How To Successfully Run a 16,000 WordPress Facebook Group

More About Andrew Palmer

I founded Elegant Marketplace in 2015, the de facto marketplace for the Divi Theme, and served over 100,000 customers over a period of 5 years. I also founded Page Builder Cloud and Layouts cloud. In May 2021 I acquired 23 plugins and extensions for Divi and Elementor. I also own Comment Luv which I acquired after the owner (my nephew) became unwell with MS. I run a UK web agency and host around 500 websites and am a GridPane Spartan and digital advocate

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Johnathan Denwood: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic interview show. This is episode 617. My normal co-host Steven cannot be with me, as I told you. Most of his staff have disappeared for their summer holidays, and he’s been left in charge. But do not worry, especially the female listeners and viewers, he will be back in, I think next week or the week after. So you’ve got that to look forward to. We’ve got a great interview here. We’ve got a friend from the show. He helped me out as a co-host last week. he’s a regular of the WP tonic round table show a new friend I classify him as a friend now. It’s always great to make new friends. We got Andrew Palmer, He was on the show a few months ago, but as I got to know, Andrew, he has some amazing experience about building community, around WordPress. And how to build real communities that can benefit you and your customers. So, Andrew, thanks for agreeing to come back on the show for another interview so, do you quickly want to introduce yourself to listeners and viewers.

Andrew Palmer: Well I’m Andrew Palmer and you can find me on And yeah, as Jonathan said, I’m a community builder, a digital advocate for people that have products, plugins, and services, for WordPress, as well as, websites as well. I’m a Shopify partner as well. And I build websites using woo commerce, WordPress, Shopify, and any basic platform that the client wants because, we’re, here to do what we’re asked. Sometimes the solution is maybe not one that you want to work with, but that’s what I do. I just like to give people proper service.

Johnathan Denwood: That’s great like I said what we are going to be discussing in the show is, everybody talks about, you need to grow your own tribe, your own community around your product, your service around you, Andrew has actually done it. He’s actually built a Facebook group up to all slightly over 16,000 users and he actually knows how to do it.
So I felt it would be a great insight about some of the things that work, some of the things that don’t anything that Andrew wants to share with us. Before we go into the main part of the interview I want to talk about our sponsors and, start off with our major sponsor, which is Castos. Castos provides a platform if you’re looking to get into podcasting for yourself or for clients. Podcasting is increasingly becoming really popular and seen as, the main way where you can communicate to your clients, to your target audience. You need a good audio hosting provider not only to host your files but also to produce the RSS feed, which is the main technology that will distribute your podcast to things like apple, podcasting platform to Spotify and there’s a number of these platforms and they all rely on RSS feed.

They also provide a fantastic interface. Great support Matt Medeiros is the head of marketing and support. If you know about Matt, he’s a great podcaster himself and a great WordPress community member. I was delighted when we came to an agreement with them and they became a major sponsor. If you really want to support the show, go over and have a look at what they got to offer the links are in the show notes and have a look, maybe buy one of their packages for yourself or for a client. If you do any of those things, can you please tell them that you heard about them on the WP tonic podcast it really helps them, and it really helps the show?

Then I’m going on too, another sponsor and that’s Peachpay if you’re looking to set up a really quick shopping cart environment for a client and you want a really easy and cheap way, look at Peachpay it works with, WooCommerce. Then you install this free plugin from Peachpay and basically, then the client can take Stripe and other payments, through their website. It’s really mobile-friendly. It’s really easy to use if you’re looking for a flexible, quick way to do e-commerce use Peachpay with woo-commerce, you’re going to be amazed.

So Andrew, you know, I don’t mean to delve into you’ve told me about your experience of building up a WordPress-focused Facebook group, which almost has 16,000 members and its focus was in the Divvy community,. But can we start off with what is the one main thing that you think people have to understand when they’re trying to build an online community? Can we start off with the one thing you think they need to understand?

Andrew Palmer: Be kind that’s it, when you’re building a tribe, it’s so easy to have a detrimental attitude towards people because it’s hard work building a tribe. And it’s actually, when I left the group, unceremoniously when elegant themes when it was sold to elegant themes because I didn’t want to buy it. There were 32,000 members. so, you know, we built it up and it wasn’t just me it was a team. And, but towards the end of the sort of towards the last two years of building up to the 32,000, it was basic [Inaudible06:44] you know, 10, 12 hours a day spent looking at the Facebook group and making sure that we were promoting the right things for us and trying to keep the trolls down and also trying to manage the criticism of our own company and the way we ran the Facebook group.

