"Be a Mormon!" – Making Things Go Viral

I’m sharing this partly because I’m excited Mormons were mentioned (I am in charge of much of the social technology integration and strategy for the LDS Church as one of the many things I do), but also because there’s some truth to it.  As Mormons, we get Marketing and Social Media, but I argue it’s not because of process – it’s natural.  That’s why it was exciting, but no surprise to see Jonah Peretti, founder of BuzzFeed and co-founder of Huffington Post, talk with Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch, sharing his “Five Rules for How to Make Things Go Viral“, listing the fifth as “Be a Mormon, Not a Jew”.  Of course, as he said, his statement was a little tongue-in-cheek, and as any good Mormon will tell you they admire and respect the Jewish people and faith (and perhaps more than many Christian religions, we take the Old Testament almost as seriously as any Jew – we love and respect their law, as it sets much of the foundations for what we as Mormons believe). Peretti’s statement was that “Mormons are better at evangelism”.  Mormons are, quite simply, whether better or not I’m not here to debate, but they’re naturally great marketers and it shows by the exponential growth shown since the 50s in the graph Peretti shared.

As a Mormon, I served a mission in Thailand when I was 19 (yes, I speak, read, and write fluent Thai, which I was taught in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah for 2 months before I left to Thailand).  When I was a missionary I was taught to teach a message, follow up on that message, and “build relationships of trust”.  As members of the Church we follow Jesus Christ’s direction to “come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-18 in the New Testament).  We love the message we’ve learned, and we feel compelled to share that message.  Building relationships is also something we love doing, again, not out of process, but because relationships, to us, are a core of what we believe in.  We are taught about the origins of God’s family before this earth, and we believe we are all literal brothers and sisters in God’s plan for us.  We enjoy the relationships we have with those around us, and more importantly, we believe most strongly in building a true relationship with God.  It is these “relationships” that, in my opinion, make Social Media, and modern-day marketing a natural fit for every Mormon, whether they realize they are doing it or not.

It’s because of this that the Church tries to enable members to share this message in ways they are capable of doing.  Just to feature some of the highlights of what the Mormon Church does, from my perspective:

  • Mormons send over 50,000 missionaries worldwide to help evangelize the Gospel.  Most of these are under the age of 25.  And when you think, “oh, these are those white-shirted young men (featured in the picture in Piretti’s presentation) going from door-to-door”, we’re not quite even that any more.  While we still have many going door-to-door, you’ll see missionaries sitting in call-centers, answering questions and chatting with you on Mormon.org.  You’ll see missionaries volunteering on service missions, helping out the poor and needy in places like Haiti (which efforts you can donate to over there on the right).  We’re even taking some more modern approaches like in New York, where Missionaries are even using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to people.  Imagine the potential of those 50,000 people, rather than going door-to-door, using technology instead to share the Gospel in a more modern, less-intrusive, more targeted fashion and reaching those that are truly interested in the message.
  • The Church just launched a brand new Mormon.org, featuring members as the main focus.  The Church wants its members to speak for themselves.  In Social Media this is crucial and necessary for the focus to be on the individual and not the organization.  Now, you can go to Mormon.org, find people of similar race, gender, ethnicity, or even locale and learn what they believe.  You can even follow them on Twitter or Facebook or read their blog.  We’re allowing you to see what a real Mormon is, and not just from a big organization standpoint.  You can peruse articles and share them on Facebook and Twitter via like and share buttons.
  • The Church has Youtube Channels, the most popular being “MormonMessages“, which, no matter what your faith, you can get some pretty inspirational messages encouraging you to do better and grow.  Each of those is embeddable on blogs and shareable on Facebook and Twitter and elsewhere.  Mormons are encouraged by leaders to share what they believe, and are provided with the tools to do it.
  • The Church has mobile apps where you can read the Old and New Testaments, as well as The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price (3 books that Mormons believe are also Testaments of Jesus Christ and are provided through modern, prophetic, revelation).
  • The Church has Facebook Pages and Twitter Accounts that members, as well as non-members can subscribe and learn more about the Mormon Church, gain inspiration, and discuss that content with other members and non-members.  I love reading the comments of these Pages because you hear such great messages of peoples’ lives being changed from this message and the best part is these stories are just coming from every day members (and non-members)!  They are unedited, spoken from the heart and the soul.  That’s what Social Media is about and the core of who we are.  It’s all about technology that allows us as humans to bare our souls.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Technology has enabled Mormons to take the “marketing” Peretti mentions to an even greater level.  I think we’re pretty good people.  We’re genuine.  Social Media and modern marketing have enabled Mormons to share who they are to the world, and they’ll continue to do so.

