Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies

April 15, 2011 by  
Filed under genealogy

RootsTech 2011, February 10 -12. Salt Lake City


An interview by Josh McHugh of Forbes with entrepreneur and AllTop owner Guy Kawasaki got me thinking about social media influence.

Back in the olden days (all  of 3 or 4 years ago) when Twitter and Facebook were fairly new you might get a reply from one of the big Influencers on the net.  Not any more.   Try to pitch a product and get a mention by an Influencer with a million followers these days…well, it simply isn’t going to happen.

Kawasaki’s recent book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions talks  about getting things done in life that require the cooperation of others.

He proposes that the Nobodies are the New Somebodies.

You know…You and Me...the Nobodies with maybe a thousand twitter followers (if we are lucky) , a little blog, a few hundred Facebook followers and a network of online friends.

Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies

We are the New Somebodies.  Yes, in our industry we Genea-Bodies are the New Somebodies.

Why?  Because a Nobody could become Some Project’s biggest cheerleader.

Just look at the royal treatment the Official Bloggers received at Rootstech. (I was one).  Jay Verkler, Anne Roach, Paul Nuata et al knew what they were doing when they engaged the Genea-Bodies.

We Genea-Bodies have a voice.  A collective voice.  A passionate voice.  And we talk about our passion.

We blogged and tweeted and Facebooked our little hearts out about Rootstech.  Because we wanted to; because we felt the cause was warranted.

And in part, because we had been noticed.  We had a job to do.  We were reporting on Rootstech!

And not just the official bloggers, but all of us Genea-Bodies. We became Rootstech’s biggest cheerleaders because we cared and we were engaged.

As Josh McHugh in the Forbes article so aptly states:

“It turns out that celebrating your project’s most enthusiastic fans regardless of their influence scores and making them the stars of the community has the flattering (though ancillary) side effect of – you guessed it – eventually raising the influence scores of everyone involved.”


What are you thoughts on this topic?  Please leave your comments below.

UPDATE: 80+ comments and counting! The thread morphed from Genea-Bodies influence to making money  as genealogists.  I suggest readers check out Thomas MacEntee’s excellent series of posts on Genea-Opportunities:  Let’s Make Lots of Money

Greta of Greta’s Genealogy Bog has created a comprehensive list of the various blog posts that arose out of the discussion.



85 Responses to “Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies”
  1. Michael Hait says:

    Just to get it out of the way up front: I am a full-time professional genealogist. I support my family, including my wife and daughter, through various genealogy endeavors. Most of my income comes from client research projects, and I am not trying to advertise here at all.

    I completely understand and respect the passion that leads one to blog–I was writing unpaid articles for many years before blogs picked up any steam. But there may be a problem when this passion extends itself in the wrong (IMO) direction.

    The original post discussed the strength of the geneablogging community and how large corporations and large organizations have been tapping into the strength, as they have been for at least 2-3 years. Geneabloggers see no problem in helping these large corporations to publicize their products and make a pretty decent profit.

    However, I think that their own love of their hobby leads many geneabloggers to fail to recognize the value of the the hard work, time and money expended by others in trying to move this community forward. And in failing to recognize the dollar value of this work, the conclusion is often that members of this community should all be willing to provide everything for free. This is simply an unreasonable expectation, and one that can only hurt the community.

    How can geneabloggers help? Really all that is necessary is a change in perception or attitude. Recognize that there are those working in this field professionally. Recognize that there is an actual monetary value to the time and work put in by volunteers. Recognize that not everyone can afford to provide services and products at no cost. And then do not expect it.

    Once enough geneabloggers have come to the conclusion that it is not a sin to expect to paid for one’s work, and use the strength of their community to express these conclusions, then perhaps we can use this strength to actually advance the field of genealogy.

    We have to remember that throughout American history, innovation has always come as a result of the free market and the desire for profit! If Ancestry has taught us nothing, it is that the same is true in the genealogy. While we all might complain about the high cost of an annual subscription, I would like to see anyone who does not thank their lucky stars that Ancestry is there. When Ancestry completed their every-name indexes to the U. S. Census in 2005-2006, I was able to break down brick walls in minutes that had been standing for years of going through NARA’s microfilmed census records. Ancestry has advanced our field in truly visionary fashion, motivated almost entirely by the bottom line, and I am extremely appreciative as both a genealogist and a shareholder. (I figured I ought to get some of my money back, and was it ever worth it!)