Because the perception of people that join a Facebook group, especially if it’s got help and share in it, or, anything like that is that you’ve got a lot of product promoters to want to promote their stuff. And a lot of product owners want to promote their stuff and reasonably so. But there has to be some kind of moderation that you can’t make it a spam fest for everybody. including the owners of the group If you’ve got a product or a service that you’re selling, you can say, yeah, you know, we’ve got like WP tonic, we’ve got podcasts coming up and that’s it. You know you don’t need to keep on selling every single day or every, you know, five posts a day saying we’ve got this product.

And what we’re trying to do with, we have a good marketplace Divvy theme users’ group and it’s still called the Divvy theme users group and it is now owned by elegant themes. Is that you have to ensure that you’re not over-promoting the products. If you’ve got over a thousand products, you could do a thousand posts a day or even a thousand posts a month saying, look at this new product and there is a danger there. So you have to try and help people first. And then you get the good reputation of you’re helpful. And you know what, I’m going to go and look at elegant marketplace and product.

And we always did a new product post with just one product post. Whenever we got a new product we said new products on the elegant marketplace and that’s it and all about it. We got, you know, in the early days, a lot of people did want to promote their products. And they’re saying this isn’t the Facebook way. This isn’t the help and shares way. And they got booted, you know, because there are some people out there that got angry with us. So we said, well, do you know what? It’s our group we’ll boot you. So moderation is key, but kindness is the first thing. So, you’ve got to be kind almost to be cruel and say, come on guys, you know, let’s not turn this a spam fest even from our own perspective.

And there is no such thing as a stupid question because if you’ve got an experience divvy user or WordPress user, they won’t necessarily know about hosting or any hosting issues or spamming or security. So we try to encompass them all. And now the Divvy theme users’ group, some would say, it’s over moderated, but actually it’s, I’m still a member there. I got, reinstated after about three months. And I see it being run pretty well. You know, there are 17,000 members there now, but let’s not forget that elegant gets a, and they’ve got their own marketplace now and they get 5 million unique a month or something, according to a similar website. it’s a busy, busy Facebook group, 70,000 plus, but I mean, you know, Moore Cohen runs a great group. there are 20,000 people in there. Melissa Love runs I think she’s got about four Facebook groups. and a total of about 15 or 16,000 people in total.

You’ve got loads of people out there that I’m actually in the groups, the grid pain group is quite busy as well. We kind of like try and keep it friendly, try and keep it objective, try, you know, if other people are talking about say cloud ways or run cloud or anything like we try to just try and keep it objective because there are other management systems for people like grid pain. And there’s, you know, Stephanie runs the focus WP group. You know, that’s a very, Stephanie Hudson runs the focus WP group. It’s a particularly friendly group, you know, and that’s the key is that if you can keep it friendly, kind, helpful, then keep the promotion down to a minimum but still promote. Don’t be afraid to promote if you’re the owner of the group, because it’s, hard work, Jonathan to work, to run a Facebook group, to keep the trolls away, to keep the-

Johnathan Denwood: You’ve done an excellent opening land- I call it a landscape answer to my question. But there are so many different directions we can go in this interview based on your initial. Cause I think what you’ve just opened Pandora’s box is- and this is not unique to Facebook groups. These are some of the issues that people face when, they start a forum or literally anything that becomes popular online. Is that they face the [Interposed Talking11:42]. Well, the thing a lot, of the people come to that whatever is online because it, has a lot of traffic, has a lot of eyes, but the activities, which they want to engage in could be damaging to the number of eyes that go on to that thing. The actual activities, which they want to engage in will actually be damaging to the theme.

Andrew Palmer: That’s why you have to have strong moderation strong, but strong or firm, but kind moderation so that, you know, one of the things that we tried to do-

Johnathan Denwood: But that’s difficult on its own because it peeves people off, doesn’t it?

Andrew Palmer: Yeah. But if you what we started to do towards the two years that it was kind of in my, just under my control is that I actually told people why they were being kicked or why their stuff had been deleted. And there’s a function in Facebook that you can do that one you broke the rules two you’re being a bit nasty and everything. I mean, one of the things that I don’t like in the Facebook groups is the superior or the people that actually think they know what they’re talking about being very superior about that towards a, you know, a dumb question, inverted commas.

