The LDS Church's social media Easter message was watched nearly 30 million times, according to the missionary department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

SALT LAKE CITY — Viewers accessed "Because He Lives" 88.5 times per second throughout Easter Sunday, but the success of the eight-day LDS effort to share a two-minute video of Christ was about more than staggering numbers.

Though there were plenty of those.

The video was watched nearly 30 million times, according to the missionary department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That's five times more viewers than saw last year's LDS Easter video.

The largest figure, however, was 329 million — the number of times people visiting YouTube's homepage on Sunday saw at least part of a 15-second clip of "Because He Lives." The clip automatically ran whenever someone opened the Youtube homepage.

But what was most noteworthy wasn't the sheer number of people who saw all or part of the video. It was where they were.

International reach

A majority of "Because He Lives" viewers were in Central and South America and Brazil, not in the United States. In fact, more than 21 million of the 29.6 million total video views were in Spanish or Portuguese, said Greg Droubay, director of media for the church's missionary department.

The explosion in international views was in part the result of a lesson learned after the Droubay's department released two earlier short videos about Christ — "Because of Him" at Easter in 2014 and "He is the Gift" last Christmas.

"We've learned how to better use social media channels," Droubay said. "We did a lot more with video on Facebook at Christmas than we did at Easter last year for example. And we're using others differently. For example on Instagram, where there is an official channel, we've created video content unique to Instagram. We applied the same principle on Twitter.

"We try to leverage what each social channel is best at."

Internationally, the church learned social media is used and messages are received differently, so more attention was given this Easter to different social channels in South America.

That helped lead to 14,833,708 Spanish-language views and 6,784,061 views in Portuguese. English views were 6,554,873.

"Those Spanish and Portuguese numbers mean the video has reached beyond church members to others in Latin America," said Ted Lyon, executive director of the LDS International Society.

"Different from many parts of the world, the culture in Latin America accepts that Christ is alive," said Lyon, an expert in Latin American literature who has served the LDS Church in Chile as a mission president, missionary training center president and temple president. "Faith in Christ and God is accepted and is not viewed as antiquated or non-modern. in Latin America, you can be modern and believe in Christ, unlike in Europe or parts of the United States."

Lyon also said that rapid growth of Protestant churches in the region and a younger population that demands digital connectivity could have contributed to the video's success in South and Central America.

YouTube masthead

Other languages also saw significant increases.

Views of "Because He Lives" in Japanese jumped to 766,099, up from 13,000 for "He is the Gift" at Christmas. Italian also saw a major leap from Christmas, with views in that language soaring from 11,000 to 669,597.

The church purchased the YouTube masthead ad space in nine countries, including the United States, where it also focused on Facebook as a place for church members to share the messages the missionary department created to go with the video.

The way the church is using social media is "a genius move," said Teresa Moreno, an account manager at Richter 7, a Salt Lake City advertising agency.

"It really is a reflection of the times," Moreno said. "Organizations need to take advantage of these social and digital channels. When you integrate all these social platforms into your message, you can maximize your budget and secure more attention."

Droubay told the Deseret News last week that YouTube executives told the church Sunday's masthead advertising should lead to 250 million ad impressions. Reaching 79 million more than expected was a pleasant surprise.

"We're really excited about the number of people we're able to truly reach in a single day using the technology of today with our Christ-centered message," he said.

Moreno said the 329 million YouTube masthead impressions the church got on Easter Sunday was "incredible."

"That was such a strong strategic move around this huge global event," she said. "They clearly knew they wanted to reach out to Spanish-speaking communities across the world, and they definitely were successful in reaching their target audience."

Member outreach

Droubay credited the improved use of social media and more efficient ad spending for the higher numbers, but he also said the way church members shared the video and other content produced by the church contributed to the huge increase in viewership around the world.

The missionary department began its social media video effort last Easter with "Because Of Him," a video viewed 598,000 times a day during the campaign.

The "He is the Gift" initiative drew 930,000 views a day.

"Because He Lives" averaged 3.2 million views a day, with 7.5 million generated on Easter Sunday alone.

Droubay said the church improved the way it provided the content to its members, who shared it more than ever.

"We've learned that when the church membership knows that a video initiative is coming and is very excited for it, and then the video and website associated with it meet their expectations, they'll share it. When church members share, we get millions and millions of views around the world."

More than 2 million people visited the landing page between March 27 and Easter Sunday.

Email: [email protected]