Patrick O’Keefe, owner and founder of the iFroggy Network (www.ifroggy.com) has over 10 years of experience creating and managing online communities. He has an obvious passion for online communities and continues to maintain, create and promote them through the iFroggy Network. Patrick was kind enough to participate in an hour-long interview that discussed his experiences in the industry as well as his opinions on topics related to the evolution of Community Management and how someone can approach managing their own communities.
Patrick has been managing online communities for 10+ years and has published several papers and wrote the book “Managing Online Forums”, a practical guide to managing online communities and social spaces. Along with his published work, he blogs about online community at ManagingCommunities.com, his favorite record label at BadBoyBlog.com and more at patrickokeefe.com (O’Keefe, About Patrick O’Keefe, 2013). Patrick has a great deal of knowledge about community management and often speaks about its practice at conferences and events which have been held at Northwestern University, South by Southwest Interactive and North Carolina State University.
Based on the interview that I conducted with Patrick on March 22nd, 2013, he’s had an interest in community management for at least 15+ years, dating back to when AOL was the popular ISP and Geocities was a modern platform. He’s had an interest with people, connecting them and how each person can contribute to the creation and continued development of a community. Throughout the years the platforms have continually gotten better, but the purpose is the same: people connecting and contributing to a certain topic.
Patrick’s passion for online communities has led him to creating popular communities such as KarateForums.com, a martial arts discussion forum, and phpBBHacks.com, a PHP bulletin board platform discussion. The team at iFroggy assists with the management of these communities. All of these sites and more can be found on the iFroggy Network, which provides an easy way for users to find other communities that they may be interested in.
Tips from Patrick on Starting a community and managing its evolution
Through our interview and Patrick’s own blog postings, he provides several tips for starting an online community. One of my own questions to the iFroggy owner was “how do you go about starting your own online community?” Patrick answered that he has many ideas and referred to his blog posting on ManagingCommunities.com. There’s a certain commitment required to start a community, this is not something you want to do if you’re looking for a quick turnaround without any investment of time.
Targeting your audience is extremely importing when starting a community. Your community is not going to cater to everyone, you have to consider who you are trying to appeal to, who you want to appeal to and then go after them (O’Keefe, I’m Starting an Online Community, Do You Have Any Tips?, 2013). Previous in the semester I wrote a paper on “The Power of Unpopular” a book by Erika Napoletano that underscores this concept of targeting your audience. Communities cannot cater to everyone in the world, you need to define the audience.
Aside from tips for starting your own community, we briefly discussed handling change within an established community. Patrick has a few blog posts related to managing change, generally the message being “give everyone as much advance notice as possible” if people know that the change is happening prior, the fallout will be less severe (O’Keefe, Advance Notice is Essential to Successful Change on Your Online Community, 2013). Change is a scary thing and the members of your community must be aware of it prior to it taking effect.