When the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had joined Twitter last week, it seemed like a simple case of an age-old institution trying to keep up with the social media-driven times. According to a report from the Washington Post, however, Twitter was the driving force in the deal, and has made several similar moves in an attempt to lure high-profile figures to the service.
For the pope, a Twitter employee will reportedly be by his side as he makes the first tweet, which will be pre-drafted in eight different languages, and may actually do the typing. A spokesman for the Vatican told the Post that he believed Twitter had made the initial approach, and Adam Sharp of Twitter said:
"We've always talked about Twitter as a place to get closer to your interests. With the pope and other faith-based efforts, we've found strong engagement from followers who retweet, favorite and reply to influential users."
Twitter is said to have a group of around 20 employees that travel the world aiming to convince celebrities, politicians, and others of the benefits of joining the service, while offering "free marketing, extra security against impostors, and training to avoid gaffes." While the company offers account verification for many popular users, the "white glove" effort extended to clients like the pope goes far beyond that.
Twitter was quick to boast about high-profile members in yesterday's round-up of 2012, and it seems clear that the company views these users as important to driving mainstream adoption and engagement with the service. And when nearly 45,000 people retweet Justin Bieber saying "Goodnight world," it's easy to see why.