Pope in Ireland > 7 trending hashtags, a Papal selfie and, mixed emotions
In September 1979, we had a Pope in Ireland. Pope John Paul II arrived in Ireland to a 1.5million-strong catholic welcome. Fast-forward 39 years and a third of the audience showed up in person, but there was a whole other audience not taking up space in the Phoenix Park, Croke Park or Knock Shrine. This audience is the digital kind and they had lots to say!
As with many trending topics, I decided to take a deeper look at the social media conversations by analysing the big data around key topics and keywords.
But first, here’s a side-note about my memory (or lack of as a 20-month old baby) about the last papal visit to Ireland.
My 1979 papal memory: When Pope John Paul was in Knock blessing the masses, I was scalded with black tea leaving me with scars for life
Twitter was the dominant social network
Pope emoji with trending hashtags
News and media leveraged live video to amplify their primary news platforms
12- year old Alison Nevin is the public’s favourite with her Papal selfie
Mixed emotions and reactions to comments on child sexual abuse
#Stand4Truth and #TuamBabies hold strong share of voice over 48 hours
Taoiseach’s speech among most engaging content
Missed opportunity on Instagram
Big brands news-jack trending topic
Pope’s own social networks not used to any great extent
Sentiment pendulum swings slightly more negative than positive
Public engaged with news on social media
User-generated content gives a real sense of atmosphere from Papal events
Twitter dominant social network
Twitter was by far the most dominant social network commanding a consistent lead over any other platform throughout the two days. The pace and speed of tweets illustrated in the graphic below from Ritetag. In any given hour there were over 260 tweets and over 500 retweets.
A more comprehensive look at the impact and reach of Twitter over the 36 hours of the Papal visit is illustrated below.
There were seven simultaneous trending hashtags on Day 1 on Twitter tapping into the public interest in the papal visit.
#PopeinIreland #PopeFrancis #PapalVisit #voicesofimpat18 #PápaInÉirinn #CatholicChurch and #Catholics commanded the trends column.
The hashtag #PopeFrancis overtook #PopeInIreland towards the end of day 1.
Twitter fans were rewarded when they tweeted about the Pope in Ireland. When you tweeted with any of the trending Pope hashtags, the bespoke Twitter emoji will appear at the end of the #PopeInIreland #PápaInÉirinn #WMOF2018 #FestivalOfFamilies hashtags.
Twitter will often create a unique emoji for major public events where there is massive public interest. Speaking to the media Karen White, Twitters’ Director of Public Policy for Europe, said:
“The visit of Pope Francis is one of the biggest events happening in Ireland this year and naturally many people will be using Twitter to discuss his time here.
“We want to encourage everyone across the world to join the conversation on Twitter about his visit to Ireland so we’ve created this special emoji for people to use.”
12-year-old Alison Nevin stepped forward to meet Pope Francis and we could see her mouth uttering, “can I have a photo?” Almost immediately the crowds roared in applause and she took a Papal selfie, with Pope Francis happy to be part of the moment. He even motioned to the reaction of the crowd. This moment was one of the most memorable from the Pope in Ireland.
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2018
RTÉ News’ Twitter account had the highest engagement on the social network relating to the Papal selfie. Their Tweet at 7.44pm on Saturday 25th August, shortly after the selfie was taken gained over 1,500 comments, 269 retweets and over 1,300 Likes.
Later that evening at the World Meeting of Families concert in Croke Park Pope Francis spoke about social media. While he warned of the “isolating dangers” he also said:
“Social media can be beneficial if used with moderation and caution and it helps connects families.” 🤳 Pope Francis
Pope addresses child abuse
Many commentators and members of the public awaited Pope Francis’ address and in particular how he would deal with the topic of child sexual abuse.
The Taoiseach’s speech was very well received on social media when he called on the Pontiff to:“Use your office and influence” to bring about “justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors” of clerical abuse.
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2018
I wasn’t sure he’d do it, but Leo Varadkar has actually told the Pope how we value diversity, LGBT parenting & a woman’s right to choose. This is not what I expected. Well done Leo. #PopeInIreland
— Fiona Kenny (@FionaKenny1) August 25, 2018
People used social media to share their personal views also.
Here are @Pontifex comments on abuse from his speech at #Knock His acknowledgment, again, of the pain and hurt caused by abuse is repeated. He speaks of the challegne to be ”firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice”. #Stand4Truth pic.twitter.com/1n5wmjqclN
— Colm O’Gorman (@Colmogorman) August 26, 2018
Sentiment, #Stand4Truth and #TuamBabies
Sentiment measures positive, negative or neutral language used in online conversations. In the graph below, a slightly more negative sentiment is reported up to the morning of Sunday 26th August. The sentiment graph swayed throughout the Pope’s visit on both days.
It fluctuated throughout the two days but at 4 pm on Sunday the positive and negative sentiment had balanced out.
