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Buildup of Pope Benedict XVI's debut tweet on Twitter was no accident

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2012 2:55 p.m. MST

A screen grab of Pope Benedict XVI Twitter page. Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet from his new account on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, blessing his online fans.

Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press

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Few debut tweets have received the attention and scrutiny that Pope Benedict XVI's message did this week.

But the buildup was no accident, according to a story in the Washington Post.

Twitter had an employee in Rome coaching the Vatican on the fine points of social media for the week proceeding his famous tweet on 12/12/12, which said, "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart."

"The effort is part of Twitter’s powerful — not to mention low-cost — strategy to expand its influence and rack up more users by getting the world’s biggest names in sports, Hollywood, government and religion onto the Internet’s leading megaphone for self-promotion," the Post reported.

The story explained Twitter has about 20 globe-trotting employees recruiting the world's most influential to join with the Pope, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, President Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama, Neil Young and Snooki of “Jersey Shore,” whose communications can create a "butterfly effect" of interest that has fueled the San Francisco company’s explosive growth to 140 million active users.

After his initial tweet, the pontiff responded to three questions, which is supposed to be the weekly routine.

Associated Press reported that the Pope's Twitter handle @ponitifex had 1-million followers before his first tweet, which Huffington Post said was retweeted 30,000 times within minutes.

"As incongruous as it may seem for the 85-year-old Benedict to be on Twitter, Vatican officials have stressed that he is merely walking in the footsteps of his predecessors in using the latest in communications technology to spread the faith," AP reported.

"Pope Pius XI, for example, caused a similar stir when he launched Vatican Radio some 80 years ago to bring the pope's message on radio waves around the globe. The Vatican also has its own newspaper, television service and maintains dedicated YouTube channels and an Internet news portal."

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