Ryerson students help revamp Vatican’s social media — again

Vatican representatives are returning to Ryerson following a successful collaboration with students last year to revamp the city-state’s social-media practices.

Melissa Siu-Chong, one of the students who presented social-media changes to Vatican visitors in June, said they were receptive to ideas and seemed active and eager to improve their social-media techniques.

Melissa Siu-Chong presented to Vatican representatives in June. (Courtesy of Kevin Tablizo)

Melissa Siu-Chong presented to Vatican representatives in June. (Courtesy of Kevin Tablizo)

The hospitality-and-tourism student said the main problem was the Vatican’s social-media strategy was the use of multiple Twitter accounts representing each part of the church.

“Why do that when you could still use Pope Francis, and just use a hashtag instead so you can keep the same amount of followers,” Siu-Chong said.

She added the Vatican was open to appeal to a broader, ultimately younger audience.

Oriana Bertucci, the director of Ryerson’s Catholic Chaplaincy Centre, worked closely with Siu-Chong and the Vatican to ensure the initiative was progressing without issue.

“I think in this day and age we are so connected to social media that (the Vatican has) really realized that they need to be proactive in their social-media program and agenda,” she said.

To improve Vatican tweets, Bertucci and Siu-Chong suggested using more pictures and infographics, and saw direct positive impact.

“(The Vatican realized that social media) is a huge vehicle to connect with the average person; someone who may be in the pew or someone who may be disconnected from the church and somebody who may be very involved but needs a presence in the social-media world,” Bertucci said.

The partnership started over coffee last year between Ryerson president Sheldon Levy and Canadian Cardinal Thomas Collins. Collins sits on the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and he wanted a youth-oriented perspective on the Vatican’s social-media strategies.

Levy then sent Prof. Randy Boyagoda, the learning director of Ryerson’s Zone Learning facility, to a social-media conference at the Vatican to talk about the university’s focus on new media. Boyagoda connected with the council’s general secretary Msgr. Paul Tighe, and the two struck up a partnership.

The Vatican’s communications team is expected to meet again with students this fall.

By Andrew Kalinchuk and Nicole Gabourie

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