Church Social Media Takes Shape
Contributed By By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer
The Church is finding social media to be a key tool in its mission to help all to come unto Christ. Members and missionaries alike are finding innovative ways to do missionary work online, and many are using social media to help them carry out their callings and inspire their families. The Church has an official presence on Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and Twitter and recently announced accounts for social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest.
“Each of these social networks fills a slightly different niche, and while all of them allow users and organizations to share images, Instagram is unique in the way that it lets people connect with photographs,” said Jared Covington, social media adviser for the Church. “Powerful things can be communicated with nothing more than a simple image, and Instagram excels in that space.”
Instagram is an online photo-sharing website that allows users to film short videos or take photos and share them on a variety of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
Pinterest, on the other hand, is like a digital bulletin board that visually represents a collection of ideas. While gathering visual bookmarks (pins) from all around the web, people can share their collections with one another. People use these pins to plan trips, gather art, work on projects, organize events, collect recipes, or save important articles.
The Church launched its first official Instagram account in the summer of 2013 when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began sharing photos from recent performances as well as historic images at instagram.com/mormontabchoir. Mormon Newsroom followed soon after with instagram.com/mormonnewsroom, as did the Mormon Channel at instagram.com/mormonchannel. Mormon.org recently launched an official Instagram account as well at instagram.com/mormonorg.
“A great example of how the Church has used Instagram in the past was last February,” said Brother Covington. “The Mormon Newsroom Instagram account posted a photo at instagram.com/p/kfAD3qGfoQ/ of Noelle Pikus-Pace attending Church meetings in Russia a few days after receiving her Olympic medal during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. It was a simple image, but it resonated with members from various countries who shared, favorited, and commented on the photo of a fellow Latter-day Saint who was faithfully attending her Sunday meetings.”
On Pinterest, the Church publishes inspirational content focused on helping all to follow the Savior and His teachings. The official Church account that was launched in March can be found at pinterest.com/ldschurch. There are also official Pinterest accounts from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (pinterest.com/mormontabchoir) and the Mormon Channel (pinterest.com/mormonchannel), where each of those organizations shares a variety of videos, music, and other uplifting content.
Brother Covington said, “The pins that the Church creates and shares can be found on the official Pinterest accounts. However, one of the most exciting things about Pinterest as a platform is how so many people are using it to actively share their testimonies of Christ and examples of positive living.”
There is an abundance of inspiring content that members of the Church and of other faith-based organizations are creating and sharing on their personal Pinterest accounts in addition to the many pins that the Church publishes.
According to the Church social media team, the most popular topics frequented by online visitors to the Church’s official social media accounts center on Mormon Messages and general conference. However, images that provide a unique perspective of temples, the Tabernacle, and the ministry of the Brethren are also very well received.
The Church has more than 10,000 followers on Instagram and 13 boards with more than 100 pins on Pinterest. “Our focus really is on engagement, rather than the number of followers,” said Brother Covington. “Of course we track numbers, but our real measure of success is watching how the comments and shared content from people around the world are spreading the message of the Restoration and helping all to follow Christ.”
The first video posted to the Church’s Mormon Newsroom Instagram account was a glimpse of the Christmas lighting ceremony at the Washington D.C. Temple. Other videos on the account include a time-lapse video of the Temple Square Christmas lights in Salt Lake City, a clip of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert, and an address from Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve.
“We are always evaluating our presence on every social media platform, including Instagram, and exploring new options in terms of technology and types of content,” said Brother Covington. “Ultimately, we want to provide people a safe and official way to follow the ministry of the Brethren on popular social media platforms. Following the official social media accounts is always the best way to learn about any of the new things we are working on, specifically for Instagram.”
Social media is a unique and wonderful place to share the gospel, and the Church is moving toward the ability for members to join in more and more to create their own content and further the work.
“The Church is doing quite a bit in the social media space, but the real power in social media comes when people get involved by liking pages, profiles, and videos,” said Brother Covington. “Members can comment on official content, share official content on their personal social media profiles, and, indeed, create their own content to show their beliefs, whether in the form of videos and images or in something as simple as writing a few sentences about their faith. People should not underestimate the impact that a simple message posted to their personal social media accounts can have on their friends, families, and associates.”
Speaking about the Church’s involvement in social media, Elder Anthony D. Perkins of the Seventy said, “One objective of the Church is to provide the tools, help, and guidelines for Church members to take the gospel message further into their own circles of influence. Keep your eyes open because there are many exciting things to come.”