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Enhance and Grow Your Online Community Through Appreciation

Today Patrick O’Keefe from iFroggy Network and the author of the book Managing Online Forums shares how appreciation can help grow the community on your blog.

As online community managers and administrators, bloggers and general social media participants, we sometimes get so caught up in growing our community, that we forget to appreciate what it is that we do have.

Appreciation is a powerful thing. If you manage an online community and are concerned with encouraging a healthy, positive atmosphere and with retaining members, there is one simple, relatively easy thing that you can do to improve your chances of doing both. Appreciate your contributors.

What brought this to mind was a recent message that a member sent me over at PhotoshopForums.com, where he thanked me for thanking members for their contributions because, he felt, it was a part of what made the community great. Now, you may be thinking – “you, Patrick, the administrator, thank people on your community. What’s the big deal?”

Well, it made a big deal to this gentleman, who wrote a really nice message, expressing his love of the community and highlighting my notes of appreciation as a major reason for him loving it. It was a great, kind message that meant a lot to me. Beyond just the personal sentiment, it meant that what I had wanted to be expressed; was expressed. The member received my message of appreciation loud and clear.

When I say messages of appreciation, what am I talking about? Drawing from the forums example at PhotoshopForums.com, primarily I am talking about thanking members for good contributions, in the very thread that they make them in.

For example, let’s say someone joins the community and asks a question, in an effort to find out how Photoshop does something. Then, one of our members replies with the answer, in detail, written in a kind and helpful manner. And then, after the member replies, saying that it has helped them, I also reply – thanking the person who provided the answer and, perhaps, welcoming the member who asked the question, if they are new.

It’s not like I write long posts to do this. “Great stuff, Dave!” “Excellent work, Joe.” “Thanks, Bob.” Basically short messages of appreciation, letting them know that I am reading and that I appreciate what they are doing within the community.

The member who contacted me reasoned that all too often, when people try to help someone, they disappear or they don’t say thanks. That is simply the reality of running a community where support is a large part of what you offer. That’s life and it happens. But, my messages had helped to soften this and offset it and make people feel more at ease and at home, as a valued member of our community.

I know this is a simple concept. I recently gave a talk at South by Southwest Interactive where I discussed responding to feedback. I didn’t consider any of it to be earth shattering. In fact, to many, I believe it was probably common sense.

But, I feel that when something is common sense, sometimes we take it for granted. We must remind ourselves. People want to help. People want to be appreciated and they want to know that someone cares. As the leader of a community, you can help them understand that.

You may say, “well, Patrick, you just say those things like a robot – you don’t mean it.” No, no, no. I do mean it. I mean it deeply. Yes, I may be repetitive in what I say. But, I only say it when I mean it. I don’t randomly pop it into threads without any care or without reading the thread, nor do I say it on every good post I see. But, I try to make an effort to see great contributions and say thank you.

How this helps you retain members should be clear. People like to be in a place where they are welcome, where people notice them, remember them, appreciate them. Remember the line from the “Cheers” TV show theme? “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”

As cheesy as I know that sounds, it’s also true. Maybe not everyone knows their name, but some do, and they are appreciated and recognized. That’s the point.

How does it encourage a good environment? If people feel appreciated, that’s instantly a better environment than if the opposite were true.

But, also, members take cues on how to act from staff members. If you and your staff have bad habits, members will pick up those bad habits. If you and your staff have good habits, members will pick them up, as well. You and your staff are an example. Take this power seriously and responsibly.

You can appreciate members in other ways, as well. You appreciate them by listening to their feedback. Not doing what they say, necessarily, but listening openly and considering it.

In addition to public posts, I also like to randomly send a private message to a member who is doing a good job, just to say hey and to let them know that I’ve seen their posts, that I like what they are doing and to please keep it up because we appreciate them. Simple and genuine.

There are many ways to thank people in a more public way, as well. Having a member of the month program or a yearly awards program (where you and/or your community vote and select winners) can be a great way to show appreciation. Make sure that these programs have meaning, though, and are awarded to the truly deserving.

Making someone a member of your staff can be a form of appreciation, but that’s not what it should be about, in and of itself. Staff spots should be reserved for people who set a great example for members to follow, who follow your guidelines and who communicate in a kind and respectful manner consistently for an extended period of time. Don’t hand out staff spots to your top posters without thought. Make sure you pick people that you can work with to accomplish the goals you have set for the community.

Appreciation is a powerful thing. It can open doors, start relationships, give people happiness, bring people back and give them confidence. In the interest of cultivating community, please consider how not just appreciating people – but making sure they know you appreciate them – can enhance your community.

Patrick O’Keefe is the owner of the iFroggy Network and the author of the book “Managing Online Forums,” a practical guide to managing online forums, communities and social spaces. He blogs at ManagingCommunities.com and is on Twitter as @iFroggy.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I appreciate this post Patrick !!

