Modern missionary work has moved online, and if you want to become a successful member missionary, you’ll need to become proficient in Social Media. On LDS Share we have provided resources to help you learn the basics of each social network and how to use them to share the gospel. Check out the in-depth articles below or click through to the additional resources for simplified training and missionary activities.
To learn more about how you can share the gospel online choose a link for one of our social media guidebooks, watch one of the informative videos, or visit LDSShare.net
Are you looking to plan a ward activity, family home evening, or mutual night around sharing the gospel? Check out these great group activity ideas.
Here are some of our favorite spots for LDS content on social media– like, subscribe, read, review, and follow for a quick online missionary experience
Types of Social Media
Social media is such a broad category, that to best understand, we can narrow it into six distinct categories. While some sites combine, or narrow these categories, they create a strong baseline understanding of the different ways social media sites work.
Social Bookmarking. Social bookmarking sites allow users to compile lists of their favorite websites, bookmark them, and share those lists with others. Often these sites will keep lists of the most popular and trending sites. Examples: Pinterest, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Scoop.it
Social News. Social news sites allow users to post links to articles, that are then ranked on the site. Different sites rank popularity in different ways. Examples: Reddit, Digg, Newsvine, Propeller
Social Networking. Social networking sites allow users to create profile pages, and then interact with other users. Examples: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +
Media Sharing. Media sharing sites are a platform to share photographs or videos with others. Many media sharing and social networking sites have converged. We’ve organized them based on their primary purpose Examples: YouTube, Vine, SnapChat, Instagram
Wikis. Wikis are crowd sourced sites. There are static pages, but editing those pages is not left up to an individual or team web designer, but to any user of the site. There are both general and specific wikis. Examples: Wikipedia, WikiTravel, MormonWiki, Uncyclopedia
Blogging/Microblogging. Blogs are websites that consist of posts, displayed with the most recent post at the top. Microblogs are blogging sites where the blog length is constrained. Examples: Twitter, Tumblr, Whisper, Blogger Understanding these general types of social media sites, will help you understand in general ways how to share the gospel there.
Choosing Which Sites to Use
You understand how to evaluate where you’re at in social media use, and to decide where you’re going next. So it’s time to get started. The next thing to do is decide what sites you want to use.
How do you choose the social media tool that’s best for you? Chances are that you are already using some kind of social media. So start there. When we share the gospel online, there’s no reason to start from scratch.
However, if you’re not currently using any social media sites, or are looking to expand the sites you use, there are some questions you can ask in order to choose the best site.
What platforms does the service offer?
What kind of content do you want to share? If you love sharing inspirational pictures, then you probably don’t want to start on LinkedIn, which doesn’t accommodate sharing media.
Some sites like YouTube and Instagram focus on sharing one specific type of content, others can be used for more general sharing. Make sure you’re using the right site for the right kind of content.
Once you begin growing your social media influence, you may want to develop a way to manage mutiple social media accounts at once. There are several tools that allow you to do this.
Hootsuite is probably the most robust social media management tool, but it’s tough for beginners to learn, and while they do have a free option, it’s pretty limited.
Buffer offers easier scheduling options, but doesn’t include as much data analysis as Hootsuite. The big advantage of Buffer is that it allows you to connect up to 10 social media profiles using only the free account, but limits the number of total posts you can make per month. This still shouldn’t affect many casual users.
IFTTT is a tool for creating social media “recipes” you can make it so that every time you post on Facebook, the same post will go up on Twitter, or Pinterest. This option is totally free, but not as flexible as some of the others. Each of these tools can allow you to maintain a presence on multiple social media platforms without eating too much into your time.
Evaluating social media use is a big deal. Some have written entire books on the subject. There are many free tools to measure individuals’ social media influence. It’s important to distinguish influence from success because sharing the gospel isn’t always about reaching the most people.
Still, these tools are a good place to start. They measure how often your social media posts are shared, liked or commented on, and compares it with other social media users.
Since the goal of sharing the gospel is distinct from traditional social media success, however, we need a method for evaluating our own success. Avinash Kaushik, a thought leader in web intelligence, developed a four fold approach for measuring social media success. Let’s focus on his approach, applying it to our goal of sharing the gospel.
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General Guidelines for Social Media Use
Regardless of the platform you settle on using there are some general guidelines for how to interact on social media sites. Your social media contributions can be largely divided into two categories: Your contributions and interacting with others’ contributions. We’ve taken the seven guidelines from Elder Bednar’s address on social media as a guideline.
