Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The genealogy WORLD is on Twitter

I previously wrote a post called "Where do genealogists meet on the internet?" which questioned where genealogists go to discuss ideas and network.  There were many possibilities and a nice discussion ensued.

Since then I have been spending more time on Twitter.  I didn't go willingly onto Twitter (just as I didn't go willingly onto Facebook).  A friend of mine (that would be you, Rob!) declared he was abandoning Facebook for Twitter.  Not wanting to lose his witty company, I followed.

It took me awhile to get the hang of Twitter and to understand what this mysterious form of communication was all about.  Do you know what I discovered?  The WORLD of genealogy is on Twitter, not Facebook.

What do I mean by that exactly? Well, while I was on the APG list and Facebook I had a very American centric view of genealogy.  It seemed to me that it was mostly American genealogists who were utilizing the web.  When you have limited streams of information it is easy to fall into that kind of assumption.

On Twitter I discovered Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and the British of course as well as genealogists from other countries. It took a little getting used to the realization that these other groups had thriving genealogical communities of their own. How could I have been so wrong?

Part of the answer is that Twitter is a public forum while Facebook is private.  When you post on Twitter everyone on the internet can see what you have "tweeted".  When you use the tag #genealogy, everyone who follows that tag can immediately see the tweet.

Facebook on the otherhand, is based on "friending" people.  If you are not friends with a particular person you will not see their posts.  Some people on Facebook limit their friends to people they know in person.  Others, like me, will friend most anyone who is a genealogist.  What you see is based on how big your circle is.  As a result your circle becomes more national-centric than worldly.

Twitter is not, however, a larger audience than Facebook numbers-wise.  Twitter has far fewer members than Facebook.  I don't have any statistical evidence for this but I would say that Facebook has many more genealogists than Twitter.  Yet at the same time I would say that Twitter has greater impact with fewer people because those people potentially reach a far greater audience.  Unfortunately, there is no way to calculate just how many people view an individual tweet.

So the next time you want to know what genealogists are doing in the rest of the world - get on Twitter!


  1. Great post, Marian! I enjoyed your outlook on Twitter vs. Facebook. Interesting perspective and I also find it to be true. Most of our fans on Facebook are indeed from the US, while Twitter shows interest from a much larger world community, including a lot of people from Western Europe and some from South America.

  2. Marian, I usually check Twitter once a day, scroll down to see all messages, and rarely leave a note. However, I believe there is a huge number of genealogists in "our" area that don't know the first thing abt. fb or twitter. They are losing out and so are we. I met two yesterday at HisGen and they don't know the first thing abt. either. I find fb writers tend to talk abt. the weather, their ailments and what they are eating. Don't get that in twitter!

  3. So very true, Marian. It's a big, wide world out there, and Twitter brings us together.


  4. That's one of the reasons I like Twitter...I have such an eclectic collection of friends there. I get to talk to people from all over the world, about all sorts of things.

    I also find there are fewer posts about politics and religion there than on Facebook, and I like that too (although hopefully that will balance out after the election).

  5. Great post Marian! Thanks so much for sharing. I can't decide whether I like Facebook or Twitter better. I got a new phone so I can do Twitter on it now but I can't seem to figure it out. So I just keep using Tweetdeck on my desktop. I like that I can click through and then clear all seen updates and then move on whereas on Facebook I get sidetracked sooo easily!

  6. Interesting post, Marian. I hadn't really thought about this before but think I agree that twitter is the best place to interact with other genealogists.

    I have genealogy friends on Facebook and have picked up lots of useful information from them but don't feel that I really interact a great deal with them. I'm also aware of not wanting to bore my non-genealogy friends with too much genealogy stuff!

    However, my twitter account is pure genealogy with none of those Facebook distractions (games etc.) and I feel has allowed me to have better conversations with fellow genealogists and to develop more meaningful relationships with them.

    I would say though that as a British genealogist, although I have twitter contacts from around the world it does seem to be the fellow Brits I spend the most time talking to


  7. I use HootSuite and StumbleUpon in conjunction with Twitter. Both give a type of click stat, but I never remember to check my numbers.

    Facebook has more genealogists than Twitter.'s home page has 100K fans.

    Interesting post. Thanks for the discussion.