Mormons are considered a peculiar people.  Maybe it’s because of our history of polygamy (discontinued way back in the 1800s).  Maybe it’s TV shows like Big Love that give that perception.  Maybe it’s the fact we don’t drink Coffee or Tea or Alcohol, or that we don’t smoke and live a generally pretty healthy life.  Maybe it’s because we’re taught not to have sex before marriage, and, at least for active Mormons, we have long and fruitful marriages and we love having children.  I don’t think that’s much different than any other good religion out there.  I’m totally excited and stoked that technology is enabling us, as Mormons, to finally share with the world who we are, on a global and massive scale and we can finally be completely transparent about who we are.

What I do know is that Peretti’s statement is true, but it’s not at all because we teach “marketing” by process – it’s because as Mormons we’ve got a great message to share.  We’re great people to be around, and we’ve got nothing to hide.  I’m stoked that technology is enabling us to show that to the world.

See Peretti’s great video below.  Also be sure to check out his presentation:

http://player.ooyala.com/player.js?width=630&height=354&embedCode=xlaDluMToim9U0Mmz7xDG-kQdX34Rp9s&deepLinkEmbedCode=xlaDluMToim9U0Mmz7xDG-kQdX34Rp9s

Be sure to read more about this on NewYorkMag.com and AllThingsD.

Disclosure: In my day job, I am currently working as the Social Media Architect for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While they are currently my employer, this article by no means represents any official announcement, declaration, proclamation, or doctrine on behalf of the Church.  All claims or topics written are solely my own opinion and not the opinions or official word of the LDS Church.  To be clear, regardless of my day job, I am still a member of the Church and I still believe its teachings and will always have beliefs to share surrounding the Church and its teachings.  What I write here should be considered as such.

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8 thoughts on “"Be a Mormon!" – Making Things Go Viral

  1. That is so cool, Jesse. I live in Arizona, and grew up Jewish, and I have to tell you that you have just put a lot of pieces together for me: why a big company headed by a Mormon hired my company when I worked out of my house to be with my children, why I have so many LDS friends, etc. What is the matter with people who still think Mormonism is a cult? I'm glad you shared this.

    Like

  2. Thanks Francine. I truly hope modern technology can help us share with the
    world who we really are. I think all of us get so frustrated when
    misperceptions and misunderstandings are spread by people who either want to
    hurt us, or simply misunderstand us (I imagine mostly the latter). We now
    have a voice, and I hope more people that want to can hear that. (note that
    goes for not just religion – I think it applies to everyone)

    Like

  3. Hi Jesse,
    My dad lives in Bangkok right now, having also served his mission in Thailand. He works for tefl international over there helping kids teach english in a foreign language. Anyway, I also do seo for church stuff, by helping MeridianMagazine.com get more traffic for lds keywords. I've also worked with The More Good Foundation. I love doing online missionary work.

    Like

  4. Thanks Francine. I truly hope modern technology can help us share with the
    world who we really are. I think all of us get so frustrated when
    misperceptions and misunderstandings are spread by people who either want to
    hurt us, or simply misunderstand us (I imagine mostly the latter). We now
    have a voice, and I hope more people that want to can hear that. (note that
    goes for not just religion – I think it applies to everyone)

    Like

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