A blog or Facebook? Which is better for sharing family history? It’s a question that been going around the genealogy community for the last month or so.
Having one foot in the writers’ community and one foot in the family history crowd, the question surprised me. I don’t think it would have come up in an authors’ group. Writers look at it as both, not either or. Probably because “platform building” has become a necessity as authors’ are increasingly forced into functioning as entrepreneurs. They wield whatever tools they can put their hands on and use effectively. Blogging and Facebook come immediately to mind.
Community Response to the Question
In an excellent article, Facebook vs. Blogging: The Pros and Cons, Alona Tester gives a great overview of the pros and cons of each, as the title implies. She also points that all Facebook accounts are not the same. The algorithms vary depending on whether you have a page, group, or a personal profile. A Facebook group, for example, can be quite efficient in sharing information with a known group of followers.
Amy Johnson Crow’s post Is Genealogy Blogging Dead? responds to the Blog or Facebook question with a resounding “Both.” She writes that we should see social media as a complement to blogging, not a competition. She states, “There are 1.9 billion users on Facebook. Bloggers can and should harness some of that!”
In addition to the pros and cons of blogging versus Facebook, her post also goes into the history of family history blogging and the need for continued promotion. As with everything Amy posts, it’s worth a read.
Rather than summarizing their work, I’ll focus on the algorithms of the two industry giants of Google and Facebook and how they affect our ability to promote content.
Google Algorithms versus Facebook Algorithms
The complex and changing algorithms these two industry giants have a significant impact on how many people will read our content. Both (as well as other search engines) set their algorithms up with specific goals in mind.
Google’s algorithms work in favor of well written and well researched posts. Google aspires to provide users with organic results, content that is relevant and valuable to them. As Insiteful Solutions, a website design firm in Toronto, states in Learn About Google’s Recent Algorithm Updates, “Google has been very clear in the philosophy behind their updates; Google wants high-quality content to appear on their search results page. Each of the updates they make to their algorithm is meant to increase exposure to good content.”
Sure, reasonable Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics can help increase traffic, but for niche topics, blog content can achieve a first page Google ranking on its own merits.
Facebook’s algorithmic goals are quite different, and for many bloggers, are more difficult to master. In addition, we’ve witnessed some U-turns in Facebook’s page algorithms in recent years, forcing us to develop new strategies. (Or a budget. For business pages, Facebook offers highly targeted advertising.)
No matter how well written, it takes some know-how and commitment to get your posts any prominence in your followers’ feeds. Posts need likes, comments, and shares to live long and prosper.
That’s because Facebook’s priorities are to provide entertainment and strengthen relationships. According to “Building a Better News Feed for You” by Facebook’s VP of News Feed Product Management Adam Mosseri, Facebook designs its algorithms to ensure a longevity of usership.
In addition to giving priority to posts that entertain and inform, Mosseri states that “friends and family come first.” He explains, “Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.” That’s why you’re more likely to see photos from your siblings (especially if you normally like, comment, and share them) than your ex-brother-in-law’s cousin’s political rants.
Back to the Question: Is a Blog or Facebook Better?
Rather than decide whether a blog or Facebook (or both, as I believe) is the best option, we can reframe the question and look at which outlet warrants your energy on a post-by-post basis.
Facebook might be best for a post, if
- You have a large number of followers who comment and repost. Facebook algorithms assume that your posts are either highly informative, entertaining, or valued by friends and family when they’re share.
- Your post is short. Google downgrades posts under 300 words and Facebook readers are unlikely to read something longer.
- The topic is time-limited. For instance, if you’re promoting tomorrow’s conference, it doesn’t matter if your post falls to the bottom of followers’ feeds by next week.
- A majority of your target audience is on Facebook. This is changing, but older Americans tend not to “be on Facebook” or if they are, they don’t check in daily.
- Many of your target audience are “friends.” This feeds the oh-so-valuable commenting and re-posting.
A blog might be the best option for a post, if your
- Blog has a large following and/or subscribers
- Site is optimized for search engines
- Blog is integrated with social media (and not only Facebook)
- Social media following includes other outlets and followers that retweet, repin, etc., your posts.
- Topic is evergreen, likely to interest someone in two years as it is today.
- Topic lends itself to Google searches. (Such as how-to articles)
- Site metrics (and yes, you should be checking them) reveal that most of your referrals come from search engines or other social media outlets. For instance, my top two referrals are Google and Pinterest.
What’s your answer to the Blog of Facebook question?
Want to know more about Blogging for Family History? Check out Blogging for Family History: How to Launch a Site and Make It Successful