PHL The Hathaway Group
Stephanie Andrews & Shelley Worden | The Power of Building Online Communities

In this episode of the Palm Harbor Local Podcast, we have the pleasure of hosting Stephanie Andrews and Shelley Worden, the dynamic duo behind the remarkable growth of the Palm Harbor Happenings Facebook Group. They share their insights and experiences on growing a 35k-membered social media community organically and the importance of due diligence when making purchasing decisions.

Join us as we explore the incredible journey of Stephanie Andrews and Shelley Worden, the driving forces behind the thriving Palm Harbor Happenings Facebook Group. Gain valuable insights on organic social media growth, due diligence, and their exciting website updates. Discover their favorite Palm Harbor spot and be inspired to connect with your local community.

Listen to the podcast episode here!

So, Stephanie Andrews and Shelley Worden, with Palm Harbor Happenings. Welcome.

Thank you, guys, for being here. I’m excited to finally have you back on the podcast and talk about Palm Harbor Happenings. So I’m sure a lot of people listening to this probably know, or have heard of Palm Harbor Happenings. The Facebook group. But where did it’s been around for almost 29 years? Nine and a half years? So where did this idea come from? And like, Why start a Facebook group?

Alright, so I was missing fun things that were going on in the community. And anybody that knows me knows that I love doing fun stuff. So I decided I would create a group with 50 of my closest friends. And just with the thought of if you see something going on, post on it, post on the group. And it just kind of took off from there. 35,000 members later.

The group I mean initially, we were inviting friends, it was just very small and very all of its organic like that. I think that’s important to note, too, we haven’t paid for anything to grow that group, there has never been an ad that we’ve run or anything. And about six months into it. Tthis is back before you had any control of Facebook groups. So about six months into it, she was really struggling, she was working at an elementary school. Our kids are both like St. George alum. And that’s where she was working at the time. And I said, Shelley, you need to add another admin I said, I’ll help you. She was well, I was gonna ask you because we kind of think alike. And that’s where our partnership kind of started. And we started running the group. And then over the years thankfully, there are tools that allow us to better vet some of the members and things like that, because it really I mean, there was one day I remember, we just woke up. And we’re like, what’s going on?

There are like 50 pending members. Oh and then 100 pending members, and we were like, holy cow, and it just exploded, and the community really turned the group into what it is today. It was originally intended to be a happening sponsor what’s going on? Right? But then came the Where can I find a doctor? Who can clean my house? I found that last dog, right? And we thought it we fought it for probably several months before we finally were like the group is there, the group itself, the community is taking this group in a different direction. And I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to let it evolve. And that’s how we got where we are today.

And it seems like most of the Facebook groups kind of like, probably migrate towards that anyway, we’re like, hey, I need this. I need a doctor, I need this, vendor, whatever, like, who’s the best one? What’s your experience? Like right now? But what is what’s what do you think, like separates? Because there are a lot of groups, right? And like, what do you think separates Palm Harbor Happenings, from the other ones who aren’t so successful? Right, and don’t get a lot of engagement and interaction and that sort of stuff?

I mean, I think we spend a lot of time, like you said, vetting the members, the comments that are on there we don’t try to allow people to be nasty to one another. I mean, you’re gonna get it. It’s social media. We spend a lot of time on that. And really trying, to not allow that to happen.

When we started seeing issues come up in the group. So we have rules, right? There are a bunch of rules for Palm Harbor Happenings, but every single one of them exists because of something we experienced. Right? So I remember my kids were just learning to drive and somebody posted a picture of the back of someone’s car and their license plate. Oh, And this idea just caught me off. And I’m thinking, man, we’re gonna send the whole community on a witch hunt. And that could be your grandma, or your 16-year-old or we all make mistakes when we’re on the road. Now I’ve pulled in front of somebody that I didn’t see before.  And so it’s those types of things that led us to start to create rules that say, Hey, you can’t post a picture of a car or a license plate. We had an issue once where a woman, and her husband, unfortunately, were killed in a motorcycle accident, she found out on Facebook, because their group allowed it to be posted, that we don’t allow no pictures of accidents. Let the let law enforcement or a close friend or somebody notify you if your family member has been hurt. We don’t want that to come in from our room.