A number of events organised by the #Stand4Truth captured the public conversation and the hashtag had a strong share of social voice with 4,816 mentions online in 48 hours.
— Marcela Whelan Kelly (@celaV) August 26, 2018
Catherine Corless, in her work on the Tuam babies’ scandal, has done more than any cleric in this country in any sphere.
— Michael O’Regan (@MOReganIT) August 26, 2018
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 26, 2018
Almost twice as many men than women were engaged in the #PopeinIreland hashtag with the age profile capturing the interest of 80% of those aged 18-34 which might come as a surprise, or just reflective of those using the social network.
Apart from the trending hashtags, there are a number of significant talking points around the Pope’s visit to Ireland which I could also capture including #Stand4Truth.
— Darragh Doyle (@darraghdoyle) August 25, 2018
I’ll be doing a short spake at #Stand4Truth at the Gardens of Remembrance today, in solidarity with all the children and women who were brutalized by the catholics. There will be music and performance by the likes of Hozier. 3pm, the rain will have stopped by then, please come 😊
— Marian Keyes (@MarianKeyes) August 26, 2018
Public access news on social media
The public was following the papal visit across social media. News outlets will see the value of social to their web traffic when they study their Google Analytics. Referral traffic from social will tell the full story for each media outlet, however, below we see which media titles got greatest public engagement on their content.
It’s clear that Facebook gets more engagement for news outlets.
The Taoiseach’s speech had a significant response online across news sites and social media featuring second and third.
Here are the top news stories, based on social media engagement for Saturday 25th August 2018.
Twitter for live news reportage
The media did a great job of using Twitter for live updates. Sky News created a Twitter moment which allowed us to follow hour-by-hour updates which they also pinned to their profile.
RTÉ’s Tweets performed particularly well as already mentioned and as evidenced by the one below.
They also broadcast live on Twitter for the procession through Dublin City Centre.
Pope tours the streets of Dublin https://t.co/vYwfdNNaH6
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 25, 2018
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) August 25, 2018
Irish PM Leo Varadkar asks Pope Francis to “use his office and influence” to bring “justice, truth and healing” to clerical abuse victims
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 25, 2018
— Hugh O’Connell (@oconnellhugh) August 25, 2018
The English-language Vatican News Twitter account used the channel to share press articles.
#PopeFrancis at #DublinCastle urges authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps to work towards a global family of nations in which the weak are protected. #PopeInIreland. https://t.co/lJQtRyk64r
— Vatican News (@VaticanNews) August 25, 2018
The Italian Vatican News Twitter account meanwhile showed more behind the scenes content, not shared on the English-language Twitter account.
Vi raccontiamo le prime ore di #PapaFrancesco in #Irlanda, in occasione del IX Incontro mondiale delle #famiglie: l’atterraggio a Dublino, la visita al presidente della Repubblica, l’appuntamento con le autorità. @A_De_Carolis @WMOF2018 @LaityFamilyLife #popeinireland pic.twitter.com/osdhlPjERN
— Vatican News (@vaticannews_it) August 25, 2018
Big brands news-jack
A key advantage of social media is being able to news-jack or hijack a trending topic. This often used tactic was in play by many brands in the lead up to the Papal visit. Bookmaker Paddy Power commissioned a survey on confession and also erected a life-size confessional box “to help the people of Ireland repent decades of sins in seconds ahead of the Pope’s visit this weekend.”
The survey found that over 25% of Irish people has not attended confession in over ten years or more. Almost 80% said they do not go to confession regularly (being once a month) and a further 29% disclosed that it was so long ago, they can’t remember when they last confessed.
Not missing a promotional opportunity either, Tourism Ireland highlighted Ireland’s Christian heritage in a video.
Instagram could have told the visual story
The official Instagram account of Pope Francis was not actively used during his visit to Ireland. In fact, there was only one photograph shared as the Pontiff climbed the steps of the Papal jet in the Vatican before flying to Ireland.
I jumped over the World Meeting of Families Insta account to get a sense of their visual storytelling but is was similarly lacking. The social media footprint of this high profile event was not maximised in any sense on the world’s fastest growing social network and popular amongst young people. There was however, lots of user-generated content (UGC) with festival goers using the hashtag #WMOF2018 with great enthusiasm. Neither Instagram accounts used the Stories feature either. I think overall it’s probably a big missed opportunity.
User-generated content provides unique insights
There were many voices and many views from many perspectives on social media. The papal visit was overshadowed by the Pennsylvanian Diocesan Victim’s Report on child sexual abuse last week, but also the many victims of abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church here in Ireland.
