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Friday, November 9, 2012

Moving Forward From My "Mormon Moment"

As some of you may be aware, I have spent the last, almost 3 years, helping to grow Social Media in what some have perceived as very much a pioneering role for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Consulting for them for years before, I started just over a year after Barack Obama was elected and Mitt Romney had lost the Primaries to John McCain, myself being perhaps the first person at the Church with the word "Social" in their title. My, thanks to the work of many, have we accomplished a lot since then! It is with sadness and a sense of completion and accomplishment that I now move on from that role, to now serve as Director of Social Media for Deseret Digital Media.

When I first met with the Church, back around 2007, the beginning of Twitter and Facebook, social media was new, and foreign. In many ways, in a time that pre-dates Romney's run for President, the Church was too. I still remember when Venturebeat "scooped" that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was trying to purchase Facebook (which, in case for any reason you were wondering, was completely and as far from the truth as you could come). What was funny was I had been on contract with Facebook shortly before that (writing tech docs for the company), and had been consulting directly with the Church at the time the article was written. I smiled as I saw the news, but mostly kept my mouth shut. These were 2 foreign organizations that people were very curious about!

Since that time, I remember the vision of a technology that could, just as in the Bible, and just as in The Book of Mormon (as Mormons believe complements the Bible), allow a religion's message to reach "every nation, kindred, and tongue", without the need for door-knocking, street preaching, or soapboxing. With these new technologies, one could truly reach the people that were actually interested in and seeking a message, rather than finding a needle in a haystack. The "small villages" of scriptural times were back with the advent of social media.

Within that time we were able to go from just a single Twitter account at Twitter.com/LDSNewsroom (now Twitter.com/MormonNewsroom), to now hundreds of Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, and Google+ Pages, as well as Youtube channels with views in the millions. We worked on growing the strength and understanding of social media within the organization. I remember at the beginning much of my work was just in training people the value of what social media could do. Now that's no longer a question, but rather a point of "how has it helped us?"

We achieved Facebook "like" buttons on all articles on LDS.org and began to grow shares of our message. We built numerous campaigns. We were able to expand our advertising efforts. We built community. All of this was the work of many, and I appreciated every person I was able to work with and help in these efforts. I also appreciate the amazing trust people put in me as I helped each of those that needed it.

What I appreciated most during this period though were the individuals I was able to touch, both directly, and indirectly. From training individuals at the Church, to working with ecclesiastical leaders and those at the local congregational level. I appreciated the opportunity to reach out to people during the New Zealand and Japan earthquakes, and especially my dear friends in South Asia who so sincerely want to use these tools to spread a beautiful message to the people of India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Hong Kong, some of Social Media's largest audiences. I hope these relationships will continue as I move onto other professional pursuits. I feel the momentum is finally in place to where I can move on and help in my next pursuit.

What will I be doing next? As I mentioned, I have accepted a position as Director of Social Media for Deseret Digital Media. As some of my friends may know, I previously worked in publishing, and love the publishing industry. Deseret Digital Media, actually still owned by the Church (but keeps itself at a distance to an extent), owns the digital presence of KSL.com, DeseretNews.com, OK.com (a crowd-sourced movie and TV ratings site), and many other digital presences that span from Salt Lake only, to an entire global presence targeting wholesome, family valued content for its viewers and readers. It is a for-profit company of which I'm excited to begin work on finding ways to increase those profits, find new and better ad products for their advertisers, and to grow their presence to an even greater capacity globally and help families around the world connect better. It is a fun and exciting challenge for the next phase in my life, and one where I think I can again, just like I feel I did at the Church, make a dent for the good of the world. I'm excited to learn from, lead and grow with those I'll work with there.

I debated strongly in this move of going back to an entrepreneurial effort (where I was before the Church). For varying reasons including a family of 8, I felt I could accomplish more in this role, and could still on the side keep the efforts I have with SocialToo, this blog, my books, and my training courses on Pluralsight. I anticipate all those efforts, and perhaps more, to continue to grow and prosper as I push forward in this new role.

I will miss all those I worked with at the Church - from Church Ecclesiastical Leaders, to Managing Directors, to the employees getting things done and helping move the work forward. They were some of the most talented people I've ever worked with - former Novell execs, successful entrepreneurs, and Microsoft execs to name a few, to successful scientists, businessmen, and doctors. It has been one of the most amazing, rewarding, and fulfilling jobs I've ever had.

Lastly, on a personal note as a member of the Church, which I am still an active part of, my testimony of this Church, after working "in the trenches" and seeing it from the inside, remains stronger than ever. I have seen our Leaders - the President and Prophet himself (Thomas S. Monson), to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to the members of the Quorum of the 70 that aid those with the keys, truly lead this Church through God. They are certainly not perfect, but what they have to say is important, and their callings and the mantle they hold is divine. They have my full support and love moving forward.

I can't wait to see where the foundation that has been laid for social media in the Church takes us. The future is bright, and full of opportunity - while "the Mormon Moment" may be over for me at least as an employee, the best of "the Mormon Moment" for the Church I think is yet to come.

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