There are a lot of little things like that, that, that we’ve experienced over the years. And that’s why we spend so much time keeping things clean, If somebody goes to your profile, screenshots a picture of you, and then throws it into a comment, because they’re in a disagreement with you, and they personally berate you, they’re gone.

You can kick them out of the group and 100%. So that’s a big part of it, just vetting the people out in the group and then setting the rules. Did, did you have rules in the beginning? Or is it all just kind of like trial and error? Like, okay, there’s, we don’t want this, like, let’s make a rule for that.

Because Facebook didn’t have rules built in, right at that back when we started this. So then we found an idea that we borrowed from another group where we had images that we pinned at the top, and it had our rules listed there, okay, but it wasn’t something that Facebook was supporting. Right. So Facebook really honestly has evolved their groups as a result of being involved with people like us, we got invited to a group back in 2017, called Power Admins or something like that. It’s run by Facebook, and they ask for feedback they come to us with,

Hey, we’re looking at these new features. They test them in different groups. And so the evolution of the power admin group and the tools, I mean, when we joined that group, there were maybe 1500 people. And now there are 1000s in there. But it’s an invitation only. So we can invite people to it, you have to be invited by Facebook. And then we have input on some of those features and tools. So now there are things like admin assist, we don’t allow profiles under six months unless someone contacts us to make a case for allowing the profile. The reason being back in the day, when we would kick somebody out, they would just go create a fake profile and rejoin. And we actually had them come after us pretty Vialli one time in our group. And so that’s when we said, Okay, no more new profiles. And so the admin assist just will automatically decline those within an hour. We don’t even have to touch them anymore. People who don’t answer the membership question have saved us a lot of time automatically declining those, we don’t have to deal with those anymore, which is awesome, because it has been we had some help for a while. But it’s been Shelly and I, we run that grip exclusively. And it’s back to just us and which are kind of

Like, wow, we’re 30,000 members. And it’s just the two of you were kind of picky. So, when we see a problem, we’ll collaborate. What do you think? And sometimes we don’t agree. But we work it out. And we do what’s in the best interest of the community. Everything goes through the filter of that was my mom, dad, brother, sister child.  How would I want it to be handled?

What goes into managing and running a group of this size?

Constantly being on your phone? Because you’re because I posted I post, like our podcasts and stuff on the page on Mondays. And you guys are pretty quick about approving it usually.

times, like, we’re both busy. It might go a couple of hours. I might have a meeting for an hour, and she’s at work. And I’ll pop in and be like, oh, there are 47 pending posts and then you’re going through and we’re making sure that they all meet the requirements, and a lot of the business owners that post we know that they know so soon as I see they’re familiar, like when you post your podcast, I know it’s Donnie, I don’t feel like I have to look at it or listen to it to make sure you’re not sneaking in any crazy\ whatever. But the ones that we don’t know the newer businesses will take the time to really look at them and we tag teams pretty well we do.

Is there a way to automate any of that or it’s all just like you have to approve the comments of every single post? 

March 2020 When the wheels fell off the world before that, we did not have a post-approval setup. No, and we honestly swore we would never do it. And we kept having other admin tell us you need to It’s such a time saver. And now we’re like, No, it’d be terrible. There are so many people posting all the time. But what we find now is, we’re not constantly getting messaged about something bad that’s going on or about a post that went up that shouldn’t have by putting it on post-approval, we can cut that before it ever makes it to the group. And then we get lovely private messages about I was fine.

Or like go to or they make a comment and like, why wasn’t disapproved or something right?

Before or they’ll try? They’ll comment on another post or I tried to post blah, blah, blah. That too.

So why? What made you guys want to keep it going? Right. Like it starts growing. And then just like, stick with it. And there was what it is today.

There were days when I was like, I don’t know if I can do that. Honestly, definitely had our Mo so time-consuming. I mean, it’s like time

You guys spent oh, gosh, I don’t even know if I could quantify No because it’s one of those things where before we left to come here, we’re approving or declining, whatever. When we leave, she’ll be driving, I’ll probably go back to the room. And it’s just one of those every spare moment kind of thing. Oh, let me check in make sure there’s nothing

I’m camping I’m posting we’re on a cruise.

So is there? Is there anything that is it is that most of the work just approving the post, just like vetting things out, making sure that the comments and everything are legitimate

That’s most of our show a lot of so we have the group. And then we also have a public page where we post just events. So I spent a lot of time scrolling through Facebook trying to find what was going on this weekend. And posting that stuff to the page. And that page, we spend a lot probably at about 11,000 followers on that page. And that, again, was all organic, just from us posting events from other communities in the surrounding areas.

