10 July 2015

IN 2000, on the occasion of The Salvation Army’s previous international congress, Facebook and Twitter had yet to be invented and internet usage was typically via slow, unwieldy dial-up connections. Since then, the web and social media have truly come of age – the power of which was harnessed by the international communications team at Boundless – The Whole World Redeeming in early July.

The stated aim was to make this the most international congress the Army has ever seen. While all 126 countries in which The Salvation Army has an official presence were represented at The O2 arena, online participants added a further 31 countries to that tally. From Cyprus to Kazakhstan and Somalia to Saudi Arabia, tens of thousands of people swelled the numbers keen to follow events in London every step of the way.

The www.boundless2015.org website attracted more than half a million page views – a quarter of a million heading straight for the live blog. Thousands of contributions from Boundless delegates and those watching from home were incorporated into the coverage. Scores used the website to record that they had committed their lives to Jesus, rededicated themselves to God or responded to a call to Salvation Army officership.

The technological advances over the last 15 years are evident in the fact that more than half of visits to the Boundless website were from tablets or smartphones. Live streaming of the main sessions was a popular part of the online coverage, with more than 50,000 viewers having watched the opening celebration live or via the ‘watch again’ facility (see sar.my/boundlessagain).

Pre- and post-meeting broadcasts by SAVN.tv (a ministry of USA Western Territory) sought further interaction from participants around the world, and facilitated small group discussion through live video links. Meanwhile, Salvation Army Today (USA Southern Territory) provided daily bulletins, capturing all the atmosphere and colour from events all around The O2. The official Boundless programme and daily newspaper Boundless Today were made available online, to help ‘remote’ delegates feel just as much part of proceedings as those present in London. These international partnerships were vitally important in the promotion of the congress and engagement of Salvationists around the world during Boundless.

A one-off ‘Thunderclap’ on Founders’ Day – 2 July – reached a million social media users across Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Subsequent sharing and retweeting achieved a social reach of 3.3 million people. The #Boundless2015 hashtag, which delegates were encouraged to use in their own social media output, was seen by 16.1 million Twitter users – at one point being a more popular topic of online discussion than the famous Wimbledon lawn tennis championships.

With ‘innovating for the future’ being a key theme of the congress, the Boundless web and social media team – comprising 13 communications professionals from around The Salvation Army’s territories, and headed by International Headquarters Web Manager David Giles – employed some creative strategies to maximise engagement. Facebook ‘memes’ – striking photography with shareable quotes from congress speakers – proved particularly popular, while the ‘social wall’ of delegate photos and videos has become a media-rich snapshot of Boundless from the perspective of those participating in it. Periscope – a brand new live streaming tool from Twitter – was deployed to provide realtime coverage of late night events and the historic march down The Mall at the conclusion of the week’s events.

IHQ Communications Secretary Major John P. Murray reflected on a successful week: ‘We knew that Boundless would be the most international congress ever, but the response across social media has been unprecedented. While the statistics tell part of the story, it’s also been notable that we’ve been able to use technology to communicate on a one-to-one basis as well. Integrating the important work of our photography and writing teams with our social media outputs was vitally important in telling the Boundless story to our followers around the world. This, coupled with the brilliant work of our graphic design team, enabled people at The O2 and around the world to feel connected, engaged and part of something very special from the moment they arrived at the arena or on the www.boundless2015.org landing page.’

  • The streamed video content, along with electronic copies of Boundless Today and the engaging ‘social wall’ remain available at www.boundless2015.org. Be sure to visit www.boundless2015.org/photos to view the excellent photos captured by the Boundless photography team.




Tags: 150th anniversary, News