My last column gave some ideas on ways to share the gospel through blogging. Now, I'd like to offer some tips on how to share the gospel through social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
First, what is a Twitter or Facebook? Twitter is a real-time network that allows users to share ("tweet") whatever they're interested in, using 140 characters or less. On Twitter, you "follow" people, businesses, or organizations that you're interested in and you build a following for yourself. You can upload pictures, share links and videos in your "tweet."
Facebook is also a social networking site. On Facebook, users create a profile and add other users as friends. On Facebook, you can communicate with others about your "status" through your profile page, send personal messages or private chat. You can join interest groups, invite others to events and share photos, links and videos.
Both Twitter and Facebook allow you to stay tuned via your mobile devices. Which means you can "tweet" or update your "status" anytime, anywhere.
I think one of the major appeals to these social networking sites is that they are short, simple and straight to the point. It really just requires you to sign up, find some people who share common interests and start a discussion. It requires little time compared to blogging.
Now, how can you make this a wonderful missionary tool?
What you "tweet" about can be "retweeted" by one or more of your followers to their followers. Same thing with Facebook: Your status comments can be "liked," or shared by your friends, thus allowing more people to see them. Given this factor, you want to make your comments significant.
I have found that items that are often "retweeted"/liked/shared are famous quotes, humorous and inspirational stories, interesting links and videos. Try to find something that fits into those areas. Share a quote from one of the church leaders, scripture verse, a link to an article from the LDS Church's publications or the latest Mormon Messages videos.
Again, like blogging, share special moments from your living the gospel. "Tweet" about what you learned from youth conference or gospel doctrine class. Share thoughts and/or pictures from a recent temple trip. If you preach to them entirely, they'll begin to tune you out. Let them have a glimpse of your day-to-day living what you preach.
Create a dialogue. Strike up a discussion by asking questions that can lead to gospel conversation. Asking questions like, "If God is the same yesterday and today, then why aren't there any prophets?" Ask, "Why are families (or marriage) important?" This can give you the opportunity to share the true gospel of Jesus Christ with others. The key is finding something that resonates with those you're associating with.
When using these social networking venues, always be respectful of others and expect some criticism. As I stated in the previous article on blogging, you don't have to be contentious to get your point across. Know when to respond and when to let it go.
Branch out on these networks. Don't just "friend" or "follow" other LDS users. Otherwise, you're preaching to the choir. Let others into your circle who share your interests. If they violate any of your standards, you can always unfollow/unfriend them.
Don't focus on the ninety and nine, remember the one. Although, you can reach millions of people using Twitter and Facebook, few will respond to your efforts. The Lord says, "And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father" (Doctrine and Covenants 18:15).
Blogging, Twitter and Facebook are simple, easy alternative ways to share the gospel around the world. Our efforts online, coupled with our work offline, will help tremendously in the work moving forward in all parts of the world.
Tequitia Andrews has written about parenting and family issues for several newspapers, magazines, and websites. She and her family live in Virginia. Tequitia blogs at latterdaymama.blogspot.com.