  2. Cindy Harris says:

    Bloggers of the world unite :) Here is the great thing about blogging. I found this discussion (and blog) while looking at Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings blog on my Google reader, so I think I have to agree with Amy’s first response – “Bloggers are going to talk about genealogy. Smart vendors make sure they’re part of the conversation” As for making money – if you can find a way to do it, great. I never intended to make money at this (to my husband’s chagrin) and I have been helped for free by too many folks to charge for any service I could offer. I am not a professional. I think it’s great that people can take their passion and make a living with it.

  3. Leslie Huber says:

    Wow – a blog discussion that makes my heart beat faster with excitement. I love it! And I would LOVE a topic at a conference about making money on blogs – or about being smarter with taxes when you are self-employed – or anything else that would make me more business savy. I hadn’t thought of making money on my blog per se, but I created a blog to increase awareness of my book. (I am admitting my ulterior motive – it was not just to share free information with the world:)

    I have little to add that hasn’t already been said. Just want to reiterate that I agree that genealogists should not be expected to volunteer infinite amounts of time with no financial rewards. I also have very limited time because of my family (a situation shared by many) and am extremely careful about what I agree to do. I want to help people so sometimes I feel badly but I don’t have time to solve people’s personal genealogy problems (and I don’t take clients) and I am not intereted in speaking for free (we could have a parallel discussion for genealogy speakers…). I love genealogy, but I don’t see it as my hobby. This is my profession. This is what I studied in school and what I took as my first full-time job out of school. I am a smart, capable person who could be making good money doing something else (or so I think….) so I expect to make money doing this as well. I think sometimes as genealogists we sell ourselves short and allow ourselves to be underpaid (or unpaid). Now again, if you don’t care about being paid – fine. But as this discussion shows, many do – and are frustrated. We need to become better business people – better educated about how to run a financially successful business – not just educated about how to be better genealogists. Or maybe I should just speak for myself – I know I could use more business knowledge!

  4. Cindy Harris says:

    Oh Michael – I hope my post doesn’t look like an attack on yours! I didn’t see your post until I had put mine up. I actually agree with your points. Family historians should not expect to get the fruits of your labor for free!
    Cindy Harris´s last [type] ..Camera Shy

  5. Michael Hait says:

    Don’t worry Cindy. I didn’t think it was an attack.

    This is part of my point: I respect that for many bloggers this is a hobby and they do not either intend or expect to be paid.

    My point is that the inverse should also be true. Can hobbyists respect that for some this is a career and they cannot afford to do everything without getting paid?
    Michael Hait´s last [type] ..Genea-Bodies- A response to the comments

  6. Joan sent me a note on Facebook: ‘I believe the group could benefit from your perspective and expertise about business and entrepreneurship.’
    I just read Leslie’s post as well, and she adds very important points (about each person’s different point in life re: volunteer vs. paid genealogy work). Here was my response to Joan:
    Thanks for the message. I read the post when it first came out. I just went back and saw over 50 comments! Great! I read Michael Hait’s… without reading the rest, yet, I believe I agree with him, on what he said, 100%. Don’t know what that is worth, except it is factual. There must be a business model that allows the professional to sustain their useful activities profitably… or it ‘goes away.’ I also agree that social media discussions do need to support this concept. We also need to be willing to accept some new concepts that did not exist in the past, to test whether they will work in the future. We are in a transition period… in publishing, in music/entertainment, in technology, in genealogy, in business… where the answers are not yet clear. How/What is the best way to ‘pay for’ useful goods and services? This discussion via social media among interested providers and users of the services is extremely useful. The recent Family History Survey provides one more set of insights to add to the base of useful knowledge. A follow-up, along these lines, would probably also add to our knowledge and understanding. ;-)

    I stopped at that point… wasn’t sure how many words I had on a ‘message’ reply on Facebook.

    How many folks ‘doing genealogy research’ are really interested in doing it for a living? Are in a position to even consider it? I’ve been pleasantly surprised how many have already taken the plunge and are doing it? I believe, from my ‘perspective and expertise’ that it take a ‘more than 100%’ commitment to make it work (that is, much more than a 40-hour week commitment), as it does with literally all small-business.