— WMOF2018 (@WMOF2018) August 25, 2018
Pope Francis signs the visitor book in Dublin Castle. While the Pope is visiting a very different Ireland to his predecessor in 1979, 78% of people here still identify as Catholic and faith remains an important part of many people’s lives. #popeinireland pic.twitter.com/EWMUcLwWn4
— Colm O’Gorman (@Colmogorman) August 24, 2018
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) August 25, 2018
“Well that’s the lunch sorted.” Packed lunches for hundreds of Gardaí being prepared at Store Street Garda Station ahead of the Papal Visit. #PopeInIreland #PápaInÉirinn#festivaloffamilies pic.twitter.com/JsOX5q8j9r
— An Garda Síochána (@GardaTraffic) August 25, 2018
Crowds at Heuston for #PopeInThePark watching arrival of @Pontifex at @Irelandwest on the TV screens for #PopeInKnock Atmosphere building as thousands arrive here and there! #popeInIreland @TFIupdates pic.twitter.com/KILPiK6xwP
— Iarnród Éireann (@IrishRail) August 26, 2018
— Juliette Gash (@JulietteGash) August 26, 2018
— Micheal Mac Suibhne (@MicMacSuibh) August 26, 2018
— OceanFM (@OceanFmIreland) August 26, 2018
— Louise Cullen (@LouiseMCullen) August 26, 2018
Weekend of mixed emotions -for many; excitement, for others; feelings of hurt. Whatever your perspective, let’s hope for a weekend where reconciliation & healing can commence, journey for justice is furthered & a country which respects religious freedom & choice #PopeinIreland
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) August 25, 2018
— Niamh Mc Donnell (@niamhymcdonnell) August 25, 2018
Pictured at our National Emergency Operations Centre, some of our team who are coordinating ambulance and medical resources for today’s #PapalVisit with the Voluntary Emergency Services #NEOC pic.twitter.com/au3AFoxDDJ
— National Ambulance (@AmbulanceNAS) August 25, 2018
So moved to see Pope Francis meet Capuchin Brother Kevin – a living saint who’s devoted his life to helping Dublin’s poorest. A greater man one could not meet and whose door is open to all – in a country where state policy sustains homelessness. #popeInIreland #PopeFrancis pic.twitter.com/WoBLYRKyS2
— Diarmaid Fleming (@diarmaidfleming) August 25, 2018
Brother Kevin is a living saint. What a beautiful person . No questions just helping the homeless.
— David Hall (@davidhall75) August 25, 2018
— Alan Loughnane (@AlanLoughnane1) August 26, 2018
— Dublin Fire Brigade (@DubFireBrigade) August 26, 2018
— Philip Nolan (@philipnolan1) August 26, 2018
Bet my amazing 83 year old mum 👵🏻 here with her bespoke Pope Mobility frame. Thks to my pal @edelphysio she’ll be ready for the long walk to #PhoenixPark today. Although deeply hurt and saddened by the failings of the church her faith is strong 😢❤️#PopeInIreland pic.twitter.com/AUtTFBSl90
— lilycogan (@lilycogan) August 26, 2018
2,500 members @gardainfo @GardaTraffic on duty around Dublin City & outskirts today. 700 gardaí inside Phoenix Park and 900 gardaí on the cordons in the vicinity of #PhoenixPark for #PopeInIreland #PopeFrancis Plwase follow dorections and advice of Gardaí & Stewards. pic.twitter.com/lV2U6fSSle
— Emergency Times (@emergencytimes) August 26, 2018
— James Aherne (@jaherne94) August 26, 2018
— Carole (Ducky) (@IrPsych) August 26, 2018
. @defenceforces carrying out #AidToPower and #AidToCivilAuthority taskings in the #PhoenixPark in preparation for the #PapalMass. Proud of the professionalism of all the women & men of #ÓglaighnahÉireann #StrengthenTheNation pic.twitter.com/ASi0LRcXXL
— DF Chief of Staff (@DF_COS) August 25, 2018
Coordinating Officers from the @irishredcross @OrderofMaltaIRL and @stjohnie at the control centre today, St Mary’s Hospital Phoenix Park. #PopeinIreland #PhoenixPark #papalvisit #PopeFrancis pic.twitter.com/X0rLlKQi7r
— Irish Red Cross (@irishredcross) August 26, 2018
— polly ‘Stand4Truth’ molotov RGN BSC RM HDip 💖 (@NursepollyRgn) August 26, 2018
Remembering the 796 babies at the silent vigil in Tuam today pic.twitter.com/pv2teUrg1y
— John Crowley (@GalwayJam) August 26, 2018
JSB’s Final Thoughts
It’s been an interesting weekend following the Pope’s visit through the lens of social media. Thanks to the media I was able to follow it from every possible angle. We are a very different country now than we were in 1979. People of my generation grew up listening to stories of Pope John Paul’s historic visit whether to Dublin, Drogheda or Knock. There’s no doubt there have been other public interest events that have generated more social media engagement and in my opinion without the activity of the media, the scale of the social conversations would have been significantly less.
I used a number of tools analyse the available data across the Internet: