It's official. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are now on Facebook and Google+. There are a variety of reasons the church created the pages.
Jared Covington, senior adviser over social media for the church said, "Ultimately we wanted to provide people a safe and official way to follow the ministry of the Brethren on popular social media platforms."
Social media is a great way to increase awareness about an individual or entity and to connect with them.
"For senior church leaders this will allow improved search results and simplified online reputation management," Covington said. "The real goal is to help people follow the Brethren as they follow the Savior's example and carry out his work around the world."
The social media pages will be maintained on behalf of church leaders and will act as an official social media presence for each of them.
"Church leaders may choose to visit the pages and read the comments that have been posted, but these pages are being published and maintained on their behalf, so people should not necessarily expect that the Brethren are regularly visiting these pages, but it is also not an impossibility," Covington said.
By "liking" these pages, users can publicly declare to friends and family online that they believe in living prophets and the restored gospel. They can also leave personal comments. On President Thomas S. Monson's Facebook page, a woman named Edna French wrote, "Per your words, I have set aside time each morning to read scriptures, ponder, pray and listen for promptings from the Holy Ghost. My life is richly blessed by this opportunity to learn daily. Thank you for your loving counsel as our prophet."
Covington said, "Of equal importance, through looking at the pages, one can see that most of the content on there is not unique — it is being shared from other official Church social media properties and websites, with these new pages, then, aggregating content that is specific to a given leader. One of the most important ways to interact with this content is to click through for more; whether that takes you to a different Facebook page, a Mormon Channel video or to a part of LDS.org you may have never visited, it is sure to strengthen your testimony of their divine callings and of him whom they serve."
Of the profiles for church leaders on Google+ and Facebook, most of the online activity is on Facebook.
"That is due more to the fact that we have the Facebook pages fully up and running, whereas we are still building out the Google+ pages. Based on current trends, I think that both will be competitive when the Google+ pages become more active later this year," Covington said.
"Google+ is a hybrid between Facebook and Twitter," said Fernando Camillo, who oversees awareness for the church's Priesthood Department, in a July 2013 interview on the Mormon Channel. "The Twitter part is the newsfeed. It's fast and coming nonstop. The Facebook side is the rich media. I can get videos and I can get photos all right there in my news feed. You can comment, you can interact with your friends, you can find people you don't know and add them to your stream and follow them so you can see what they're saying."
"Our real hope is that these pages will help people to dive in and truly feast upon the words of the living prophets," Covington said. "We all have so much going on, and often-times, when we do have a brief break, many of us log into Facebook and Google+ to read updates from our friends and others; hopefully having these pages will help members make the words of the living prophets and apostles a more active part of their day-to-day lives."
"Don't forget the powerful missionary tool that these pages can be," Covington added. "A friend may not yet be ready to set up an appointment with the missionaries, but a short quote or inspiring video shared via social media can open the door to further conversations about our faith and the restored gospel.
"For those wondering which pages are official and which are not, look for similar cover images and the church logo. If a page is missing one of those, it is not one of the official pages," Covington said.