And what group is this?

It’s Palm Harbor Happenings, but it’s a Facebook public page versus the private group that most people are more familiar with. Okay, the public page, anybody can see, but they can’t post, they can comment, you guys just post a post-event. It’s just strictly events. Because the private group is so active that a lot of times that stuff gets pushed down. Like, well, I still didn’t see that any of these events that were going on? So like, alright, well, check the page. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, check the page.

Okay. So you have 11,000 members on the page, or 11,000? Followers? 35,000. Now, yes, the group?

Yes. It’s crazy. It could probably be 100,000. If we just weren’t so particular.

I mean, that is the difference between us. And we were the first I mean, the first of its kind, really, there wasn’t another group like this. When we started. And they say, like, imitation is the best flattery, right? There are so many groups that have tried to branch off. Especially, it’s usually people that got kicked out for some reason, and they think they’re gonna go turn in. So no rules.

It’s like zero engagement. Right?

And they’ve got to 500 members, and then they start to wither away.  But so, we love it. It’s, it’s a labor of love. I mean, it really, it really is we, we did back in 2018. We started selling sponsorships on our cover photos. Right. So we did have businesses that pay for that space. But considering how much time we spend, I mean, it’s very, non we’re not making you might buy some groceries for a couple of weeks.

Yep. So businesses can buy ad space on your cover photo.

Right, right. In the form of sponsorship.

So talk to me about like, the power of the Facebook group, because I feel like there’s you can like if you guys have done what you’ve done and created this, this engaging interactive group for the community, like it’s this powerful, right, but in and people go and create different groups around different ideas or topics, whatever. It doesn’t have to be like the Palm Harbor community or another community, but maybe it’s something that they have an interest in. So like talking about, like the power behind Facebook groups, and like how they’ve grown.


Oh my gosh, well being in the social media business myself, I can tell you that group activities have been prioritized in your newsfeed over most anything else for probably the last three to five years at least. And that’s by Facebook, right? So they want people to engage, they want people to build communities, and there are all kinds of things, there are fishing groups, buy sell groups, foster parent groups, I mean, everything you can think of, you can find a group for it on on Facebook, and it comes down to the roles of the Creator and how they want to run it. Still, it’s very powerful, and the ones that are positive, or that attempt to be positive, like us, get the most engagement from their followers. And then the other thing with that is, the more you engage with a group, the more you see what’s posted in the group in your newsfeed, right, right? So it’s one of those if you start ignoring a group, then it kind of fades away into the background, and you won’t get those notifications anymore. It’s like that with anything on Facebook.

And to probably like, if you’re posting in the group, and you have a question about like, hey, I need to this local vendor or this local business? Like, if you’re not active in that group, your post probably isn’t gonna be shared to correct.

Um, are you just hands? Because it depends on the question. If somebody comes in and says, I need an air conditioning person, stat, there’s going to be 75 comments. About who people like for their AC business. A lot of them will be the same. But a lot of them will be different. There’s so much and that’s one of the things that we always talked about, too, there’s plenty of business to go around.  So let people make their decisions based on what they see. Post in the group, visit their page, look at their business, and do your research. That’s another one of our rules do your due diligence.

Like, that’s the starting point, right? Like that’s going to list of vendors that are doing business in the community. Yes. And then go back them out. Do your due diligence. I love that. So let’s talk about your business. Social media, simplified, social, simplify your social simplify. How long have you started that business? Or how long have you had that company? And what do you guys do there?

So I’m in my fifth year, I was a former corporate. So you started that after that Facebook group. I did. I went out when I started working with Shelly on Palm Harbor Happenings, I was still working for Verizon Wireless. I worked for them for 18 years, I was a sales director over the state of Florida in different capacities, our agent’s side and our retail side. And when I was laid off at the end of 2016, I kind of tried a couple different business ventures, I knew I didn’t want to go back to corporate. And then I sat down with a group of girlfriends one day, and I said, Okay, this is what I’m thinking about doing. I want to start this social media business. I want to help businesses create their presence, or build their presence on social media. What do you guys think? And everybody was like, it’s a no-brainer, like, you’ve already got Palm Harbor Happenings in your back pocket. So you’ve got that built-in credibility?