    I agree appreciation goes a long way in a community.

  2. Very good post, thank you for writing it.

  3. It is not possible to remember and appreciate each and every person.

    One has to identify and send personalized messeges to users who are most active in adding value to your online property.

  4. Greg says:

    This is true in most walks of life. Saying thank you when leaving a store register or saying thank you when someone holds a door for you is common sense but people don’t always do it. But it works for making people feel welcome.

    You can obviously do it online too. I will send emails to people who answer questions for me that just say thank you for your help. Sure it isn’t necessary but when people do the same for me I feel better about it and have no problem helping them again.

  5. Josh Klein says:

    Thanks Patrick, great post (and love the book).

  6. I saw this first hand, but really I stumbled into it unintentionally. I put up a bumbling video of myself thanking everyone for allowing me to have over 6400+ visits in my first full month blogging.

    The video wasn’t great quality or presentation, but people realized it was very genuine and I received several comments and e-mails.

    Again, I wasn’t out to really benefit like this, but I realized a side benefit from my regular reader’s really connecting with the video.

    Thanks again for 31DBBB, it helped me so much in having a great start!

  7. Ching Ya says:

    It is. There are too many times we’re forgetting how blessed and fortunate we are for having great community, friends even online individuals who’re nice to reach out to us, share a little kindness. When someone is nice to you, it’s always a virtue to do likewise, or to others. I came across this meaningful post yesterday 10 Simple Ways To Show Kindness Online, hopefully it’ll give all of us an idea how to make it work.

    Thank you Patrick, appreciate your post.

    @wchingya
    Social Media/Blogging

  8. Carolina says:

    I wish people felt like this about day to day things in general…the world would be a happier place if everyone felt appreciated by their efforts.

  9. Karen says:

    I agree! A little sincere appreciation goes a long way.
    Thanks for sharing this with the rest of us!

    km

  10. frank says:

    Showing appreciation is HUGE … both online and in person. Everyone, including me, needs to feel appreciated – we need to feel like our contributions matter.

    One of the things I love the most (in blogging) is when the post author really works hard at responding to comments on their blog. That type of personal touch shows a great deal of appreciation for blog readers/commenters!!

    http://twitter.com/franswaa

  11. Tracy says:

    Hi Patrick! Great post, people do like to feel noticed and appreciated.

    One thing my community has really enjoyed is me making donations to Kiva.org in the name of the forums. It’s a good way for us to give back and as I keep them informed of the progress of our loans, it is bonding to the community.

    And here’s another plug for the book from a fan!

  12. jan says:

    That quote about the television show Cheers is very apt. And it is a powerful message if taken to heart by every blog owner or forum administrator.

    This is what I try to put across in every interaction I have with my readers: in my replies to their comments, in my personal emails to them for their wonderful suggestions and contributions to the discussion.

    I’ve been a glutton when it comes to reading other blogs. What attracts me personally to make repeated visits to a blog is how the author responds to his readers. Interest in what the readers have to say is very difficult to fake and most readers have state of the art BS radar to sniff out those who fake it, those who are mechanical in answering their readers, and those are into doing this so they’d have better page views and stats.

    It has come to a point that I’m increasingly finding it hard to respond to every comment left on my blog. I have other important things that need my attention, too. But several of my readers are beginning to help each other, talk to each other even without my intervention. That’s a good sign, I guess.

    I fully appreciate what Patrick’s points here. They are powerful stuff, and is more likely to grow not only the strength and reach of the blog concerned but also its readers.

  13. Asswass says:

    You need to appreciate your work and yourself before appreciating others.

  14. Colin Winter says:

    Patrick,

    Have you seen this TED video of Dr. Laura Trice on the power of saying thank you?
    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/laura_trice_suggests_we_all_say_thank_you.html

    Great stuff: specific and genuine thanks drive people.

    Thank you Patrick for writing about this, and thank you Darren for spreading this. People need to be reminded about this simple action.

  15. Frank says:

    You’ve just convinced me to buy your book – I’m starting a forum as we speak. Excellent post.

  16. Patrick says:

    Thank you for having me, Darren. :)

    Thanks for the comments, Roseli, Shane, Josh, Karen and Asswass! I’m glad that you enjoyed the article.

    Patrick

  17. Member of the month/year is a good idea. I’ll have to try that when The Casual Observer ( http://www.observingcasually.com/ ) gets a few more readers.

    It’s definitely important to appreciate the readers :)

    Good point about staff spots as well. We recently tripled our staff (from 1 to 3) by adding a sports columnist and entertainment writer, but both guys are friends that I have known for a while and I’m confident that they’d stay within established guidelines.

