Rebecca Belliston's general conference routine involves getting comfortable on the couch and turning on her laptop.
As leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deliver their talks, Belliston listens and tweets her favorite quotes with the hashtag #LDSConf, only taking a break if her children pull her away.
If something she hears is truly inspiring, Belliston will craft those heartfelt words into a picture-quote and share it, as she did last October with a sentence — "It is time for the notes of the gospel to rise above the noise of the world" — from "Let the Clarion Trumpet Sound" by Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer of the Seventy.
"Some profound quotes deserve to be visualized. It helps me remember them too," Belliston said. "Not only is music such a huge part of my life, but I came into this last conference feeling heavy with the weight of the world. Sometimes it's scary raising five kids today, knowing what they see and hear at school on a daily basis. I loved this reminder that, like the way music helps me escape from the world on a bad day, the gospel can do that and so much more.
"I haven't made many picture quotes," she continued. "I probably should do it more because I really enjoy it."
Belliston is one of thousands of LDS Church members who've made social media a part of their general conference experience, publishing real-time messages, images or other media through various platforms to facilitate a worldwide gathering of Latter-day Saints, according to Michelle Torsak, messaging director for LDS.org.
"The role of social media in the general conference experience grows every conference," Torsak said. "No matter where you are in the world, you can gather with church members to hear, discuss and share messages from prophets, apostles and other leaders."
With the upcoming general conference, Torsak discussed trends in conference social media and provided a few tips for church members. Erin Ann McBride, author of "Sharing the Gospel Through Social Media," offered her thoughts for members who want to post content online. More social media suggestions can be found on LDS.org, along with an insightful 2014 talk by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The LDS Church has accounts with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. Links to these accounts can be found at LDS.org.
The abundant creation and sharing of image-quotes is one of the notable social media trends Torsak has observed in recent years at general conference.
"The creativity and design is impressive — everything from hand-lettered quotes in a notebook to professional-looking graphics," Torsak said.
Know your audience
When it comes to sharing the gospel online, many mistakenly "preach to the choir," taking to Facebook or Twitter and giving a play-by-play account of what is happening. It's not an effective strategy, said McBride, a marketing professional.
"While many people accept this generic form of marketing as so-called missionary work online, the truth is you're probably just sharing with people who are sharing the same exact thing," McBride said. "Instead of giving line-by-line replays, wait until the talk or session is over and then share the point of the talk and what it means to you, or how you will apply it in your life."
McBride believes sharing fewer, more meaningful posts will be more influential.
"Don't just share for the sake of sharing," McBride said. "Instead, prayerfully and compassionately look at what your friends are saying online. Look for someone who needs help or for someone else to brighten their day. Reach out to those people with a scripture, quote, picture, meme or video relevant to their situation, and back it up with your personal thought or testimony. A personal message to someone in need means a lot more to the recipient than just another person blowing up their news feed with irrelevant and unrequested information. So take notes on general conference, but wait to share them with others until the time is right."
Another helpful tip for spreading the message into new circles is the use of non-LDS hashtags, such as #Jesus, #God, #DailyDevotional, #Peace and #Gospel, McBride said.
When people with negative views voice their opinions, be understanding, respectful, kind and patient, Torsak and McBride said.
"Often, the best reaction is no reaction at all," Torsak said. "We would just remind members that hashtags are part of the public square, so be cautious."
"My advice? Don't feed the trolls," McBride said. "Never engage, and stay away!"
A good post
The formula for a compelling or meaningful post is not complicated, Torsak said.
"The most meaningful posts come from members sharing something they heard, why it makes them happy or how it inspires them to become better," she said. "The combination of a simple truth plus a personal insight helps those who are less familiar with the church understand the 'why' behind what we do."
Suggestions on LDS.org including asking a few personal questions to generate ideas:
What simple truths meant the most to you at general conference?
What did you hear at conference that inspired you to do more good?
What happy moments did you have during a hard day?
With those thoughts in mind, focus on a simple truth, express it in your own words and explain why it makes you happy, LDS.org recommends.
Memes, image-quotes and videos from the LDS Church's official channels are designed to resonate with people of other faiths, Torsak said. These messages should appeal to universal values and shared beliefs, and use nondescript imagery or terminology, she said. Latter-day Saints should consider these ideas when using social media during general conference, Torsak said.
"Messages from general conference are messages for all God’s children, so as we share, we should make sure we don’t inadvertently alienate friends and family not of our faith," Torsak said.
Elder Bednar and #LDSConf
In his 2014 address "To Sweep the Earth as With a Flood," delivered during Campus Education Week at Brigham Young University, Elder Bednar discussed the hashtag #LDSconf as an example of sharing gospel messages during general conference. He said the term was first created in 2008 by a faithful member who wanted to follow and share conference-related tweets.
"Thousands of members join together twice a year to participate in the #LDSconf hashtag conversation about the things they learn and feel as they receive counsel from living prophets and apostles," Elder Bednar said. "Through this channel, millions of people around the world are edified by general conference messages."
At the end of his remarks, Elder Bednar gave several guidelines and examples for sharing gospel messages on social media. The apostle counseled those who share to be authentic and consistent, edify and uplift, respect others' property, and be wise and vigilant.
"Share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others," Elder Bednar said. "Be courageous and bold but not overbearing in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples, our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused."
Elder Bednar concluded by inviting members to "sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth — messages that are authentic, edifying and praiseworthy — and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood." He also invited them to use a new hashtag: #ShareGoodness.
Members can also follow the @LDSconf Twitter account, managed by DeseretNews.com, for live updates during general conference.
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