How I used Social Media to help Preserve & Restore the Past

Be warned, this isn’t one of my typical blog posts.

As an amateur genealogist, I have warm memories of the many hours I spent with my late father, documenting our family tree and listening to many stories from his pre-Holocaust childhood in Nowy Dwor Poland.

These efforts put me in touch with many of the survivors of the town and their descendants of my father’s home town of Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki. One common concern that these people raised was the condition of Jewish Cemetery in Nowy Dwor. There was garbage everywhere, there was little to no signage indicating even what this land was once. There were open graves and even many bones of our ancestors exposed. Locals would often hold picnics on cemetery grounds as well unaware that Jews had ever lived in the town let alone that they made up 50% of the pre-war population.

While some local Poles got involved a few years back by having some of the bones reburied by a Rabbi from Warsaw it wasn’t enough. So late last year when I was contact by Ze’ve Shaked who’s family was from Nowy Dwor as well, with an ambitious plan to preserve, protect and restore the Jewish Cemetery in Nowy Dwor I was thrilled to apply all my Internet marketing knowledge and skills available to help this project.

We deployed a combination all the Internet had to offer including emailing all those who I was in contact with over the years (email marketing), creating a website (http://www.nowydworjewishmemorial.com) documenting the project, creating  a Facebook page (http://facebook.com/NowyDwor) to bring people together, contacting appropriate bloggers to write about the project (link building) and to help spread the word. We used Twitter to promote the website, Facebook page and the blogger’s posts. With this effort, we gained support and helped raise the necessary funds ($40,000 US) for the first two phases of project. The first two phases were : 1) to fill in the graves and fix the grading of the Cemetery to counter the effects of 60 plus years of erosion; 2) to have a fence built around the entire property to protect it from squatters etc.

The $40,000 US came form people across the world (US, Canada, UK, France, Israel, Poland and other countries). While $40,000 may seem like a small amount as with all things we need to know the target market size. Following WWII there were perhaps a few hundred Jewish survivors from this town. While now combined with their descendants the numbers may be nearly a thousand, it is still hard to reach everyone even with all the social media efforts. This doesn't mean that Social Media doesn't work; it’s that Social Media is limited by only reach people who are interested in a subject.

There are many people out there who have ties to the same ancestral town, but are not involved in genealogy or on-line research of this town. That’s why at times even with the most successful Social Media marketing efforts, you still need to get out there and to it old style. It's through face to face old fashion networking, and contacting reports that we can to put this story in front of those people who are able and willing to help fund this project whether or not they have a direct tie into the town of Nowy Dwor Poland. A lesson that all organization need to remember when contemplating their own Social Networking marketing plan.

The project's goal now is to simply raise as much money as possible to help fund the building of a memorial and if possible to help fund the excavation of more tombstones from beneath the various streets and side-walks of the town.

Believe it or not you can help out without spending a dime. Please help this project by sharing this article via your social network, your favourite social bookmarking site and secondly if you like by making a donation at http://bit.ly/95wcIm

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