I posted before on how Facebook can help you with your genealogy but I never really discussed what I consider Facebook etiquette when it comes to groups. I am in several groups and I feel like there are a few things people can do to make the groups run more smoothly, to make your time more enjoyable, and to get the most out of any Facebook inquiry. Here are 10 things I recommend doing:
- ALWAYS read the pinned post. This will normally give you the ground rules for the group. Does the group talk about DNA? Records? Living people? How should you pose a question? Or an offer to help? Respond to a post? What about posting information from your blog? etc. All of these questions can normally be answered in that first pinned post. And if it’s not there, it’ll be in their description part, or you can always ask an admin.
- Search before you post. If you’re not making an ancestor specific inquiry but something more general, it’s a good idea to see if the question has been asked already. I can’t tell you how many times the question “what’s the best genealogy software out there” has come up! If you’ve got new information to add on the subject, that’s different, but if you’re just looking for the group’s general opinion about something, search to see if it’s been asked before!
- Be specific when posting an inquiry. So many of us are story tellers and wish to share our story about a particular ancestor! You can do that in a separate post of course, but if you wish to ask a question about that ancestor, be sure to get right to it and be as specific as possible. Let the readers know what question you want answered and then give them the information you have for that person pertaining to that question. For example, if you wish to find death information, be sure to give us their name, where they died (or where you think they probably died), and when they died (an estimate works), and maybe parent information, if known. Sometimes if it’s a hard search, giving other information like spouse, children, military information, etc. can be helpful but I recommend giving that only if asked for more information, especially if it’s for a common-named ancestor.
- Read others responses before you respond. Sometimes we get so excited about knowing an answer to a question that we post before seeing if someone has already answered it. If the information has already been added, don’t respond, unless you can add more information. I have seen too many posts that asked a simple yes/no question and it was soon filled with no’s. If you have more to add on that beyond a no and the information would be helpful, that’s different. But there is no need to continue adding comments to a question that has obviously been answered.
- Edit your post when the question has been answered to say SOLVED. Going along with the above, this is really just a nice thing to do. I’ll go to some groups maybe once a week and scroll through, adding in where I feel I can add something substantial and useful. If the poster edits the original question and puts the word SOLVED at the top, this helps me to know to move on to another post. It’s a nice touch for those of us who go through and read these posts maybe once a week and not daily.
- Be polite. This is a common courtesy for any kind of interaction with others. Although it’s on the computer, you still want to ask yourself if you’d say that if the group was meeting in person. If the answer is no, then don’t post it. Just because we can’t see you, doesn’t mean it comes off as less rude. Also, using all caps does look like shouting so just be aware that it can come off as rude.
- Stay on topic. The genealogy groups aren’t the place to post about your religious/political view points. Unless, of course, it has to do with genealogy! Just be sure to stay on the genealogy topic. This doesn’t mean don’t share a cool old photo you picked up at a garage sale – that does have to do with genealogy! I have seen people be removed because they posted some of their political/religious leanings that had nothing to do with genealogy. So, just be aware 🙂
- Don’t vent. This can be tricky. Sometimes people ask opinions about companies and that can lead to many angry (venting) replies. I’ve also seen posts that are simply a person venting about a company. Personally, I don’t feel that these groups are the best places for posts like that, where you simply post to the entire group about a bad experience. However, asking about people’s experiences with certain companies is something I think these groups can be used for (depending on the group of course). So what’s the best way to respond if someone asks about a company that you have had a bad experience with and you want to warn them? I simply recommend that you stick to the facts of what happened and don’t get sidetracked by venting your anger. These are people who would understand, yes, but to keep these groups running smoothly and helping others, it’s best to not get too sidetracked by your anger and instead simply give the facts of what happened and let the poster do what they will with that information.
- Give useful, valuable, substantial information. This is just an example: if someone is asking about say the Masons, don’t comment about how much luck you’ve had researching a completely different fraternal group. Or if someone is using a specific program and is asking if anyone knows how to do something with it, don’t respond on how you do that on your program. That doesn’t help solve the original problem, so be sure your comments are useful, valuable, and give good information to the person who asked the question.
- Above all, participate! Share your joys, your finds, your midnight-treasures, etc. Genealogists love to hear about your successes and what you’ve discovered! Did you find something really neat (usually meaning old) at a garage sale, like family photos or a family Bible? Share! Who knows, you may find a distant relative of that photo/Bible! Ask questions, give opinions when asked, share useful stories and information, etc. These forums are for you to enjoy and learn! You also have a lot to teach/share with others so don’t be shy 🙂
All in all, I LOVE participating in these groups! I have had a lot of help from others and I love being able to give back as well. Using these groups is useful to everyone and my post is simply meant as guidelines on items I’ve noticed that I think would help smooth things along!
Do you agree/disagree with anything I wrote? Have another idea on some Facebook etiquette? Please post below!