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Social media trends and LDS general conference

Published: Tuesday, April 5 2011 5:30 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY – President Dieter F. Uchtdorf suspected it was happening during his Sunday morning remarks.

Tweeting and texting.

“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,” said President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church’s First Presidency. “In fact, I am almost afraid that some listening have already sent messages like, ‘He has been speaking for 10 minutes and still no aviation analogy.’”

In terms of messages flying through cyberspace like crazy, President Uchtdorf was right.

While tens of thousands attended the 181st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, millions more watched, listened or followed via the Internet.

For the first time, the church streamed conference live on Facebook and allowed people to use the embed code to stream conference on their own blogs and websites.

During the Sunday morning session, the hashtag #LDSconf was trending on Twitter. (A hashtag is a tag or keyword prefixed by a hash (#) symbol that accompanies a Twitter post or tweet. The posts containing a relevant hashtag can be searched and indexed efficiently.) At one point, #ldsconf accounted for .14 percent of the total tweets on Twitter (70 million per day), according to trendistic.com.

“I haven’t seen the statistics yet … but most conferences, it does trend pretty heavily,” said Larry Richman, director of product awareness for the church. “A lot of members like to talk about what they heard, quotes, impressions. They tend to make quite a few comments about it.”

At her home in Murrietta, Calif., Kathryn Skaggs, a.k.a. “@LdsNana,” sat with her laptop and watched conference with her family. Skaggs, who serves on a church public affairs council, began tweeting three years ago and now has more than 5,100 followers. She came up with the term "Twitter Stake," a humorous title for a virtual LDS congregation online. She uses the name “@LdsNana” so people know what she is all about, and her purpose “is to be a positive conveyor of LDS information, thoughts, teachings and principles.” She signs her blog off with the letters “tDMg.” It stands for “To Do More Good.” Tweeting during conference does not distract Skaggs from the speakers. For her, it’s like taking notes and sharing them.

“For me, tweeting #ldsconf is an opportunity to share my testimony with those who follow me,” she wrote in her blog at wellbehavedmormonwoman.blogspot.com.

Skaggs has observed that more and more church members are coming online to share their beliefs, especially during conference weekend. It used to take a session or so for #ldsconf to trend on Twitter, she said, now it trends really fast.

“I have watched it grow. It’s been so fun to see how many members are getting on Twitter,” she said. “They come out of the woodwork on general conference weekend and just start tweeting away. It’s really exciting to see it happening. … That is a lot of exposure for the church.”

Joel Dehlin, chief information officer for the church, has tracked Twitter conversations during conference for the last few years and offered statistics from the October 2010 conference on his blog at www.ldscio.org.

Dehlin said the conversation using #ldsconf was ranked as high as No. 2 on Twitter in the U.S., as more than 24,600 individual tweets were made by more than 2,000 different Twitter users. The total number of Twitter users who follow those tweeting was more than 1,123,500. The most discussed session of conference was the Sunday morning session with 6,100 tweets.

Mormons tweeters tend to disappear during the six-month span between conferences. Skaggs encourages them to keep with it. For those who want to participate, friend and follow people who are already doing it until you feel more comfortable. If someone posts something worthwhile, “don’t just look and enjoy it; share and encourage your friends to do the same,” she said.

President Uchtdorf encouraged members, especially youths, to “use their hands” with technology to spread the gospel. Skaggs knows she isn’t of the younger generation but plans to keep tweeting the gospel message regardless. She was thrilled with President Uchtdorf’s message.

“Perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open our mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text message the gospel to the world,” President Uchtdorf said.

“Brothers and sisters, with the blessings of modern technology, we can express gratitude and joy about God’s great plan for his children in a way that can be heard not only around our workplace but around the world. Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.”

It used to take several weeks for the church to make general conference materials ready. Now, with a small army of translators and interpreters, editors, graphic artists, web experts and audio/video specialists, it happens much faster.

Text will be available in English by the end of the week, while other languages will be ready in two to eight weeks. The Ensign and Liahona magazines will be published in four to six weeks.

Video and audio versions of the talks are already available on LDS.org in several languages. DVDs, however, will not be ready for six weeks.

For more details on the availability of general conference addresses, visit LDS.org.

Contributing: Logan Dunn

Email: ttoone@desnews.com

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