When Nuns Tweet – Lessons in Heavenly Social Media Marketing

Close your eyes.  Go ahead, close them just for a few moments.  Okay, now picture Catholic nuns?

Okay, open your eyes.

Was the vision of nuns your mind conjured up similar to this photo:

You’re not alone.  It’s the vision most people have of nuns.  But a new image of nunnery is emerging in step with the social media revolution taking place throughout the world:

It’s no shock that people who have dedicated their lives to serving God are online (even the Vatican has a social media presence).  What is fascinating, however,  is how profoundly and thoroughly the stereotypes we have of each other are broken by social media when people like the nuns in the photo above or the five nuns I’ve listed below decide to join social media giving us an intimate look into a world we quickly realize we know absolutely nothing about.

The nuns (and priests) I’ve listed below are a perfect example of social media holding up a mirror to stereotypes we all have and showing us a wonderful, nuanced and complicated picture of reality that we otherwise would never see.   Sister Helena Burns (who sites as proof of God’s existence “hummingbirds”, “hockey” and “Popeye’s red beans and rice”) loves web video and perpetually uploads video she’s shot to her YouTube and Twitter accounts and reviews Hollywood films on her blog.  Her last video (scandalously called “Nuns Sing Religious Drinking Song”) was hysterical.

Or Father Fahnestock who lists as his accomplishments in his bio:  Old Catholic Priest on mission, musician, pastor, social networker, marketing consultant.  In between pious tweets he gives us status updates like this one:

“I just became the mayor of PET Supermarket on @foursquare! http://4sq.com/cU4kMX

Priest, marketer and FourSquare mayor of PET Supermarket – nice.

Why is this a lesson in marketing?  Because these men and women of the cloth (and others like them) are sharing themselves with the world in ways they historically never have before and they appear to be enjoying it.   They are, essentially, telling us a story and it’s intriguing.  While I personally am not interested in converting to their faith, I like the messenger enough to listen to their stories through their tweets and recommend that you follow them to experience the nunnery and priesthood through their social media profiles.

When was the last time a big brand on Twitter engaged you with a story, or revealed something about their corporate culture that upended stereotypes swirling around about them or their industry?  If nuns can reveal themselves to us, why can’t corporations?

Name: Sr. Helena Burns
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Website: http://www.hellburns.blogspot.com
Bio: Media Nun. Philosophy, Media Literacy, Theology of Body. Proof of God’s existence: hummingbirds, hockey, Popeye’s red beans and rice.

Name: Margaret Kerry fsp
Location: Boston
Website: http://paulinelaity.blogspot.com
Bio: Pauline living in community of Catholic women serving people through new media.

Name: Fr. Chris Decker
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Website: http://www.catholicunderground.com
Bio: a priest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and a disciple of the New Evangelization.

Name: Fr. Wade Fahnestock
Location: Hyatt Place-Lakeland Center
Website: http://BlueKirk.org
Bio: Old Catholic Priest on mission, musician, pastor, social networker, marketing consultant

Follow them and learn.  They have a lot life to share…

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  1. Reply Eileen O'Neill March 17, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Great article Charlie! Social media is empowering. I’m trying to encourage my fellow ESOL teachers to join the fun, there is so much to share and so many people to meet and get to know.


    • Reply Charlie March 18, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      Thank you! I really love when people embrace social media (particularly when it forces them out of their usual comfort zones – and I think we can all say social media has forced us out of old comfort zones and into a new way thinking and communicating).

      I appreciate your feedback! : )


  2. Reply Hna Maria Gabriela March 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Go! a very interesting note. Each day it grows more use of social networks in the Catholic Church, despite some reservations about the privacy of them. I congratulate those who are not afraid to be creative when it comes to evangelism by all means. And my love to the sisters Margeret and Helen!!

    • Reply Charlie March 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      Thank you so much! I really enjoyed writing this piece and researching how different people and the Catholic church are embracing social media. Very inspiring!


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