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Social Media Case Studies: Patrick O’Keefe

Yesterday I led a session at the Social Media Telesummit, on the topic: Why Building Traffic Isn’t Enough: How to Become an A List Blogger in Your Niche

I focused on how blogging can be and is used for business, rather than blogging as a business.

This is how I described the session in the promotional material:

This session is about blogging for business, not blogging as business. It’s about why the usual story, that blogging is good because it increases traffic, is only one part of the big picture of blogging for business and not the best part. It’s about how blogging well, blogging as the successful bloggers do, will renew your spirit, rekindle your creativity, make you stretch, give you bigger goals and help you enjoy the journey. You and your business will be more successful, and better equipped for the long haul.

I needed some case studies to help illustrate the main points I wanted to make and some colleagues were kind enough to oblige. I sent some questions and they responded via email. There is some great information in what they provided and as there was simply not enough time to go into all of it yesterday I thought it would be good to post the full documents here.

The first is from Patrick O’Keefe, author of the book Managing Online Forums, which I reviewed here last November.

What I love about Patrick’s responses is that they are so not your regular social media expert’s take on what to do in the social media sphere. This guy doesn’t follow the crowd and he marches to the sound of his own drum. Enlightening, thought-provoking.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

D.   Has blogging been a key driver for your marketing strategy or just a minor component?

P.   I’m not a huge marketing guy, to be honest. I might not be giving myself enough credit, as a lot of things I do are surely marketing related, but I spend my time, primarily on developing and managing the websites and blogs themselves.

For me, a big part of “marketing,” is creating good stuff and trying to make sure that people can find it.

The blogs in my network are definitely a part of that. I wouldn’t call them a “key driver,” (the top 3 traffic sites in my network do not have a blog component) but I wouldn’t call them a “minor component,” either. They are somewhere in the middle.

D.   How has blogging helped you build your business? Or not?

P.   My business is managing a network of websites. As I have multiple blogs in my network, the answer would be yes, that they have helped me build my business. They have helped me, at times, to grow my business through growing my knowledge or through promotion, as well.

D.   What is the business/product/service you aim to promote through blogging/social media?

P.   I would say that, at this point in time, I have four key things that I am promoting through my blogging and through social media.

The first would be the content of my network. This is blog posts, yes, but it is also forum posts, downloads and other content. I want my sites to have useful content and that, in itself, is something to promote.

Following that, we have the environment of my sites, specifically my communities. My communities are built upon kindness and respect and are generally family and/or work friendly within their specific niche, as much as they can be. I work hard to create a certain environment that is welcoming and structured and I believe that that is a big selling point.

Those are the two big ones, really. But, there are two other things I promote, as well.

The third would be my book “Managing Online Forums”, as the website dedicated to the book is a part of my network and is something that I am constantly talking about.

Finally, we have my personal brand, as a writer, a speaker and an entrepreneur.

D.  Would you recommend reading your competitors’ blogs, even those of your rivals, and if so why? Do you do this and if so does it help and how?

P.   I’m not all that bothered by “competitors.” Everyone is a competitor, whether directly or indirectly, because what we’re all competing for is someone’s time. Some people get so concerned with their perceived competitors that most of what they do is worry about them and not their own offering.

I’ve seen some people so infatuated with what someone else is doing, that they never do anything on their own account. Even if you are never number 1 in your space, there is most commonly a lot of room below number 1, for other people to succeed and thrive.

Would I recommend reading a competitor’s blog? Depends. Are you interested in their blog? Do I do it? Yes, if I am interested in their blog. Time is short, spend it on stuff you like, if you can. I have probably checked out a competitors blog numerous times, even if I didn’t like reading it, and I’ll do it in the future, that’s natural and can be good for you, to see what they are doing. It can help you to come up with ideas and to see things that, perhaps, they have missed. As long as it doesn’t become an obsession. But, generally, I’d only regularly read a blog if I liked it.