    I’ll stop there – feels like a lecture coming on – and see what additional comments come in… Thanks, Joan, for starting a really good conversation. ;-)
    Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith´s last [type] ..Follow Friday – 15 Apr 2011

  7. Drew Smith says:

    For an interesting take on the issue of “influencers”, you may want to read Duncan J. Watts’ recent book “Everything Is Obvious: Once You Know the Answer”. He addresses scientific research into whether or not “influencers” have the power that marketers think they have.

  8. If you missed it, be sure to see:
    Sara E. Campbell says:
    April 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm
    Her comments are very good for someone wanting to get at start toward ‘making some money’ in the business of genealogy… thanks, Sara! Best wishes.

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith´s last [type] ..Follow Friday – 15 Apr 2011

  9. Comment on:
    Marian Pierre-Louis says:
    April 18, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Marian has very good points. I especially want to highlight the importance to blogging as a way to ‘bring attention to’ the other ‘business activities’ you are pursuing. It is both an excellent approach and a very delicate balance required. We each need to ‘add value’ to the community each time we also let folks know we are there and have a product or service we want them to be aware of… Thanks, Marian, for a ‘clear-headed’ addition to your other great comments! ;-)
    Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith´s last [type] ..Follow Friday – 15 Apr 2011

  10. Ok, Caroline:
    Caroline Pointer says:
    April 18, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Final comment. I recommend Caroline as one to make presentation at one of the major discussions on this topic. [loved Kerry's 'fistpump'!]

    Finally, late, got through all the comments. I mentioned ‘business model’ earlier, and Joan referenced some excellent sources.

    A good research project would be to review all these comments and put them in the form of ‘business model’ elements for the various levels of genealogy businesses various folks have mentioned. We have a wide spectrum of both interests and approaches. These comments have also identified a tremendous panel for further discussion: dare I say: Caroline, Amy, Joan, Kerry, Thomas, Michael, plus………….

    Thanks for all the contributions. Keep them coming! ;-)
    Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith´s last [type] ..Follow Friday – 15 Apr 2011

  11. Michael Hait says:

    Drew -

    Thanks for the reference to the new Duncan Watts book. I loved his previous ones about network theory research. I haven’t been in a Borders for a while, so I was not aware that he had a new one.

    I’ll probably be purchasing this book on Amazon, so now I have to decide which affiliate link to click on. ;)
    Michael Hait´s last [type] ..Genea-Bodies- A response to the comments

  12. Jenna says:

    My impression of Joan’s post was how can bloggers leverage their expertise with the “genealogy companies” in order to make money. After reading the 61 posts (very cool) I saw affiliates mentioned numerous times as a method to generate income. I have no problem with bloggers adding affiliate widgets to their blog because I never see them. I read blogs in Reader, Feedly or Flipboard, the affiliate links don’t show up. How do you compensate for that lost traffic? I’m wondering if you (meaning those who blog with professional goals in mind, I am hobby only) need to put more focus on the deep pockets and get some blog sponsorships from Ancestry (of course), but also from the technology companies. I mean does Garmin have a clue how many of their GPS units are used in cemeteries as opposed to just on the highways? I think year 2 of Rootstech will tell us if year 1 tech vendors realized the scope of this market. If they dd “get it” a few high profile genealogy blogs should be in their sites…are you ready for that? A conference session on that topic would be beneficial to so many that may be unsure how to promote their blog in a professional capacity…great idea to those that brought it up!

  13. Kerry Scott says:

    Jenna–actually, I AM ready for that. Here’s the problem, though: If I were Garmin, I’d study the market, and I’d quickly learn that if I simply send out a press release to a bunch of bloggers, they’ll happily write about my product for free. In fact, I’d specifically target the “I do this for love not money” bloggers. I’d get lots of free advertising. Why would I do business with the business-bloggers if the hobby bloggers will do it for nothing?

    That’s part of the disconnect; the folks who say it’s just a hobby participate in the business end anyway. They just don’t charge for it.

