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The Facebook group called “The Genealogy Squad” was launched on May 6, 2019, or, after 361 episodes of “The Genealogy Guys” podcast and 54 episodes of “Genealogy Connection.”

With Episode 1 of “The Genealogy Guys” having been published on September 4, 2005, they waited a while, huh?

“We knew that managing a Facebook group would be a lot of work, and our time was already busy with the podcast, The Genealogy Guys blog, and some planning for a subscription website that eventually launched in October 2019,” show co-host Drew Smith explains.

“I had been a Facebook administrator for a very popular group dedicated to discussing using DNA testing for genealogy,” Smith continues. “I and the person who founded that group had a problem with people wanting to use the DNA group to talk about genealogical things that weren't about DNA, but we didn't feel that the existing non-DNA genealogy groups were run by experts and so we didn't want to refer people to those. Instead, we chose to create our own group, and we brought in another long-time genealogy expert to help.”

From No Facebook Group to 13000 Plus

Make no mistake, though, the decision to launch a Facebook group wasn’t solely because of ‘people wanting to use the DNA group to talk about genealogical things that weren’t about DNA.’ Smith, who does “The Genealogy Guys” with George Morgan, says that they did have a vision for what they hoped to accomplish by launching their own online community.

“First, we wanted to have a good place to refer people to from the DNA group. Second, we knew that we could use the group as a marketing tool for our podcast, our blog, and our eventual subscription website. Third, we wanted to enhance our reputations as knowledgeable about genealogical research. And finally, we knew that the kinds of questions that people would ask in the group would help us to figure out good future topics for the podcast, blog, and subscription site.”

Clearly, the numbers show that they were right on target with the decision to launch. By the end of the first day of the Facebook group they had 6,132 members. From that first day (May 6, 2019) to one month later (June 5th) they amassed 13,360 members. This week the group passed 30,000 members. In ten-and-a-half months.

Attracting Members

So, of course, the 25-thousand-dollar question is, how did they do it?

“We announced the group in the next episode of our podcast and referred to it in most following episodes,” Smith says. “We announced the group on our blog. We announced the group in the many presentations that George and I did for local genealogy societies and at state and national genealogy conferences, and even created an ending PowerPoint slide for our presentations to mention it. Our other founders (Blaine T. Bettinger and Cyndi Ingle) did similar things.

From No Facebook Group to 13000 Plus
Shown here at the genealogy collection in a public library in downtown Tampa, Florida, George Morgan (left) and Drew Smith used local genealogy societies as one of the means to spread the word about their Facebook group.

“We also announced the group in other genealogy Facebook groups after getting permission from those groups' administrators. This was usually in a genealogy group that was focused on a particular topic (DNA, organizing, Jewish research, etc.), so that we could say that our group was ideal for those questions that didn't fit into the group that they were already in. Those admins now knew that they could refer their members to our group for those questions that weren't relevant to their own groups.”

Numbers aside, Smith says that there have been benefits they’ve realized that can be pointed to under the umbrella of what they’ve been able to do with the Facebook group that they hadn’t previously been able to do.

“We've been able to create a 24/7 genealogy community that shares not only their research problems but also their solutions, tips, and techniques.”

Sweat Equity

Make no mistake, though, this is in no way a set-it-and-forget-it initiative.

“There's no question that being an administrator for a group that has over 30,000 members takes a lot of time,” Smith reveals. “I would say, several hours a week. Fortunately, we have four administrators (the four group founders) and two moderators. The moderators were recruited because one lives in England and the other in Australia, which means that they are often awake when the U.S.-based administrators are asleep. This means that any group problems can be dealt with almost immediately and don't have to wait hours for an East Coast administrator to see them.”

Ready to start a Facebook group of your own now? Smith issues the following advice.

“Before creating a new group, it might be a good idea to volunteer to help out in someone else's group. In that way, you can gain experience in being an administrator before you become the main person in charge of your own group. It can be especially helpful if your new group has a different focus from existing groups, but somewhat related to the group you're volunteering in. Then you can use the existing group to market your own group when it's time to launch.”

Check out (and join) The Genealogy Squad Facebook group!

From No Facebook Group to 13000 Plus
Drew Smith traveled to London last October for a genealogy conference and went to Cambridge, England, to this military cemetery where his uncle is buried.

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