Let me give you an example. I blog at ManagingCommunities.com, where I talk about online community management. Community Spark is a popular blog that talks about the very same thing. Some might take us as “competitors,” since we are talking to the same people… but I’ve developed a friendship with the author (Martin Reed) and I genuinely like reading his stuff. I don’t read it as him being a competitor, I read it as two people talking about the same subject, putting their own spin on it (though, most of the time, Martin and I simply agree, to be honest). So, yeah, focus on yourself.

D.  Have you ever had blogger’s block and if so how do you beat it? Any tricks of the trade?

P.   I’m sure I have as it’s a natural thing. If you can, I would say to take a break – do something else. Get some fresh air. Play a video game or some sort of activity that is fun for you, that isn’t work. If, for some reason, you can’t take a break (even a short one, like 15 minutes to an hour), maybe take a look at what other people are writing about and see if that gives you an idea. Credit any sources you use, of course.

D.   We all talk about being transparent and authentic in our blogging – have you found that something that came easily or has it been a learning process: or don’t you bother? 🙂

P.   I think it came easily, in a sense. How I write is how I write. It changes, it evolves, it improves. I’m an honest guy, anyway, but I don’t use my honesty as an excuse for being rude. I don’t call people names and then say “hey, I’m just keeping it real here.” You can be honest without being a jerk. And that’s what I try to do, if I can. The thing about transparency is that it’s great, but it also has a limit. Not everything should be told, not everything should be shared. You have to be able to find the balance.

D.   If someone wants to be an A-list blogger in their chosen market niche, do you have any tips or advice, what to do, what not to do?

P.   Prefacing this by saying that I am not an A-list blogger by any stretch, I don’t know about the whole A-list blogger thing, really. I’ve met numerous supposed A-list bloggers online and offline and the fact is, they are just people. The same goes for celebrities, they are just people. Sometimes it’s lost in our crazy, gossip driven society, but… Britney Spears is just a person. Paris Hilton is just a person. Corporations are just people. Microsoft is just people. Apple is just people. That’s not an excuse, but the fact is… A-list bloggers, for the most part, are just regular folks that have taken their talent, nurtured it and worked hard. With a little bit of luck, they are A-list. That’s the recipe, I think. Some (or more) talent plus a lot of hard work and drive plus a little bit of luck. The key component, though, is work. Finally, you should actually enjoy what you are doing. Find what you like talking about, what you can talk about all day, what you know about… and just go in. Dedicate yourself and work hard. That’s what I say.

I hope that this helps.

It sure does, Patrick. Great sharing of your experience and wisdom.

One statement I liked particularly and was delighted to be able to quote on the Social Media Telesummit call is:

For me, a big part of “marketing” is creating good stuff and trying to make sure that people can find it.

That, my friends, is for me a wonderful encapsulation of the committed blogger’s daily challenge and privilege and responsibility.

Tomorrow I have the privilege and pleasure of bringing you the case study report from Becky McCray from Alva, Oklahoma, rancher, store owner, small business expert and dedicated blogger.

Des Walsh

Business coach and digital entrepreneur. With coach training from Coachville.com and its Graduate School of Coaching, and a founding member of the International Association of Coaching, Des has been coaching business owners and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. Over the same period he has also been actively engaged in promoting the business opportunities of the digital economy. He is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coach, and a certified specialist in social media strategy and affiliate marketing.

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  1. I Kind of like the comment of only reading your competitors blogs if you like their blogs. i find that we spend so much time acumulating knowledge, it may as well be knowledge ywe want to consume.

  2. Paul
    I think in asking this question I was wanting to tease out some implications of having a business owner’s approach to business blogging. If you see being in any market as having an element of competition, then in my view it makes sense to be aware of what the competition are doing or saying. For one thing, if some of them are being more successful than I am, I want to see if I can pick up some clues to lift my game.

  3. Pingback: “Managing Online Forums” Coverage Update: Slashdot, SXSW Interactive 2009 and More! » iFroggy Network Blog

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