    People need to decide why they’re in it. It’s fine to be in it for money, and it’s fine to do it as a hobby. But big companies sure do know how to exploit the grey area in between. That’s their job, and we can’t blame them for it…but we can give some though to whether that model is working well for everyone.
    Kerry Scott´s last [type] ..In Which We Finally Discuss Taboo Stuff

  14. Jenna says:

    Also there is a conference for women only called Blissdom that is all about blogging and promoting yourself. It appears to be structured towards designers, sewers and crafters. I follow many women who attend and rave about it and one of them now has a DIY gig from her blog! Kerry, all true however a pro blogger should have more followers and a much higher klout score than the hobby types and that would make the pro blog more attractive to those looking for reviews of their product.

  15. The key to affiliate advertising is blog traffic. Also, what kind of traffic are you attracting? Is it the kind that needs what you’re selling on your sidebars? A person who blogs about genealogy, family history, etc. and is only blogging to those who already are “into” genealogy (in whatever form), is not going to do well in affiliate advertising. Why? Because we (genealogists) already know about the different companies. I already know all about Ancestry, Footnote, etc. You’re not selling me anything that I don’t already know about. If I haven’t already signed up at one of these companies, it isn’t because I don’t already know about them. And with WDYTYA added to the mix, a lot of non-genealogy visitors or “newbies” to your blog have probably already signed up at Ancestry. I also think that the smaller companies that should be offering affiliate advertising, are not doing so. (i.e., Rootsmagic)

    To succeed in affiliate advertising, a blogger must extend beyond the standard genealogy world into other industries. Theoretically speaking, everyone is a potential “sell”, right? Everyone has a family, and every family has a history. Tapping into related industries, networking with these folks, and directing your blog posts to these folks would be more productive as far as affiliate advertising is concerned.

    Jenna, ads can be placed within the RSS feed, but not many genealogy bloggers, if any, do this. It’s possible, though. But you bring up a good point. By attracting more subscribers through RSS, we provide a way for people not to visit our blogs. Currently elsewhere on the net, the norm is to create community on your site so people want to come back and come back often. RSS defeats this. What to do? Take the RSS off your site and promote your blog posts through twitter and facebook and on related industries’ forums and whatnot. Analysis of where your traffic is coming from to your blog can be analyzed through Google Analytics. Personally, I prefer twitter for promotion. But I really work the twitter program.

    Finally, out-and-out advertising was mentioned. This is where, in my opinion, money can be made in blogging. BUT you have to have already worked really hard on your blog, have great content, and have outstanding traffic numbers to sell yourself and your blog. Very do-able, though. Just takes some time and a lot of effort, but this where not only your blog traffic statistics but your social networking statistics come into play. Both are a big part of your “portfolio” that you’d present to companies in order to sell you and your blog to them. Web design is an industry that I’ve been analyzing and is very similar to genealogy in that it’s a very “sharing” community, but they have very successfully made the conversion into blog monetization. For example, some web designers are able to charge $600 for an ad package that includes a banner add and moderate tweeting (Very moderate. Not annoying.)for a month. (And if any company would like to do this with me, lemme know.)

    The key is to make yourself very desirable to the companies. They need to see something “quantifyable” that proves they’ll be getting their money’s worth.

    O.K., I think that’s it for now. (For now.)

    Caroline Pointer´s last [type] ..Was It Really Worth It

  16. Michael Hait says:

    @ Caroline:

    Great overview of the issues involved. Of course, in that last option, paid advertising, the genealogy companies won’t buy the cow, because they get the milk for free.

    That brings this full-circle, back to the start of the whole conversation.
    Michael Hait´s last [type] ..Genea-Bodies- A response to the comments

  17. Hi all,
    Thank you for the thoughtful discussion.

    Have you considered the concept of joint venture? People like me (passionate genealogists who blog) will promote you folks that wish to make money if we believe you have a good product and service. The point being – it doesn’t matter if it is a big company or big conference or whether it is a small operation featuring the latest ebook regarding your expertise.

    If the product is good and provides value to genealogists we Genea-Bodies will mention it. If it isn’t good, we Genea-Bodies will still mention it…and I trust we will provide >constructive< feedback so it can be made better. As Kerry said way back on comment #3 or whatever it was – we are all on the same team.

