Sunday, October 5, 2014

Who Were the Pioneers of #LDSConf? The History of Tweeting During LDS General Conference

Twice a year, Mormons get together to hear words from leaders of the Church (some of them, we call "Prophets" because we believe they have the mantle to communicate directly with God just like Moses, or Elijah, or Peter). You probably know about this if you use Twitter, because each time it almost always trends, and if you have a friend like myself who is Mormon, our posts and unapologetic celebration of the event is pretty hard to avoid. So how did all this hoopla on Twitter, and now places like Facebook, Google+, and Instagram begin? I've spent some time studying the history of it all (it's a blur for me), and here is what I came up with:

#LDSConf

#TwitterStake

I admit I'm a little fuzzy on the origins of the use of "Twitter Stake", and the hashtag #TwitterStake. I'll admit I'm not even sure what it was or how it came to be, but I get asked about it a lot, and it gets confused with the use of #LDSConf often.

"Twitter Stake" seems to have originated with my friend Kathryn Skaggs around 2009 some time, but I can't find a quote by her that predates the first tweet. The first tweet around #TwitterStake was actually by my cousin, Patti Harvey, in response to @LDSNana (Kathryn Skaggs) not even using the hashtag: "Twitter Stake. I like that! :-)" After that, many more tweets followed using the hashtag #TwitterStake. Here's the breakdown on Twitter.

Acceptance by the Church

The Church was rather slow in adopting #LDSConf. While I worked for the Church, there were concerns amongst those at Headquarters that they didn't want to distract from the messages of leaders, so we started by only posting before and after sessions of conference on varying official accounts. I always saw it as another media channel that could get the message out to so many more people, but like many things at the Church, it takes time to help everyone understand the value of things like this (and there were still many levels between me and those that could make a difference). When I was there, I was offered the Twitter account, @LDSConf, and I believe we secured it at some point while there. No one at the Church wanted to use it though at the time.

In April of 2013 when I worked for Deseret Digital Media, I realized I still had the @LDSConf account, and decided there was an opportunity to use the account to "live-tweet" conference from DeseretNews.com using the new account. We put people from DeseretNews.com and OkEspanol.com (the Hispanic Digital Newspaper that I was in charge of) in the press room at the conference center and live-tweeted conference in both English and Spanish as the first church-owned organization to live-tweet conference (that I know of at least). We also sponsored an ad for the #LDSConf hashtag telling people about the new Twitter account.

Finally, in October of 2013 I'm told the Church started live-tweeting conference during sessions, marking a change in culture surrounding Tweeting during conference sessions.

This Year

This year marks the 6th anniversary of the #LDSConf hashtag. I've noticed the Church has picked up the pace even more in tweeting during conference sessions, and I'm even seeing multiple languages now. Also, last year they started posting memes and other inspirational messages released during talks. The leaders of the Church now have Facebook, Google+, and Twitter accounts and those accounts are being updated regularly during the talks of each leader.

It's humbling to see the things put in place over just the last 6 or 7 years, and to see the steps that we had to go through to truly build a single "village" of Mormons, all communicating worldwide and sharing the Gospel messages from leaders of what we believe to be God's church with each other and our friends. There's still a lot more work that needs to be done, but this has been a fun ride and I can't wait to see where we go as technology continues to evolve!

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