Go for it, why haven’t you done it already? It was kind of that, right? So I started that officially at the beginning of 2019. And that’s what I do. Business owners come to me, and I help them whether they want to work organically. So we create their content for them, we post it for them, I will teach them how to share it into groups, or we can share it into groups for them. Teach them how to work with their networking partners to interact with their content. Or we can also do paid ad campaigns. But I really take the organic approach first with my clients. Because I believe seeing the success we’ve seen through Palm Harbor Happenings, you don’t necessarily have to do paid ads, if you’re willing to do the work. If you’re willing to do the work and be active on social media, there’s plenty of business out there.

. And I think that’s, that’s a key part of that, right? And even if you run the ads, people are still probably gonna go back to your social media, and absolutely nothing.

And that’s what I tell people. Does it look like you’re out of business when they land on your page? Because you haven’t posted in six months?  Or does it look like you sell plants? But really, you’re a realtor?  And then are you educating or are you selling? Because if you’re always selling, why would people follow you? You’ve got to educate them and give them some DIY tips about what you do. It sounds counterintuitive. But it’s gonna keep them following you until they’re ready to pull the trigger 100%

So that’s kind of my primary focus there but really, it would have been a lot harder to get off the ground. If I wasn’t able to introduce myself as your social simplified. Oh, and I’m also an admin with Palm Harbor Happenings.

Like oh, wow, really? Oh my god. Right. So it gave me that foot in to really launch the business. It would have taken me a little longer to get to where I am. And have that in my back pocket.

What do you enjoy about social media?

My background is all sales and marketing, my entire adult life had been in some part or another, affiliated with sales and marketing. And so I enjoy sitting down with that client and starting to talk about their business. And then the idea is calm, I’m, that’s where the magic happens with me is sitting with them one on one before we even get started. And they’re just like, wow, yes, this is what I need she gets it. And that just, that’s the stuff that makes my heart beat fast, just watching people see that success is possible for them.

And then when we really start to make it happen, and their phone is ringing and businesses coming their way. I mean, it’s just in all aspects, like I said, from the group, the same thing, that I’ve performed a wedding from the group. Oh, wow. Yes, I’m an efficient, efficient. So I did perform a secret wedding for somebody. We’ve had several news reports from the group, there are just so many things, all of that. It’s not one thing. It’s so many things.

So where do you guys are going back to the group? Where do you guys see it evolving and growing in the next five years or so?

Well, we did launch a website, back in October. We’re currently in the process of doing some redesign with that. And it’s a business directory. So businesses can either do a free listing, or they can do a paid listing for $25 a month. And with that paid listing, they also get to post on Thursdays in the group. So it gives them a little bit more opportunity to be seen. Sure. And then it gives them, all their website, their social links, all of that. And then we also have larger ads on the website, we’ve got a guest blog and a community calendar.

And that is I think, where we’re seeing more evolution is really to start to get the group to go check out the website, we’ve made some key tags, also that have a QR code on the back that takes them to the deals page. So if a business is a premium subscriber, so they’re paying the $25 a month, they can add a deal, whatever that is, whatever they want it to be. It’s editable by them at any point in time. And the idea is that consumers can zip code and they can go and see who’s offering what deals, whether it be for a roof or a restaurant, or housekeeping, whatever it is, they can follow that code to go see what discounts locals are offering. Cool. So that’s kind of and we want to start to bring in more guest writers and things to get more content on the website. So it’s not just a directory, but really a resource for the community. Because there are people that tell us, we want to be involved. We want to see what’s going on, but we aren’t on Facebook. Exactly.

That’s the biggest thing I’ve gotten from the podcast and just talking to more people in the community. It’s like, the events, right, like what’s happening, what’s going on in Palm Harbor and the surrounding areas too. But like there’s not. That’s probably like every community, that’s a hard thing to collaborate on and get everyone together. It’s like, what’s going on this weekend?

What can I go do, right?

And Shelley’s been doing a great job of plugging that into our calendar, the calendar we have on there right now is good, we will be looking for something better, probably in the next coming months to just make it more robust. We’re even considering a feed from the page that will just show the events as we post them onto the page. So there are a lot of wheels turning and ideas on how to make that even better. It’s still a baby, you’re still an infant not quite a toddler yet.