    I very seldom post press releases. (Thank goodness Thomas conceived Genea-Press) I will review products and services and I call it the way I see it. I do use affiliate links if I have them but I don’t expect to make a lot of money from my blog doing so. (There are better models than blogging for money unless you have high traffic volumes).

    There are successful individuals making a living from genealogy. I watched one in action this past weekend. She was passionate, engaged and providing a GREAT value to her customers. Folks were lining up to buy her books and DVDs. That is where she is making the money…not her blog or her affiliate links. She earns her income by providing something her audience wants and needs. And like Thomas she has worked very hard at creating this business.

    I suggest doing indepth market analysis, find your “Unique Selling Proposition”, and create a product or service that meets the needs of your target audience (don’t create the product that suits YOU, but create the product your market is ASKING FOR).

    Btw, many of the larger Canadian gen societies pay the speaker’s fee plus travel expenses. I gather it isn’t the same in the US?


  18. Thanks, Michael.

    Well, this cow is building up her Klout and her blog numbers, and her milk ain’t gonna be free anymore.

    The key is to market yourself and have a very widespread reach (influence). No company is going to pay you to advertise their wares to people who already own their wares. That’d be a waste of money. Also, they may be getting free advertising through all these genealogy-related blogs, but most blogs’ readerships are geared towards other genealogists (of all levels). In other words, they already own the wares. Now, affiliate advertising is not free for the companies. They have to pay commissions to bloggers, and they have to pay the overhead costs of the affiliate advertising department. Have you seen how many ads and campaigns some of the companies have?

    Did I just say that all these big genealogy companies are wasting their money?

    Yes, I did. They’d be better off in the long run implementing more strategically placed ads. [And again. If any of these companies would like to pay me to run their ads, lemme know.]

    I understand your point, though, Michael. I just think the the “standard” can be changed. [And if not, I guess I could go be a "Mommy Blogger".]

    [How did bovine get involved in this? ;) ]

    Caroline Pointer´s last [type] ..Was It Really Worth It

  19. Amy Crooks says:

    I truely enjoyed this discussion. It brought up a lot of good points. I think Amy hit it on the head for me. I got into genealogy blogging because I love it, but I do hope to make a living at it. As someone else did say……yes it is very difficult to make a living at it. Those who have found a way, be proud and glad you have. Those of us who are dreaming but a bit behind the curve will hopefully join you soon. I am like Amy (the other Amy ;-) though, I have a family and a day job to juggle along with this. So I also abandoned the volunteer work for the most part. If I have time for genealogy it goes first to my customer (I usually have one project going at a time) and second to my own family history. I did a lot of volunteer work when I stayed home with the kids, and some day I’m certain I will do more when I can retire. But until then, if I do anything more than my own research it will be for a profit. As to my blogging, it’s for fun and exposure. If I can find affiliate links (i’ll be looking into Amazon by the way) that I’m happy with and that pay worth a darn I will use them.

    We all have to evaluate what it is that we want out of the experiance. If it’s just for fun, then do it for fun. If it’s for profit then work hard and do what you must (ethically) to obtain that goal. And those that are uncomfortable with it, be polite about your concerns. I hope we can all work toward supporting each other no matter our asperations.

  20. Hi Amy,
    Thanks for visiting and for adding your viewpoint. It is appreciated.


  21. Hi Jenna,
    I wonder how valid the klout score really is? If you blog and tweet on a specific niche topic all the time your score will be higher. If you have varied interests (but could still be an expert in genealogy) the score deems that you aren’t as focused. Hmm…but in reality your varied interests could mean you are well balanced and perhaps a better expert in your niche for it! I don’t pay attention to much to these so called expert scores.


  22. Joan,

    Unless I’m mistaken, Klout isn’t just based on your niche. Here’s the site’s explanation on how Klout is calculated: http://klout.com/kscore

    Caroline Pointer´s last [type] ..Was It Really Worth It

  23. Hi Caroline,
    Thanks for the link. I appreciate it. I’ll copy the Klout score info here for others that stop by:

    “True Reach is the size of your engaged audience and is based on those of your followers and friends who actively listen and react to your messages. Amplification Score is the likelihood that your messages will generate actions (retweets, @messages, likes and comments) and is on a scale of 1 to 100. Network score indicates how influential your engage audience is and is also on a scale from 1 to 100. The Klout score is highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets.”

