You may be just a small society serving a small geographic area, but your society web site gives you worldwide reach. My local genealogy society discovered this recently when they got a look at WordPress’s Annual Report for our society web site. Our WordPress site is barely a year old, yet we have attracted visitors from every continent except Antarctica.
Because blogs – especially WordPress blogs – are so searchable, it’s easy to attract distant visitors. As a researcher, it means I have the ability to reach out to just about every little hamlet or village where my ancestors lived. But, having the ability is of little use if there’s nothing to find in that far-off location. That’s where local societies – large and small – can shine. With an online presence that shows a vibrant and active operation, your society can attract those distant researchers and turn them into online members.
I belong to several local historical and genealogical societies in locations where my ancestors once lived. I may never attend a single meeting, but I still find those memberships quite valuable. Yes, the quarterly publications are fascinating and informative, but the societies that support online activities like digital archives, social networking, research services and webinars are absolute treasures.
What can you do to attract online members? Here are some ideas . . .
- Make your library catalog and quarterly article index available online.
- Post links to local research resources. This is where a society blog can shine. Posts offering research tips, announcing new additions to the library and other information will keep your online members engaged.
- Post details on your research services, costs and instructions for submitting a request.
- Set up a PayPal account for the society and use it to collect dues, research fees and even publication sales.
- Offer current and past publications as digital downloads. Past issues of your quarterly contain valuable information to researchers near and far. They’re also an easy source of revenue for your society.
- Use social networks like Facebook or Google+ to provide a place where local and distant members can interact.
There are any number of affordable ways you can attract and support online members. Try some of the ideas presented here, experiment with your own ideas and keep track of the results. I think you’ll find that reaching out to those distant researchers can be a rewarding experience for everyone.