Over the last couple of months, Twitter has rolled out their new polls functionality for users. It’s a great way to engage your audience with quick polls that last 24 hours. In a blog post announcing the launch in October, Twitter said this about polls:

If you want the public’s opinion on anything — what to name your dog, who will win tonight’s game, which election issue people care most about — there’s no better place to get answers than on Twitter. For poll creators, it’s a new way to engage with Twitter’s massive audience and understand exactly what people think. For those participating, it’s a very easy way to make your voice heard.

We’re run a few polls at John Carroll, and they’ve done well in terms of engagement and interest. Todd Sherman at Twitter said this about polls:

From what I’ve seen, polls spur more conversations around the topic than asking the same question without a poll because people reflect on what others think.

Now that we’ve done a few, I have some quick thoughts on them.

There’s a character limit on poll items. I ran into that today with a poll we created. Luckily, my awesome team came up with a great idea – use emojis. I created this poll on Twitter’s browser version, and I was slightly nervous about entering an emoji in the browser and it working correctly in mobile, but it worked just fine. Here’s our poll:

Poll items with emoji

Creating polls is easy from Twitter’s web interface and from the latest versions of their mobile app. I use their desktop Mac OS official app while I’m at work, and I’m surprised you can’t both make them or vote on any polls from their official app. Maybe development has stopped on those apps.  Can other third-party apps vote and create polls? If you use Twitter’s Mac app, you get this, which seems like we just did something wrong:

Twitter poll on desktop app

If you’re logged into the account that created the poll, you can see a running tally of votes which is nice.

I’m not sure if this is a better measurement tool than the “RT and Favorite” type polls people have been doing for several years. Voting in polls may be more scientific, but I don’t know if it gets the same reach as the RT/Fav methodology. One area where polls may work better is that you can have up to 4 choices in a poll, not just two in the RT/fav model. In this model, voting is not made public, as a RT/fav is to all your followers.

Finally, this post from Buffer has an in-depth guide on how to create a poll on both desktop and mobile versions of Twitter.

Quick follow-up: So had a few questions about what “cura pedem” means. Both of the items in our poll are very Jesuit ideas. Saint Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, coined the saying “Go forth, and set the world on fire.” You’ll see many Jesuit schools say this to graduates as they leave their campuses.

Well, there’s a latin term, “Cura personalis,” which is a big part of the idealogoy of the Jesuits and their views when it comes to higher education. It means “care for the whole person.” We often make puns around some of these things, so we came up with “Cura pedem,” which means “Care for the feet.”

So, yeah.

John Carroll University, where I work, is a Catholic university. More specifically, we are one of 28 colleges and universities in the US that are Jesuit Catholic institutions, counting ourselves among institutions like Georgetown, Fordham, Boston College, Seattle University, Xavier, Gonzaga and others. The Society of Jesus is a religious order inside the Catholic Church and was formed in 1540. One of their main focuses since their creation was education, and they’ve founded high schools and colleges around the world.

James Martin, S.J. has a great book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, if you’re interested in learning more.

Anyways, let’s back up a few weeks. On February 28, Pope Benedict announced that he was resigning, catching all the world by surprise, including us. As a Catholic university in Cleveland, we were inundated with media requests for faculty members and our President, a Jesuit priest, to comment on the resignation and what would happen next.

On March 12, the Cardinals met in Rome for the Papal Conclave, their secret meeting and voting for the next Pontiff. On March 13, the world was greeting with white smoke, signaling that a new Pope had been chosen.

As the marketing group at a Catholic university, we were aware of the conclave, of course, and ready when the new Pope was announced. We figured that there would be media calls, and we’d write-up a news release, some homepage graphics and celebrate the new Pope on our social media channels.

That all changed when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was announced as the new Pope.

I was watching the announcement from a classroom at Cleveland State University, where I was teaching a two-day web class. The name was read out of the new Pope, and then one of the announcers said “Oh! A Jesuit!”

There has never been a Jesuit Pope before Francis. Not in 2,000 years of Popes and in 450 years of the Society of Jesus. I remember my reaction to hearing the new Pope was a Jesuit: “Whoa!”

Our marketing crew sprang into action. One of the first things we posted was a message on our Facebook page. It quickly became our most shared, liked and viewed content in the history of the John Carroll Facebook page. Here’s the post:

pope1

It was interesting to see the bump on Facebook’s insights the next week. That’s a pretty big jump in reach. If we use BlueFuego’s Facebook engagement equation, we get a total engagement of 10.7%, which is good, but this formula doesn’t take into account the number of shares (100) of any given point, which is becoming an important engagement metric. The shares of this post are what I believe  helped us reach over 20,000 people, 18,000 of which were viral, according to Facebook itself.

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 11.16.49 PMScreen Shot 2013-04-01 at 1.41.02 AM

That evening, we put up a homepage rotating graphic celebrating the new Pope. The media descended upon campus, as not only were we one of the few Catholic universities in Cleveland, but we’re the only Jesuit university in town. We built a page collecting all the media mentions, interviews and more, which you can see here.

It’s been a great and interesting few weeks on our campus. People are energized. I hope that the newfound press and awareness of what the Jesuits are will give JCU more visibility in the weeks, months and years to come.