    There are a lot of bots out there retweeting, liking, clicking on people’s content especially in some of the big niches (health, wealth and relationships). I wonder how Klout adjusts for auto generated profiles/content/actions?

    I have people following me locally here in Calgary just because I have a lot of followers. The system seems to perpetuate itself.

    In my opinion and based on my experience, networking in person at conferences and conversations behind the scenes can have more influence. If is a difficult thing to measure though.

    Thanks again for the link.


  24. Joan,

    If a professional genealogy researcher is looking for new clients in Calgary (or any where for that matter), why wouldn’t that researcher want to network with local residents in any manner (like Twitter) in order to possibly meet a new client? Further, why wouldn’t that researcher want those potential local clients that happen to be on twitter and follow that researcher to possibly retweet to all of their followers something that the researcher may have tweeted that’s family history related and was interesting to them. [And so on and so forth.]

    How is this different than a professional researcher passing out some business cards to a friend’s acquaintances with maybe a few extra business cards and they in turn pass them along to their acquaintances? Is it not the same?

    In my opinion, genealogy is unique from a marketing standpoint because everyone has a family and every family has a history. The key is targeting segments of the population who would be most open to the idea of researching their family history. With proper networking both online and offline, a professional researcher should be able to reach these segments of the population who may be in need of their services. It’s possible these people just hadn’t been “introduced” to the idea of researching their family history, or they hadn’t been “introduced” to someone who could help them with it, or both.

    I have many people who start following me on Twitter because I’m a Texan, a mother, an antique enthusiast, a history buff, an alumni of the same university as they are, a photoshop and photographer geek-wannabe, a storyteller, a fan & reader of her best-selling books, a storyteller, and on and on and on. Additionally, I am listed 186 times, meaning that 186 people (actually a little less because I listed myself and I’m listed twice with a few tweeps) placed me on a Twitter list. And, yes, by far, I am listed for genealogy and family history. But what’s interesting is that I am listed by quite a few non-genealogy related people as a storyteller, as a mother, as “my daily fix”, as a writer, as a blogger, as a history buff, etc. What this means is that I am effectively engaging with those who have related interests as myself. These are real people that I am networking with. [People who all have families.]

    These are the ones I interact with and that interact with me. There are many more where there is no active interaction on Twitter between us. But my point is that they are exposed to the idea of genealogy and family history and researching. I know of no other medium that little ol’ me could reach this many varied potential clients, at least not on a free platform.

    I have successfully converted a few to clients and I have spurred and helped many to start researching. I receive direct messages all the time from people previously outside the genealogy “fold” who want to know, “How do I start researching?” So, I tell them. For Free. I figure, if they need some “big” help later, I hope they remember my soon-to-debut professional website address.

    So, my whole point is that just because someone is following a professional genealogy researcher for unrelated reasons, doesn’t mean they should be discounted as not valuable to the researcher’s business.

    Caroline Pointer´s last [type] ..Was It Really Worth It

  25. Hi Caroline,
    Very eloquently stated and with several valid points. I have referred queries to pro-genealogists in the area.

    Thanks for taking the time to express your viewpoint.


  26. I have enjoyed reading this discussion. I am a Professional Genealogist, and absolutely love the career choice. a3Genealogy fairs well. We use a 3 tier approach 1) researcher-for hire service (mostly brick wall cases, but some beginning genealogies) for clients 2)blogs to assist family researchers, hobbyist,other professional researchers, etc. Most of the blog posts are generated from reader questions 3) volunteer and philanthropy. We offer our services for free, by appt at the Mid-West Genealogy Center (again mostly for brick walls). The Mid-West Genealogy Center has an Expert Connect series. We don’t do the work for patrons, but for 50 minutes we will review and give “next step tips.” I like this about a3Genealogy. I sometimes use patron questions for blog topics (nothing personal, just topical). But what a great excuse to blog. It makes for an 80 hour week job, but the triangular approach seems beneficial and is quite rewarding.
    Kathleen Brandt´s last [type] ..Preserving Family Records

  27. Hi Kathleen,
    I like your 3 tier approach. Thanks for commenting.



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