So you have to be, as I say, my first- if you can’t be anything else, just be kind, you know, that’s the key. And if say you see a post on something like Twitter is a nightmare on Twitter, where you can make a comment and you will get trolled to hell and back, and you know what just ignore it? If it’s not appropriate or you don’t feel it’s for you then just scroll on by, you know, you are in control of what you see and read and react to. And, if we can persuade our users on any forums to be kind rather than be nasty, then you know, that’s the key.

And it’s difficult. Sometimes even for me, you know, I’ve made a couple of mistakes where somebody asks, you know, can somebody produce me free layouts? And I said, really, you can’t afford to pay people for some layouts, you know, to promote your business. And then I got trolled and a video was made and it was horrible, you know, but it was just, you just have to put up with those kinds of things. If you put yourself out there, Johnathan it’s like celebrities, they put themselves out there and then complain that they’re getting criticized. So we can’t really complain that we’re being criticized because nobody’s perfect least of all me. And we try and do things that we think are helpful like the podcasts like the WP tonic podcast. I did a podcast. I loved it while I was at Elegant marketplace. Me and Mike Demo did this lovely, WP tools podcast for a year. And it felt great because we were interviewing people in the WordPress community that people have not necessarily heard of because there’s a tier Isn’t there? a top tier of people,

Johnathan Denwood: Every profession and anything- we’re a hierarchical kind of animals aren’t we?

Andrew Palmer: We wanted the people that weren’t getting their voice heard. We wanted them heard. And that’s the key to doing a podcast as well. You know, it’s not just having the big names on the board having people on there that are actually working really hard in the engine room and making people’s lives a lot easier.

Johnathan Denwood: Yeah. Before we go to our break, Andrew, there’s one thing about online communities that I have a slight, it might be me. I’m interested in your response to what I’m just going to ask you. I have no problem with people going on a Facebook group forum whatever it is, and they are a noobie and or they’re, owners and they’re just looking, they’ve been giving conflicting advice and they’re just looking. And I’ve got no problem in answering that and trying to be helpful, right. But I have a slight problem where it’s obviously a subcontractor, that’s totally out of their area of experience. And they got a job and they’re consistently going on a Facebook group or forum or whatever, online entity. And they’re asking for free advice and support connected to something which they are charging a client for. I have a real problem with that. I think in some ways it’s taking the peace out of the community really.

Andrew Palmer: It is. So, therefore, one of the moderator’s jobs or one of the admin’s jobs is to point them in the right direction of a paid solution. And if you happen to have a paid solution, then all is good, but you give other people an opportunity. For instance, I’ve got site fixers that fix websites, you’ve got a situation where you’ve fixed websites. So, you know, if there’s a problem and they’ve got a speed issue or the malware or [inaudible17:01] how do I fix it? Tell me how to fix it. You know, is the PHP file that is infected whatever. You say well, actually there’s a premium solution for this. And what you’re asking for is out of the remit of the free help and share within the group. And you actually address it head-on.

Johnathan Denwood: how did you deal? You must have had this situation. you know, we’ve got a couple of minutes, then we’ve got to go for a break, but you must have regularly had this situation. You had subcontractors coming on and asking a load, and it’s obvious they’re out of their knowledge area. How did you- did you have to kick some of them out?

Andrew Palmer: No well I generally told them that, obviously this is you taking on a job that is out of your skillset, and it might be better if you ask for professional help, which will cost you some money. Because what you’re asking for is people to give you free advice, which is long-winded, and will undoubtedly take a few hours of their time and this is not what this group is for. So, you know, go to or go to codable or go to us or go to I’d recommend a solution. You know, one of the ones, one of the things I recommend one time is focus WP because that’s what they do. They fix websites and they do maintenance contracts. And one of them is new. If you want to learn about learning management systems, turn to WP tonic, because I’m not in that business, anymore.

So we’ve got as moderators, we’ve got resources and they’re not necessarily affiliated inside of that because we are there to help them promote other people doing their stuff. That’s all part of the community. So we’ve still fulfilled a community role, but we’ve dissuaded these people to stop asking for free help on that level. So as skilled people, we should know that they’re asking for stuff that’s out of the remit of a free help and share group.