Where are your friends at?
Ask around. Which social media sites do those within your social circle use? This is important to know because you’re going to have the biggest influence on those you know personally, and building online social networks is much easier to do from pre-existing real life networks.
This will also give you a sense for which sites you’re likely to enjoy using more, since your friend are already there.
Where are the people at?
People love being on the newest and coolest social networks, but there’s a reason people gravitate to Facebook and Twitter. That’s where the people are at.
There are several different ways to know where people are: total users, number of engaged users, and the amount of time people spend on the site.While Twitter may not have as many users as some of the other networks, for example, its users are very engaged.
You also want to ask this in terms of where are the people I want to talk with. Each social network has a different audience and user base. Even if you don’t fit in that base, do you want to talk to the people who do?
When LDS.net spoke to the missionaries who taught the gospel online at the MTC, one thing they emphasized was that sharing the gospel should be a natural extension of every one of our individual relationships. So as you are considering what to share, ask the question, what is actually important to you? What type of content best reflects your personality. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box either. How could coming together within a social network benefit the spiritual aspects of our lives?
Express Writers is a company that provides copy writing services to major companies. When they train their writers how to do social media writing, they focus on consistency. You should have a consistent tone from post to post, and from site to site. It also meant creating new content, and responding to others’ feedback on a consistent basis. Consistent engagement is the best way to increase social media influence.
The emotion most likely to make an article go viral is “awe,” followed closely by “practical value” and “interest” the backbone of edification. Studies consistently show that people on social media respond more to positive messaging, so focus on content that will make people happy, not sad or angry.
Remember to have fun. Social media can be an opportunity to develop fun and exciting new ways of experiencing the gospel. So enjoy it. And remember that your membership in the Church is only one element of your personality, so be careful that it doesn’t dominate your entire social media life. Also beware of the type of content you share on social media. Is it approriate for everyone who will see it? If not think twice about posting. You also want to be careful about posting manipulating content. If you’ve ever seen a picture that says “Like if you Love Jesus” you know your testimony actually has nothing to do with liking the picture. Content that invites, rather than commands, and is personal rather than generic is much more effective
Before jumping into social media take some time to understand the tool you’re using. What are the conventions and culture of the site. This tutorial is the perfect place to get the background information you need to get started.
When you start sharing don’t try to reinvent yourself or stretch yourself beyond reason. Play to your strengths. What about your skills or personality is already perfect for social media. Start there rather than spending hours trying to become something you’re not.
Every time you post be vigilant about what that content says about you. Avoid posting articles or links that you haven’t read yet. While you may simply think it’s interesting, many people will assume you are endorsing the point of view, unless you explicitly say otherwise.
And be careful that the content you’re sharing is accurate. Faith promoting stories can be great to share, but we need to be careful that we aren’t spreading false information. Check Snopes.com to see if the story’s true. For Latter-day Saint specific stories check out HolyFetch.com.
Don’t steal stuff. There are so many images, videos, and articles that people want you to share and use, that there is no reason to use copyrighted content that people don’t want you using. Also remember there’s a difference between sharing someones content through social media, and taking their content and presenting it as your own. Most people are okay with the first, but not the second.
Dangers of Social Media
With so many people interacting with social media, becoming a part of the conversation is important. There is obviously a tremendous amount of good that can come from social media. But social media brings with it many dangers. Part of being vigilant means looking out for the major dangers on social media.
Average 18-34 year old Americans spend 3.8 hours/day on social media
In the end social media is only as useful so far as it helps you achieve your goals. When it begins to take away from other elements of our life, then we’ve hit a danger area. And social media is almost always a sedentary activity. Researchers are discovering that social media use can also become an addiction if not monitored closely.
Different websites allow for different levels of anonymity. But anonymous interactions can lead to dangers such as cyber bullying, or catfishing-creating a fake profile and using it to start a relationship.
Social media has been shown to have severe affects on mental health. The use of social media increases anxiety, depression, and suicide rates. Social media can cause other psychological problems, like a loss of interpersonal skills.
Because so much information about social media privacy is included in long, hard to read user agreements, most people are unaware of just how much of their social media information can be found.
Sharing your life for the world to see can come with many dangers. Many employers can immediately see many of your life details. Identify theft can be much easier using the internet. Even predators lurk to take advantage of people they meet over the internet.