Last night I had the opportunity to personally meet with neo-evangelist pastor and social video marketer Rob Bell, the author of the New York Times bestseller book, “Love Wins.” Learn from Rob himself on how his own upbringing, passion, and faith greatly shaped his own creativity and dedication to social video, which has both led to impressive book sales and a widespread renewed dialogue that both the online and traditional communities are embracing.

What the Hell? The Social Video Blitz of Rob Bell

Rob has been getting tons of exposure both in online and traditional media. Today alone he’s featured in the TIME magazine cover story, in USA Today, and on CNN This Morning about his best-selling book, Love Wins, which has generating an ongoing dialogue both inside and outside his religious community on traditional-versus-progressive interpretations of the Christian Bible and belief in the afterlife.

Here I am with neo-evangelist pastor and author Rob Bell, who was doing his book signing after his speaking engagement at Winnetka Congregational Church in Illinois on April 14, 2011. (I'm not one to take a solemn facial expression. ;-)

Previously I did a story on Rob Bell for ReelSEO, “Social Video Marketing Wins! What Rob Bell and ‘Love Wins’ Can Teach Us.” I had then only very recently learned about him and his book. As I did my research for the article, I found him to be a fascinating and a rather approachable individual, and appreciated his professional activity of combining video and social media to market his books and video series; and also in some way, his own church and his faith. What’s especially impressive is he had the wherewithal to do this well before social media and video came to be established forms of online marketing.

Some People Find God on YouTube

Rob’s many videos on Christianity have been shared widely on YouTube and other online video channels, including some Christian video sharing channels; and show an interesting approach to marketing by appealing to people’s sense of faith.It makes sense why so many evangelical preachers and pastors today are actively involved with YouTube; it’s an excellent way to reach out to people who are open to new discoveries of faith in the most easily accessible place online, with the greatest degree of personal impact short of having them right at your place of worship or physical community; and together build an online community that intertwines with the organic one on Earth. (For more on this, read the Time magazine article, YouTube Gets Religion.)

The Strong Relationship Between Faith and Social Video Marketing:

Photo ©TIME Magazine

Here are some quotes from the TIME magazine article on Rob Bell, where he shares some of the influences in his own life that led to his own social nature built around his faith – all of which helped him be successful in his books, videos, his church, sharing his message, and building a new dialogue.

  • Rob: “My parents were both very intellectually honest, straightforward, and for them, faith meant that you were fully engaged.
  • Rob’s Mother: “When was around 10 years old, I detected that he had a great interest and concern for people.”

Here’s another passage I found especially telling:

At 21, Rob was teaching barefoot waterskiing at HoneyRock Camp, near Three Lakes, Wis., when he preached his first sermon. “I didn’t know anything,” he says. “I took off my Birkenstocks beforehand. I had this awareness that my life would never be the same again.” The removal of the shoes is an interesting detail for Bell to remember. (“Do not come any closer,” God says to Moses in the Book of Exodus. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”) Bell says it was just intuitive, but the intuition suggests he had a sense of himself as a player in the unfolding drama of God in history. “Create things and share them,” Bell says. “It all made sense. That moment is etched. I remember thinking distinctly, ‘I could be terrible at this.’ But I knew this would get me up in the morning. I went to Fuller (Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, California) that fall.”

Do you see the connection? Rob developed from an early age through adulthood many of the traits that make one truly social. His faith gave him the confidence to continue with his passion, and online video and social media expanded his creative outlets and a new audience.

You can also see many of those same traits of Rob’s develop through the early years on YouTube to the present, which turned into a good body of popular videos on Christianity that even non-Christians and non-religious people like myself can appreciate. It also what makes his own detractors (which it appears there are many), just as passionate in talking about him and use as their own inspiration for creating video responses to – while it may not encourage respect and understanding on their parts, at least it continues the conversation. All of that in turn, motivates people like myself to bring others to see him in person, and find out more of what the man and his message are about with 1-to-1 dialogue. If you want a good case history of a social video marketer honing his craft, then follow Rob Bell.

My Q&A With Rob Bell: Faith, Hell, and the Social Video Marketer

I was surprised at last night’s engagement that Rob started taking questions right away. Fortunately I instinctively raised my hand and got to present the first question of the night.  Click the play button in the attached audio clip with this article to listen to our Q&A exchange. (My apologies for the audio being very muffled, since I was in the middle pews when asking him this question, and I didn’t have my recorder up close to him. It wasn’t the my most concise way of asking the question, but what the hell – spontaneous creativity, I hope ;-)

Want to “get social” with the video faithful?

If you’d like to watch a full engagement of Rob Bell, I recommend checking out the Love Wins livestream channel. You can also chat with other viewers who are watching it along with you – that’s what social video is about!