Social media is fun, free and informative. It's also here to stay. It has the potential to connect the world, and any individual or organization trying to communicate a message to a large audience should take a serious look. With a message as important as the restored gospel, it's no wonder why the Church is taking gospel discussions online and encouraging members to do likewise.
At the April 2011 general conference President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, said, "With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before."
According to marketing organization Kissmetrics.com, at the beginning of 2011, the total number of active Facebook users exceeded 500 million. On March 12, 2011, more than 570,000 accounts were created on Twitter in one day. And Wired magazine reports that YouTube has more than 2 billion — yes that's billion — visits every day.
The Church manages several Facebook pages, YouTube channels and Twitter accounts that reach audiences inside and outside of the Church. Members of the Church have created thousands more. Working together, the Church and its members have built a substantial social media presence. As of May 23, 2011, under the category of Church/Religious Organizations, the top 90 Facebook pages (source AllFacebook.com) include the following:
No. 10 — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (464,000-plus fans)
No. 22 — Mormon.org (244,000-plus fans)
No. 30 — Mormon Messages (150,000-plus fans)
No. 42 — Mormon Channel (111,000-plus fans)
No. 83 — LDS Newsroom (46,000-plus fans)
The Church also administers the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (156,000-plus fans) and the Ensign magazine's (131,000-plus fans) Facebook pages. Other Facebook pages listed under the Church/Religious category were the Catholic Church ranked No. 20, the Seventh Day Adventist ranked No. 37 and the United Methodist Church ranked No. 46. In contrast, the No. 1 ranked Facebook site from all categories is a gambling site.
On YouTube, the Church has done an excellent job of creating interest with its series of award-winning "Mormon Messages." As of May 25, 2011, the Church's Mormon Messages YouTube channel was ranked No. 2 in video views at 21,086,823 under the "Nonprofits & Activism" category. Additional YouTube channels the Church manages:
Mormon.org (6,000,000-plus views)
LDS Public Affairs (1,505,856-plus views)
Mormon Messages for Youth (1,500,000-plus views)
FamilySearch (54,000-plus views)
On social media site Twitter, fans or "followers" receive communications called Tweets containing tidbits of breaking news. During the past general conference, more than 55,000 tweets mentioning conference — or member-related topics — went out to followers. Twitter also tracked how often words or terms are used to determine growing trends among followers. During the same conference period, a term dealing with LDS conference reached No. 4 in popularity worldwide. The names "President Monson" and "Elder Holland" reached as high as No. 2 on Twitter's trending terms.
Social media provides unique ways to teach the gospel. LDS missionaries are currently meeting, teaching and baptizing investigators they have met online. The LDS.org newsroom reports that the Church encourages the use of social media so long as it supports the mission of the Church, improves relationships and facilitates revelation among children of our Heavenly Father. It is helping fulfill the vision Joseph Smith outlined in the Wentworth Letter: "The Standard of Truth has been erected. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame. But the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, until the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah will say, 'The work is done.'"
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