More trial and error, right?

But there are a lot of events that are posted there too. So people that aren’t on Facebook can go to the website, go to that calendar and see what’s happening. And we don’t just post Palm Harbor, donate into harps and most of its north, north, north Dallas, Pinellas and maybe even up a little bit into holiday or New Port Richey and over to West Chase anywhere and that kind of zone is where we’re at because Pete that we know people will go there.

So it seems like that’s kind of like the divide it’s like there’s like a South County kind of North County where you kind of stay in that territory.

Alright, so when you guys aren’t working on Palm Harbor Happenings or you’re not working on socialism yourselves or simplified? What are you guys doing? What if you had to pick one business? No, maybe hard but like one place where you want to visit? What are you doing in your spare time? Like feeds your soul like where do you what do you enjoy going to?

You got to pick one kind of pick-one-up business or it could be a park or something or just The pool in my backyard because that’s my husband and I floating around you.

I’m a camper so I spend a lot of my weekends camping. glamping we’re not okay. We’re not doing with the RV.

Okay, okay. So Where’s like, what are your favorite spots?

Um, Fort DeSoto. And I thought that’s gonna be probably eventually I’ll do a blog on our website about the sweet parties. Ben Austin State. All over the state, we’ve camped for, I don’t know, since the kids were eight, nine or something like that something like 1516 years.

Cool. My parents have an RV. And so they’re big into, like, traveling around and that sort of stuff. There are so many beautiful state parks in the state. Oh my gosh. Get out and see them  just in our area to like,

Do you have to travel far? 

Now I spend a lot of my time volunteering when I’m not working.

So the Palm Harbor museum on the corner of Curlew and Belcher, most people, I mean, every time I’m there, someone walks in and says, I never knew this was here. It’s a small museum. But it’s very robust in terms of the history of Palm Harbor specifically, I’ve been on the board there for about four years. And again, it’s a labor of love. I just enjoy, in fact, Shelley and I donate, I’d say that the proceeds from the group sponsors, we donate a portion of that to the museum every Sunday. And they’re so grateful because if they don’t get grants from the county or donations, they can’t survive. Right.

So it’s just been a passion since we decided to do that, I guess, four or five years ago, the thing was five years ago now. Maybe six, actually. But once we decided to start donating, that’s when they then came to me and said, Would you like to be on our board? And I have been there ever since. But it’s things like that I’m just the community of Palm Harbor in and of itself, and I’m very passionate about both of my kids being PHQ. Graduates. The kids are both we’re not Florida natives. But our kids are.  So just, I just have a lot of a big heart for everything, Palm Harbor and just bringing it all together.

 Why is that? Because I think since I’ve started in real estate, I’ve kind of narrowed down into Palm Harbor. We live in Palm Harbor now. And, it is, like I found it to it’s a really special community. It’s different than Dunedin, Safety Harbor, or anything for you, for both of you. Like, why is Pearl Harbor so special?

I think it’s different, right, small and might and there’s such a variety of people. Economically, I mean people say there’s a lot of money in Palm Harbor.

There’s a lot of money in Palm Harbor but not everybody is living in a multimillion-dollar home either. There’s a variety of different types of people and there’s a variety of needs. We started also back 2017, a pack-a-snack group as a result of Palm Harbor Happenings. Where are we We’re providing snack bags to go home with kids on weekends and feeding children or any child with an unmet need brings me to my knees. Right? And so there’s just all of that we’ve been able to find in the community of Palm Harbor. There’s nightlife, restaurants, community, neighbors, helping neighbors, all of that. And it’s so it’s again, I don’t think it’s just one thing at least for me, what about you?

I’ve lived in Florida for about 10 years of my life. So and I’ve lived in Clearwater Largo Safety Harbor, and I just there you’re right. There’s just something about Palm Harbor that we just love it.

It’s just different. It is the community. I think that’s what I found. That’s like, like you said, like neighbors helping neighbors. Like that is that’s all harbor. Yep. Absolutely. Very cool. Well, Stephanie, and Shelly, I appreciate your guys being on the podcast. We’ll have all the links in the description below for people to check you guys out. And obviously, like the Facebook group, just search Palm Harbor Happenings, or you probably just search Palm Harbor, and probably pops up.

It comes up in Google too, if you search rapidly.

Yes, well, thank you guys. Appreciate it.



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