Johnathan Denwood: Right we need to go for our break. It’s been a fascinating discussion. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.

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Johnathan Denwood: We’re coming back we’ve got a friend of the show that’s a regular on the WP tonic round table show. We’re talking about building community on Facebook, or online in general, and Andrew knows what he’s talking about because he’s done it. So I thought, he was the right person to have come back on the show and discuss this particular subject because a lot of people talk about it, but they haven’t actually done it. And he has, and he’s got the scars and errors to prove it. I think we’ve delved into some of the realities of running a large online group, Facebook group, forum, whatever it is. And we discussed, you know, some of the things you’ve got to be aware of. Is it, the other factor is, what it seemed to a lot of it is there’s a lot more need for supervision and administration than what most people think?

When you start getting into a size group that actually is it’s reached, you know, it’s like a rocket is there. It’s really hard to get the rocket moving. And then, it reaches velocity to escape gravity, and then the brute will grow and grow. But then it’s a different kind of supervision. You’ve got all that effort to get the rocket going and then because it’s reached a certain size. There’s also another load of work and that’s around supervision. And if you seem to be saying that there’s just a lot more hours of work involved in keeping, an online community healthy and not going down the toilet, is that about right?

Andrew Palmer: There is. And I think if you, once the group starts to reach 2 to 3000, you’re talking about maybe you need some help. So you can reach out to your community members. You can say, listen, if you want to be a model or even people say, look, I can see the spam is overrunning this. I can see the trolls are running, I can see that there’s some shit going on basically can I help you? So normally you’ve known those people or you’ve interacted with those people. And certainly, I’ve got moderators on some of the groups that I’ve started and you know, I’ve got a group currently, that’s 2,000 it’s growing. You know, we’re getting, I don’t know 10 a week, 20 a week or something since I took over a bunch of plugins. People asking for support so I can’t answer all those questions. My dev is not answering questions. So it’s a kind of peer-to-peer support, which is what the group was established for in the first place.

So people will join you as moderators, and they’ll be proud too. They’ll be very proud too, and it also gives them, a bit of status in the community. Cause we’re all looking for status in our lives, whether you deny that or not, it’s up to you. But the point is that people are always willing to help. And then you get into a moderation kind of educational situation. This is how I want the groups to run. If you kick someone, you are liable to be signed off somewhere else in another forum. That’s similar on Twitter, on Facebook. Can you handle that? Because that some of the things that were said about me, I think one guy set up a Facebook group, specifically to go against me and immediately had 15,000 members. So it was, it was, you know, to go, I said, [inaudible]

Johnathan Denwood: What have you been up to Andrew?

Andrew Palmer: [Inaudible] and divvy theme users. One guy actually posted if I meet Andrew Palmer, I’m going to piss on his shoes. And it was just like, really? Do you really want to go down that road with me? Six foot and 18 and 1/2 stone I don’t think you do. But anyway, those are the things that you’ve got to handle. And those are the things that you’ve got to and also the loveliness of it. So what happened was there was a big group that grew to 15,000 straight away within weeks. cause they use the same name, slagging me or slagging elegant marketplace, or slagging everything off we did, you know, you try to destroy what we were trying to build, which was a community of like-minded people that wanted help with plugins and things.

When you have that happen, you have to be able to handle it and without people in my world like Michelle Nunan, Melissa Love, you know, Stephanie Hudson and Vito and everything. it’s quite difficult, to take that kind of criticism because you’re thinking, oh, I haven’t actually done anything wrong here I’m just trying to control the trolls. So you’ve gotta be prepared for that kind of negativity.

Johnathan Denwood: You seem to be, and I agree with you that, you know, I try and be fair to people I trying to warn people and I try and point out. It might sound amazing to you because I sometimes come across as not being very diplomatic, but I can be and if I want to be. And I found there is a certain, not a large group, but there’s a certain small type of individual who they see your moderation, you’re trying to reason with them. They don’t treat it with grace they actually treat it as a weakness. They see it as something they can piss you about, even more, you’ve just got to kick them out. You just got to kick them out.

