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Getting More Engagement From Your Online Community – Patrick O’Keefe

Getting More Engagement From Your Online Community: An interview with social media expert Patrick O’Keefe

Patrick O’Keefe is the founder of the iFroggy Network, a publisher of websites. He has been managing online communities since 2000 and is the author of Managing Online Forums, a practical guide to managing online communities and social spaces, and Monetizing Online Forums, a blueprint for monetizing them the right way. He has been responsible for the creation and cultivation of communities like and Patrick blogs about online community at

I had the opportunity to interview Patrick recently and pick his brain about how to increase engagement from our online community.

Patrick, I think that just about everyone is aware that social media is an important element of their organization’s marketing efforts. However, it seems that most organizations, mine included, don’t get as much engagement through social media as we would like to have. Could you offer three ideas for increasing engagement with blogs and microblog platforms like Facebook and Twitter?

It all goes back to simple things. There really aren’t any secrets. First, create great content. In a world filled with surface level, throw away content, truly passionate, meaningful and helpful content stands out and gains a following that engages with it. Second, share your spotlight. Highlight the work of others in your community (the people who engage with your content) and do so through your content and platforms. Third, respond to comments and express appreciation.
Your strongest area of expertise is in building and managing online forums. What types of organizations do you think could benefit from adding an online forum to their social media mix?
Organizations that want to go deeper with their community and don’t want to be held hostage by third party providers. I love Facebook, Twitter and other platforms but when it comes down to it, Twitter owns You don’t. You need to build spaces that you own. That could be a forum, it could be a blog, it could be a great website. But hosting a forum of passionate members is deeply valuable and since you host it, you are able to decide where to take it, what to add to it and what changes you can make. You aren’t locked into someone else’s platform.
Not every organization should start a forum. Not by a long shot. Most probably shouldn’t. They are hard work. But for those that have the type of following or community that would have an interest in going deeper and in engaging in a more meaningful way, they represent a great opportunity.

What are a few benefits that online forums add that an organization is less likely to see from other social media platforms? 

On other platforms, you are limited by what those platforms allow you to do – especially third party platforms that you don’t control. When you host a forum or online community, you have access to the members and to the database of content and, as such, can do whatever you want with the platform. Want to add a feature? You can. Want to upgrade your software? You can. You have the flexibility and the ownership to actually make deeper connections with your community.

I don’t mean to use the term “surface level” again so soon, but that’s what a lot of interaction on the social web is. A retweet there, a meaningless click of the follow button. When people actually visit your community and engage in a platform that encourages discussion, you are talking about a different level of power.

Could you offer a few simple first steps for starting and building an audience with an online forum for a leader who sees the benefits of adding and online forum to the organization’s website?

Understand that you do not cater to everyone. You cater to a specific audience. Pursue them and allow all of your decisions to speak to that pursuit. Commit to the long term. Online communities can take years to be really successful. At least commit to 6 months. If you can’t do that, it’s probably best to not pretend that you have an interest in fostering community. Launch with community guidelines and policies and be ready to moderate. Finally, launch with people. Identify people that will contribute prior to launch and will help you get the ball rolling.

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.

Improving Social Media Effectiveness With A Human Touch

Customer Service Expert Adrian Swinscoe Helps Us Improve Social Media Efforts With A Human Touch

Adrian Swinscoe is a huge fan of organizations that do great things for their customers. He helps others to achieve their own level of greatness via consulting, writing, speaking, and training. A former teacher, economist, manager of businesses, and leader of teams, Adrian is also a lover of simplicity and advocate of the human touch with a bit of really useful technology thrown in. To learn more or to connect with Adrian, please visit his great blog at
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian. Below are some great thoughts on improving customer service with a combination of social media and more people-centered leadership.

On your blog, you wrote a great post on the connection between generous and empathetic leaders and high levels of customer service. Could you elaborate a bit on why having empathy and generosity is so important for leaders?

Thank you for your kind words. I think empathy and generosity is important for leaders as I think it is a key part of leading by example, making leadership personal and, thus, being able to better connect with and motivate those that you are trying to lead. This could be as simple as sending less emails and doing fewer meetings and speaking directly with people either on the phone or in person. The keys here are that you are, therefore, being more generous with your time and attention. But to make this as effective as possible you have to have, be able to seek, or be willing to build empathy with everyone that you are talking to. Understanding the other person’s perspective/viewpoint (you don’t have to agree with them) or challenges they face will help leaders build the connections, followers, and insights that leadership requires.

What would you recommend organizations do to better measure how their leaders are doing in this regard?

This is an old idea but I would suggest that organisations revisit the idea of Managing By Walking About (MBWA) and they can measure how they are doing, in this respect, by measuring how much time leaders are spending with customers, with front-line, back-office and operational staff, and what the impact is on overall employee morale and engagement.

You often help organizations strengthen their marketing efforts, especially with social media. How important do you think it is that businesses have a social media component to be able to remain competitive?

There is a piece of research (I forget the source) that says that customer shopping and buying behaviour has dramatically changed over the last ten years. Whilst the trend is applicable across industries the research cites the case of the automobile industry where it states that 10 or so years ago a customer wanting to buy a new car would visit, on average, 8 dealerships. Whereas now they will only visit, on average, 1.2 dealerships in their search for a new car. The implication is that customers are now doing most of their ‘shopping’ online and when they arrive at a car dealership, say, they are ready to buy. Therefore, to be successful and competitive in this changing world, firms need to think about how they are helping their customers or clients, existing or prospective, with their ‘shopping’ journey. Therefore, this has implications for a firms presence and activity in social media, in the broadest sense, and poses challenges for traditional ways of doing business.

What’s a simple way to increase the effectiveness of social media efforts based on this idea of being more empathetic?

A [good] question would be to ask something like: What would you like your customers to say about you to their colleagues, friends, and families? Articulating that would be a great first step in helping the business understand their customers better and build that level of empathy that the modern firm and leader requires. After doing that, the firm will be in a better position to understand how and what type of activity, including social media, is required to deliver that sort of sentiment and advocacy.

Thanks for reading this post!  As a gift, I’d like to give you this excellent eBook for FREE!  

Just CLICK HERE, and I’ll send you this eBook, featuring chapters from John Spence, Jeff Klein, Charlie Kim, Michael Carroll, Ted Prince, David Marquet, and Ben Lichtenwalner.