No Need to Adjust Your Screen

No need to adjust your screen. After three years, I finally decided to give Bayside Blog a new look.

I had many reasons for doing so. The old blog layout was so skinny, in terms of the column width that was allotted for actual blog post content. All photos appeared very small. The header graphic was very large and pushed a lot of the content too far down the page. Most importantly, I heard that it was not a very accessible design for those with vision problems. The text was a light gray (a setting I couldn’t adjust) and hard to read.

The new look, I hope, is more visually pleasing and I know it will be more flexible in terms of what I want to be able to display. The wider main column will especially be helpful.

I’ve added a couple of new features. There is a link to my Facebook page for my house history section of my business. I also added a widget that displays the complete list blog post categories, for easier browsing.

Please let me know what you think!

Social Media Makeover for Genealogy

Last year, at the Association for Independent Information Professionals conference, Mary Ellen Bates gave tips for completing a one-day marketing makeover. With a tip of the hat to her, here’s how you can apply the same principles to your social media profiles on the web to maximize exposure to those who may be looking for you (or at least looking for the same ancestors as you).

Blogging

If you’re reading this site, you know about blogs and may even have one. I’ve done a pretty thorough job of tagging my posts with the surnames that are mentioned, but other bloggers have gone a step further and created a list of the surnames they are working on all in one place. I decided to do the same and used my Ahnentafel chart as a starting point. While I was at it, I did a refresh of the about page for my blog and republished that.

One additional step I plan to take is to add my email address to all of my posts that deal with ancestors. Too often, I see folks find my blog by searching for common ancestors, but they don’t reach out to me. I want to make it as easy as possible for them to be in touch.

Facebook

I’m friends with dozens of other genealogists on Facebook and I happen to know that at least a few of them have found distant relations on this social media site. I’ve even made a few such connections myself. I don’t have my profile set up so that just anyone can see everything. You have to be friends with me to see most of the information about me. So what if a cousin is seeking me out on Facebook? Would they be able to find me?

You can see how your Facebook profile appears to others by clicking the “View As” link under the little gear icon on your profile page. That will take you to the version of your profile that the public sees. From there, I clicked on “About” to see what information was visible there. I noticed that my blog address was missing from my Contact Info box for one thing. I also noticed that I’m not taking advantage of the About You box — I’m considering listing my surnames there too.

Twitter

Twitter has been a great tool for connecting with other genealogists, but its Profile page barely allows you to list more information about yourself than you can include in a tweet. All the more reason to make sure you’re making use of all of the available fields — name, location, web site and bio. The Bio field only allows up to 160 characters. Currently, my web site field points to my business site. I added my personal blog address to the Bio field.

LinkedIn

I don’t really spend a lot of time on LinkedIn to begin with and I haven’t tried to use it as a cousin-seeking tool. I do link to most of my blog posts from LinkedIn, however, as a way of sharing my latest research. Has anyone else used LinkedIn to connect with distant relatives?

Pinterest

I recently joined Pinterest and have been using it mainly to collect recipes, but it also can be used for genealogy. I did a quick check and Google does include it in search results, so be sure to tag your pins with appropriate surnames or create boards about particular surnames, to make it easier for others to find you.

If you’re interested in searching Pinterest for your own surname(s), I recommend going to Google instead of using the Pinterest search interface. In the Google search bar, type “‘surname’ site:pinterest.com” and it will bring up just results from Pinterest, but in a list format that’s a bit easier to sort through.

So, the above are the main sites I use to connect with others. I’m sure there are similar tips for freshening up your presence on other sites. Why not take a few minutes to make sure your profiles are up to snuff?

APG PMC & Twitter

I am just back at my sister’s house after my first day of genealogy conferencing here in Knoxville at the Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference. The sessions were informative, I got to see an old friend and met several more that I had only known online up until this point, in addition to making new acquaintances.

I had a grand ol’ time Tweeting who I was sitting next to and what sessions were up next until after lunch. That’s when a request was made to refrain from texting or Tweeting as each of the afternoon speakers was introduced.

What a disappointment! I had heard this was an issue at last year’s APG conference too, and thought that perhaps they’d opened up to all the benefits Twitter can bring to a conference. I know that of which I speak, having run the PR for the past two Association of Independent Information Professionals conferences.

I do not know with whom the decision lies to ban or discourage Twitter at the APG events, and thus have not been able to find out why they don’t approve of its usage, but want to address some of what I think may be their concerns here:

First of all, Tweeting will not discourage attendance at a conference — yes, some audience members may tweet a key point here or there from a speaker, but this is a filter through which potential future conference attendees will become interested in the conference. Attendees are not going to be able to give away any secrets 140 characters at a time. They are going to provide free advertisements about the great sessions and speakers your event attracts, which could net new attendees in the future.

Secondly, it will not disrupt the session. Go ahead and admonish folks to turn down the sound on their phones to prevent beeps and rings from interrupting the speaker. If I were a speaker, I would ask my audience beforehand who is Tweeting. That way, I’ll know (or hope) that someone looking at their phone or laptop instead of me while I’m talking is perhaps Tweeting what I have to say. That’s instant gratification for a speaker — an audience member finds a tidbit interesting enough to share with their online followers.

Twitter is a necessary tool to use in event planning and marketing these days and the best part is, that your audience can do most of the work for you. If you set up a hashtag to promote a conference before the event, buzz can be generated before the first speaker takes to the podium. The conference organizers need only sit back and watch as attendees Tweet about what they’re enjoying about the conference and the takeaways they found most valuable. Yes, some may complain about the food or that the session rooms are too cold — great! That’s instant feedback you can act upon to improve the conference right then and there or at least to plan for in the future.

I can understand that event organizers may fear losing control of the message and content of the conference by allowing Twitter and other social media activity. There are proactive steps you can take to manage this, however. Firstly, set up that hashtag and advertise it early so that all your attendees include it on their posts. Not only can their readers follow along then, but so can you. Second, many organizations advertise a social media policy for their events, including guidelines on what’s appropriate to Tweet and post. There are other bloggers, out there (ahem, Amy Coffin), who can speak to this better than I. Third, monitor the posts about your event — retweet the stellar ones, revel in your successes and plan to fix anything about which your audience members may have complained (and then advertise that you’ve done so). Create the impression that you’re on the ball, not behind the times.