Whether you realize it or not, your Family History Center has a web presence! FamilySearch.org users who click on [Get Help] see several options including “Find Local Help”. That’s us!
“Find Local Help“ uses the device’s location-based service to suggest a short list of Family History Centers closest in proximity to that device. Users can also enter a specific location by name in the search box.
The name and address line of each result are links. Clicking on the address link launches Google maps. Clicking on the name of a Family History Center takes the user to that center’s FamilySearch wiki page.
Leveraging your center’s FamilySearch-provided web presence is not complicated. Adding information to your wiki page is much like editing a document in a word processing program, but you must be signed in to FamilySearch.org in order to edit your page. If you need help editing your page, use these instructions Help: Updating a Family History Center page. If you are unfamiliar with how wikis work, or are uncomfortable trying it alone, contact wiki support at firstname.lastname@example.org. FamilySearch volunteers can help you set up or edit your page!
Start by ensuring accuracy
At the very least, make sure that your center’s wiki page is accurate. No one likes to arrive at a facility and find it closed!
Use your page to reach out
Don’t settle for providing just location and hours of operation! Your wiki page is a tool you can use to reach out to invite new patrons, and to share information with existing patrons. Here are a few possibilities:
- Provide details of upcoming events. Holding simple, high-quality events on a regular basis gives patrons a reason to come to your center, and to your wiki page. Update the page frequently.
- Post handouts from recent events. Use your wiki page to share speaker notes and info sheets so that event participants (and FHC staff) have ready access to the information.
- Explain (briefly) the unique resources available in your center. Include information about access to microfilm and premium content websites. Even though those resources are not unique to your center, they are unique in the genealogy community.
- Link to other articles within the wiki that are particularly relevant to your center’s audience. Wikis are all about links. Leverage what already exists by linking to it.
- Create a list of links to the very best local history resources in your area. Explain why those resources are so valuable, and how to make best use of them.
- Provide a picture of your center’s entrance and an explanation of where to find you in the building. (Ours is a very small center, not very close to the entrance of the building.)
Write for the web
Keep in mind that people “scan” web content; they don’t read everything on a page. Don’t bury essential details in a lot of words. Use bullets and headings to draw attention. DO NOT USE ALL CAPS! It’s the equivalent of SHOUTING in digital content.
Help people find your page
Once your page is polished up, start looking for ways to help people find it.
- Establish a patron email distribution list, and occasionally send out information about events (they can be genealogy or history events at places other than your center), new collections that would be of interest to your patrons, or new features on FamilySearch.org.
- Create an email “Signature block” that includes a link to your center’s wiki page. Hide the long URL under the name of your center. (Copy the link, highlight the name of the center in the signature block, click on the link tool and paste the URL you’ve copied.) Use the center’s email account (with the automatic signature block) to send messages to your patron email list and on all email correspondence for the center.
- Create a group list of Priesthood, Relief Society, and YM/YW leaders for the wards that your center serves. (Ask permission to add them to your distribution list.) Send occasional messages, and invite them to pass those messages along to their organizations. (Make sure you have something meaningful to say in those messages, and keep them short!)
- Google your center! Your center’s wiki page may well show up at the top of the list. Remember that people are naturally interested in the tremendous resources available through your Family History Center. Help them find you in the ways they are most likely to search. If you don’t already see it on the center wiki page, consider creating a Google Map location for your center. (Be sure to keep that information updated as well.)
- Contact your public library. Many have some kind of Local History section on their web site. Ask that they add the link to your wiki page. It will probably take more than one phone call, but it’s worth the effort to make sure your community knows you exist!
Track your progress
Test the effectiveness of a particular email distribution by tracking the number of page views in the days or weeks that follow.
Take the long view
It will take some time for word to get around. Be patient. It may take years to establish your center in your community. Getting the word out is just one part of building your center. Being open consistently, providing excellent help, and being easy to discover will help. Your FHC has incredible resources, even if you’ve only got a few computers and a microfilm reader! That’s a message worth sharing.
Note: Information about your center’s hours and location are also displayed directly via the “Find a Family History Center” map feature. Those details do not come from your wiki page. Those details come from your listing in the Church Directory of Leadership (also known as CDOL).
You must update BOTH your wiki page and CDOL (as well as the center’s phone answering machine, the signs on the doors, and any social media…!) if your hours change.