Andrew Palmer: The thing is Johnathan what people don’t really realize. what a lot of people who use these Facebook groups don’t realize for the positive side is that people have very short memories. You know, we had one guy write a home dire tribe of why our group wasn’t any good. And we left the post up there for a while and then we kicked him. You know, we left it up for 48 hours I think that’s bad, quite bare there’s paragraphs and paragraphs of how horrible we were, and then we kicked him. And then now down the line, people can’t even remember his name because people have very short memories. And that’s the key is that you need to be able to remember that people have short memories, they’re in the group for a very specific reason. And it’s quite a selfish reason rightfully so.

They have got an issue with something that they using, that your group can address can help them address. Can help and share with them. And if you keep that focus on it and again, keep it away from overpromotion. You can build a group and a community of like-minded people where the odd person is going to troll you. You just can’t it’s human nature. The odd person’s going to have a total argument and say, I totally disagree with that solution you’ve given me here is another one. That’s fine. You know, the more solutions we can find the better, but you just have to remember that if you do get trolled and you do get shouted out, or you do get criticized, the people in the group, just won’t even remember, you know, a year down the line or two weeks down the line, or 3 weeks down the line they just won’t remember. It’s water off a Duck’s back. As far as I’m concerned because they’re offensive, but I don’t let it.

Johnathan Denwood: Well, it’s a part of human nature. It’s an unfortunate part of us all. We always remember the really awful difficult customers. We tend not to remember any, if it’s going to be a success, there better be a lot of these all the people that we’re happy, paid to use your service or product that you hardly ever hear of. You don’t remember, all those you just remember the really difficult people, don’t you?

Andrew Palmer: like an argument, you know, if you have to get a divorce, you only remember the negative side. You don’t remember why you got married. And how lovely It was. But the point is, is that it was lovely. And the point is, is that running a Facebook group is one of the best things that you can do, or running a community forum is one of the best things you can do. Because the majority of people we’ll love you for it. And if you’re looking for that, then that’s fine. If you are not, if you’re looking to over-promote your company or your services, that’s not going to help you. So you have to look at them the best-run groups and the nice groups. And I think actually elegant themes are doing a great job, there’s a couple of things that I would prefer that they didn’t do, or they didn’t over-promote certain individuals that would be fairer, let’s say. But it’s difficult to be fair all of the time, every single moment of the day.

And sometimes you want people to know that there’s stuff out there. So you do have to promote something. But when we do a community forum post, or we do live in Facebook, there’s gotta be a specific reason for it. You’ve got to either have a very special offer, or you got to try and persuade people to use your products and service because you feel genuinely the best product and service out there for that moment in time. Just, you know, if you’ve got a training course or if you’ve got a webinar going on promote it feel free, but don’t over-promote it that’s the key.

Johnathan Denwood: Yeah. Well, we’re going to wrap up the podcast of the show folks Andrew is staying on at which you’d be able to watch the extra part of this interview on the WP tonic YouTube channel. In that extra part, I’m going to be talking about Andrew’s experience of collaboration in the WordPress community, around products, plugins. What are some of the great things about collaborating with people in the WordPress community and what are some of the downfalls and what are some of the things you’ve got to know without being stunned too hard? Andrew has got a lot of experience in collaboration. I think it’s going to be great, bonus content. Like I you can watch that on the WP tonic YouTube channel.

Also, if you really want to support the show, we’re trying with Andrew’s help as well. We’re in the early stages, but we’re really trying to build a community on Facebook. That’s the WP tonic mastermind group. If you make your living out of WordPress, join us in that group. It’s all about helping you with the business side of WordPress and any technical or any kind of questions you might have where you’re trying to find a community of WordPress entrepreneurs and experts that have gone down the road, which you’re trying to go down, please join us there. We are trying to build a real community there. So Andrew, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up?

Andrew Palmer: I think the best thing is to go to that kind of tells you the story of where I’m at, what I’m doing. and you can find me @Andypalmer on Twitter and I post occasionally.

Johnathan Denwood: Yep. And we’ll be back next week with another interview. Remember to watch the rest of this interview on our YouTube channel. And if you really want to support the show, you can go over to iTunes player, podcast player, I’m always forgetting what apple is renaming their podcast platform and give us a review, good, bad or indifferent because it really does help the show. Your feedback is most welcome. Even if it’s a bit negative. I do read if you really want to get my attention to leave a review on, apple. That really does get my attention. We’ll see you next week we have another great interview We’ll see you soon folks

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