How Brazil became a ‘pioneer’ for FamilySearch live social media events

Long before FamilySearch live social media events began in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were already successful in Brazil. 

“Brazil was actually the pioneer of it,” said Jim Greene, FamilySearch international marketing manager in Salt Lake City, Utah. “And others have benefited from it.”

In fact, FamilySearch Brazil has held live social media events since 2013, said Adriano Almeida, a FamilySearch community manager for the Brazil Area who lives in Sumaré, São Paulo. Almeida runs FamilySearch Brazil pages on several social media platforms and organizes and moderates the live social media events.

With an invitation from the Brazil Area presidency, Adriano and his team have held weekly live events during the COVID-19 outbreak. In April and May, a live event was held every Sunday evening on indexing. An event every other Wednesday focused on family history tips and resources. The schedule for June is still pending.

“The idea is to provide good content for Church members and also for the general public, using FamilySearch as a missionary tool,” Almeida said. 

The live events are typically an interactive question-and-answer format, with the audience submitting questions using the chat features. Almeida uses a tool for multi-streaming on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube — allowing streams to reach multiple audiences on the different platforms at the same time. 

The events have reached tens of thousands. “We had an increase in people accessing FamilySearch, and it has helped a lot to achieve the area goals, specifically indexing goals, but also the goals for helping people complete their first four generations,” Almeida said.

According to FamilySearch managers, Brazil’s pioneering role in live social media events can be credited to support from local Church leaders and members, a unique demographic with a rising interest in family history, and a localized marketing strategy.

Support from local Church leaders and members

The Brazil Area presidency, Almeida said, has established a structure of multi-stake family history consultants, helping Church members “to have the right vision about temple and family history work, creating and developing their trees, submitting names to the temple and blessing people and families on both sides of the veil.”

Every July, FamilySearch holds a multi-day indexing marathon in Brazil with live broadcasts from various stakes, Almeida said. Many of the participants are youth. FamilySearch held a similar mini-marathon with live broadcasts in December.

Almeida said for years Brazilian Latter-day Saints have actively participated in indexing. President Russell M. Nelson’s April general conference talk “Hear Him” reaffirmed the importance of family history work and has led many more to recently begin indexing.

“While worshipping in the temple is presently not possible, I invite you to increase your participation in family history, including family history research and indexing,” President Nelson declared. “I promise that as you increase your time in temple and family history work, you will increase and improve your ability to hear Him.”

Pedro Palhares, top right, shows how to index records during a FamilySearch Brazil live social media event on May 17, 2020.
Pedro Palhares, top right, shows how to index records during a FamilySearch Brazil live social media event on May 17, 2020. Credit: Screenshot FamilySearch Brazil YouTube

Such interest and engagement in indexing is one reason why Sunday evening live social media events have been dedicated to indexing. Almeida said stake and ward leaders have been key in helping spread information and announcements regarding the FamilySearch live events. 

Unique demographic

Located in South America, Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest country by area and the sixth-most populous. Brazil is home to nearly 1.5 million Latter-day Saints, according to the Church’s Newsroom

Brazil’s population of more than 211 million is known for being a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. Colonized in 1500 by Portugal, Brazil has received peoples from all over the world, including Africa, Italy, Japan, Spain and Germany.

From 1870 to 1930, an estimated 2 to 3 million immigrants settled in Brazil — mostly from Europe but also the Middle East and Asia. 

With this diverse demographic makeup, many Brazilians — both Church members and the general public — are interested in researching and obtaining dual citizenship, explained Fábio Falcão Lucas, FamilySearch area manager for Brazil who lives in Sumaré, São Paulo. Many use FamilySearch to find information and genealogical documents that would connect them to a homeland.

Adriano Almeida, bottom right, introduces Fábio Falcão Lucas, Michele Coronetti and Tamara Loyola during a FamilySearch live social media event on April 26, 2020.
Adriano Almeida, bottom right, introduces Fábio Falcão Lucas, Michele Coronetti and Tamara Loyola during a FamilySearch live social media event on April 26, 2020. Credit: Screenshot FamilySearch Brazil YouTube

Brazil is rebuilding after a recent recession, so the economic state has also led many to find their roots “so they can feel grounded to something,” Lucas said. 

“Brazilians in general are very spiritual,” he continued. “So those who are positive about the situation are trying to find some solace in the fact that they know about their ancestors.”

FamilySearch offers many resources for Brazilian family history, such as the Brazil country heritage page and the Brazil research page, which includes a collection of learning courses, indexing projects, image-only records and catalog material specific to the country. There are also a variety of Brazil-specific discovery experiences, including learning about the significance of one’s surname

A localized marketing plan

FamilySearch’s marketing strategies in international areas like Brazil are different than the United States, Greene said. 

For example, FamilySearch email campaigns are successful in the United States. However, “the rest of the world is not using computers,” he said. “They’re using cellphones and tablets. And they don’t use email. They use WhatsApp.”

Smartphone usage in Brazil is continually on the rise, and Brazilians are active social media users. According to recent Pew Research study, 85% of Brazilians ages 18 to 34 own a smartphone. The country is also a major market for messaging platform WhatsApp, which recently chose Brazil to launch its first major ad campaign. 

Researching and understanding these factors is part of “localization” — a comprehensive process that addresses cultural and linguistic factors when adapting a service or product for another country.

Adriano Almeida, top right, introduces FamilySearch guests Marcelo Amaro and Fábio Falcão Lucas during a live social media event in Brazil on April 8, 2020.
Adriano Almeida, top right, introduces FamilySearch guests Marcelo Amaro and Fábio Falcão Lucas during a live social media event in Brazil on April 8, 2020. Credit: Screenshot FamilySearch Brazil YouTube

“Localization is much more than just adapting the language,” Greene said. “It’s creating technology in a way that maximizes the way that they receive the message and using channels that they’re more likely to be a part of.”

Greene and his team have been experimenting with FamilySearch messaging on WhatsApp and Facebook. “It’s working great in Brazil,” he said. “Brazil has been our proving ground.”

Sister Michele Coronetti, a part-time FamilySearch missionary who lives in Santos, São Paulo, has been helping Almeida with the live social media events. “It’s so great. We have so many people watching and asking questions,” she said. 

She also helps with messaging on WhatsApp. “I help people with indexing. We have four WhatsApp groups for people to ask about indexing and show pictures to give help with understanding and reading what is written,” she said. Each WhatsApp group has about 250 people and both Church members and non-members participate.

FamilySearch Brazil’s next live social media event will be Sunday, June 21, and will be streamed on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Previous live social media events can be found on FamilySearch Brazil’s YouTube channel.