  18. Here is yet another great Article Darren. I am going to put this in place on my site. Thanks.

  19. Melody says:

    Re: random, private notes – this IS simple and genuine. Others won’t necessarily know since they’re not public, but sometimes the timing of such a note is uncanny in its perfection and feels good for such different reasons than the public ones.

    Great post. Thanks for the reminders (generally) and the ideas (specifically.)

  20. InternetHow says:

    Very nice post. By helping a fellow member, that contributer makes the member come back to that forum again. Basically helping the forum to be popular. Of course they deserve a big thank you from forum administrators.

  21. Everyone wants to feel important and that they belong! If we are serious about relational marketing and keeping our subscribers or members then we need to be appreciating them.

  22. I SO agree with this post. Showing appreciation is such a simple concept but it’s amazing how little it’s used both in the offline and online world (actually, it’s less prevalent in the offline world).

    Showing appreciation is really powerful and can have a lasting effect on the recipient. It can also help turn readers into raving fans.

  23. I know it is helpful to send a simple thank you message, because when i take the time to fully answer a question i really appreciate it when someone else, either the person that asked the question or the owner of the site thanks me for it. It you are the owner of the site it really shows that you care about your community.

  24. Patrick says:

    Jan, Mr. Winter, Kosmo, ezFreeSamples.com, Melody, InternetHow, Tom, Sami and BlogDirectory – thanks for the comments, thoughts and kind words. :) They are greatly appreciated and I agree with pretty much all of them!

    Mr. Winter, I hadn’t seen that video. But, I watched it at your suggestion and I thought it was pretty good.

    Melody, my pleasure! :)

    Thanks again,

    Patrick

  25. Tasha says:

    It is only polite I feel to say a smile THANK YOU it can only bring any of us ‘good business’.

    Thank you for reminding us of this important fact.

    BLOG DIRECTORY – so right hun, I’m with you…community.

    Tasha
    http://www.theeangels.us

  26. Patrick says:

    India Business, Greg, Baker, Ching Ya, Carolina, Frank, Tracy, Frank (second one) and Tasha – thanks for the comments. :)

    Greg, whether or not it’s necessary depends on your perspective, but I agree with you and do the same. It is necessary, to me! :)

    Baker, that’s a cool story. :)

    Carolina, agreed.

    Frank (second one), thanks so much. :)

    Tracy, that’s a cool idea. :) Thanks for the kind words.

    Thanks again,

    Patrick

  27. I like to follow up every comment on my blogs with a thank you for commenting comment, even the rude and obnoxious ones- kill ‘em with kindness. I find that a lot of the commenters do come back again after that- especially first timers. Obviously that doesn’t work for a site like problogger that gets so many comments per post though.

  28. every company has customer service, most are pretty good these days. But theres a big difference between that and actually giving a crap about your users.

  29. “A quote by French Philosopher, Voltaire, “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

    Appreciation, a common courtesy. The platinum rule: treat others the way we too want to be treated. A little courtesy can go a long way.

    Peace.

  30. Haris says:

    you are very thoughtful Patrick. we always say thank you when someone has done something for us, even just a little thing.

    this post inspires me of what to do next, as i just started the online business.

  31. Patrick says:

    Thanks for the comments, Directory Dude, Fatin, Mr. O’Toole, Rocket Resaler and Haris. :) I’m glad to hear that, Haris. :) Thanks!

    Patrick

  32. This is something I’ve taken to do on my blog, my Twitter account and more. I firmly believe in letting folks know I appreciate their help, feedback, and general love.

    Your blog is just one aspect. If you’re on FB and posting/sharing things there, be sure to thank folks that reshare, comment, and like your stuff. Same goes for Twitter and retweets.

    This sounds simple, and as the author said, may not sound genuine, but when I say ‘thank you’ to someone, I mean it.

    Good post.

  33. This is a great post. I think it’s important to manage our online community well.
    Thanks for the posting.

  34. Patrick says:

    Thanks for the kind words, The Broad Brush and Another blogger. :) I appreciate it.

  35. Very wise words, everyone appreciations appreciation and there are so many ways to show it :) Sheri

  36. Thanks Patrick ! It is very common of bloggers and site owners not to appreciate their readership and clients . I’ve come across some bloggers how try to sell a mediocre product without even caring about the attitude you may form about them and their business . Sometimes i even reported as rip-off .

  37. Patrick says:

    Thanks for the comments and kind words, Ms. Harper and العاب شمس الدين (sorry that you had that experience, as well). :)

    Patrick

  38. Mark Fuller says:

    Hi Darren,

    Excellent post. I have a related blog that explains the importance of appreciating customers as a means of building a loyal customer base. I especially enjoyed how you stressed that appreciation must be sincere.

  39. Usenet Trial says:

    Great idea, thanks for this tip!