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How to grow your forum: What to do BEFORE you launch; Patrick O'Keefe Interview, Part 5

Posted 5 years ago by Alasdair

We sat down with forum expert and author Patrick O’Keefe to learn all we can about forums and forum administrating. The author of “Managing Online Forums” and “Monetizing Online Forums”, O’Keefe is the go-to man when it comes to online communities, so what we found was a wealth of information that we want to share with you! This is the fifth part in a series of many posts covering everything from choosing a platform to monetizing to engaging your users. Please post any further questions you have in the comments section!

I think success, when it comes to launching the community especially, has to do with how you get things going before you even open the doors.

Participate in the community
What I would say to do is, first of all, you participate in the community. I would think most people would think of this already but you’re a member of the community, you can be active in the community and that’s totally fine, it’s totally ethical if you just pose as yourself- you’re just another member.

Get your team to participate in the community
If you have a team- we talked about starting up a community for business, if you have a team of people then obviously get them involved, get them posting and participating before you open the doors.

Are your family and friends interested in the topic? Invite them!
Friends and family- if you have people that you know that are interested in the topic of your community then invite those people to join in. When I started my martial arts community, it was started sort of as a challenge with a friend of mine who came across the domain name, I had the idea and he said if you don’t it, I’m gonna start it so I just had to go ahead and start it and he became a part of the pre-launch team.
So in terms of the people you know, your connections, your network of people that you know have an interest in the topic. I wouldn’t have asked a random friend of mine that hates the martial arts or doesn’t have an interest because that just doesn’t make any sense.
If I have a friend who is a martial artist then it makes total sense for me to reach out to them and say “hey I’m starting this community, I’d really like your help on getting this started”. They’re a real person, they’re going to participate as one real person, this is an ethical thing.

Curate the experiences of your members early on
Derek Powazek is well known in the community management world. He wrote a book on design for community many years ago; he recently wrote a post about this that was really good. What he said that I liked a lot was that you should curate your early members, curate the experience. So what he means is that: invite the right people, tell them what you’re looking for, what you are looking for in content, why you are inviting them and how much their participation would mean to you and curate their activity if you can. If they’re doing something you like, tell them. If you want them to post something else, tell them- “you have all this knowledge, I’d love for you to write about that”. So that curation early on can create this more attractive community to the new members who are visiting it. The bottom line is- activity breeds more activity.

Invite the right people
I mentioned inviting people, I think it’s a great idea to contact people that you think could add value. Don’t do it in public, don’t send them a message on a public forum or something like that, send them an email- say “hey I respect your knowledge, I’d love for you to join in on the community, no pressure or anything like that”- Invite the right people.

So in conclusion:

  • It’s you contributing,
  • it’s your team contributing,
  • it’s you inviting friends or family,
  • it’s you inviting smart people that are in the space that you’re looking to launch in.


That’s how you do things right. That bit of work, that prelaunch seeding to get people into the community prior to launch that helps you to be successful, especially early on and then from there to have to continue to manage the community and encourage people to participate, welcome people to the community. Online forums grow one person at a time. So it might be fast, it might be 12345, it might be 1…2…3…so it’s just a matter of appreciating what you have. How you build is through appreciating those those that you have. If you have 3 members, then you love those 3 members. That’s how I’ve built my communities, that’s how “karateforms.com” is edging towards 500,000 posts now, its been around for 11 years and it’s just a really great active community and it all goes back to appreciating and encouraging the members you do have, not just focussing on the people that you don’t have.

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