chuckle. And smartphones. Another chuckle. He said that even though they are uniquely challenged today with global issues like terrorism and famine, they also have a unique opportunity with their own social networks. He said they can text and tweet, Instagram and email. And they have the opportunity to reach more people and to use these tools to help others. NOW, he had their full attention. He was talking their language – a Catholic Bishop talking about Twitter and Instagram?
He spoke of the Pope having a Twitter account with millions of followers in 9 different languages under 9 different handles. A boy tweeted a question about faith to the Pope. The Pope responded and the whole world could listen in.
While I expected a sermon about God and faith, this social media talk blew me away. I sat there smiling, looking around at the pleasantly surprised kids’ faces. I’m sure if you had asked the 14 year olds if they could really relate to a Bishop, or if he could relate to them, the answer would have been, “not really”.
When one of the oldest institutions in the world “gets” social media and can engage with 14 year olds “where they live”, there is no question in my mind that social media is connecting us all and IS the new mode of communicating, whether it’s one human being to another, or an organization making those connections to people. Companies should be doing everything they can to seize the opportunity social media provides. According to Forbes, 68% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social presence whatsoever. I can’t imagine any CEO who deals with more delicate issues or who has more at stake in the public statements they make than the pontiff, so what are they waiting for?