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WordPress Influencer Project: Interviews About How to Become an Influencer

May 1st

Offsprout is the only WordPress website builder for freelancers and agencies.

One thing that has always fascinated me is how some people are able to break out of the noise and become known in a community, and some people aren’t.

In any community, whether it’s about making funny videos on YouTube or talking shop about WordPress, there are tons of knowledgeable, talented people. But only a very small percentage end up being the names that everyone else in the community knows.

What makes those people different?

Interviewing WordPress Influencers

To find out, I set out to interview some of the top influencers in the WordPress community.

These are people that a lot of you may have heard of, with courses, podcasts, Facebook groups, and other endeavors that have helped them gain notoriety within the WordPress community.

I wanted to get their perspective on why they’ve been successful, how much of their success is intentional, and the methods they’re using now to become even more successful.

I learned a ton!

My Top Lessons Learned on How to Become an Influencer

I go into detail about my top takeaways and more specific tactics learned from each interview below, but there were some overarching patterns that emerged.

1) It takes time

No one that I spoke with claimed to be an overnight success. My interviewees had been producing good, helpful content in one way or another for years and years.

2) Show up consistently

Consistency was key. Each person had a particular channel, or even more than one channel, that they were producing content for consistently.

Whether it was podcasting, blogging, social media, or courses, they were all hitting their favored channels day in and day out – for years!

3) Help people

By far the most common refrain was, “I’m just trying to help people.” Every one of the influencers that I spoke with truly, and genuinely enjoyed helping people. If you aren’t being helpful, at least in the WordPress community, you aren’t going to become an influencer.

4) Pay your dues

Similar to number three, you have to go into a community with the intention of providing a ton of value before you can expect that value to be reciprocated. If you’re impatient or just focused on extraction, you won’t get anywhere.

The Interviews

This project gave me the chance to speak with some of my favorite people in the WordPress community, an opportunity for which I’m very grateful.

(Click on a tab below to see the interview)

Brian Krogsgard
Matt Medeiros
Rebecca Gill
Joe Casabona
Brian Hogg
Shawn Hesketh
Mel Choyce
Jason Resnick
Kim Doyal

Brian Krogsgard

3:20 – Changing strategy from a link sharing site to more what Post Status is today
5:10 – Was the trajectory of Post Status in mind from the start?
7:00 – What were the signals that Post Status was ready to be a paid membership community?
9:00 – Brainstorming paid Post Status membership on Brian’s personal blog
10:05 – The beginning of Post Status monetization
12:25 – Building the relationships that seeded Post Status
15:40 – Be curious about the markets that you enter
18:10 – The evolution of Post Status content
19:10 – What does Brian look for in products to share with the Post Status community
22:45 – How should you go about promoting your content?
29:20 – Starting over in a new space
37:30 – Getting lucky with timely breakout content

About Brian Krogsgard:

Brian runs Post Status, which delivers news and information about the WordPress industry and has a membership club component with a private Slack group of around 1000 members. He also is a host of the Draft podcast.

Top Quotes:

On his motivation for blogging:

“I just kind of had that desire to blog about what’s happening to share what I’m learning. It’s like having a dinner conversation with your friends, you know, it’s like ‘Hey, what’s going on? What are you thinking about these days?’ But doing that with a wider audience. That’s kind of the essence of what blogging is.”

On how he builds relationships:

“It all started from me talking about what they were working on. Showing interest in someone else makes them feel really good. That is a sure way to make friends; to show interest in what someone else is doing, rather than just constantly talking about what you’re doing.”

On how to write a blog post that a particular influencer might help you share and promote:

“When I write, sometimes I feel like I’m writing to an individual…I’m writing a letter to Andrew Nacin and I’m letting other people read it.”

Key Takeaways:

Pay your dues. Don’t go into a community trying to figure out how to extract value. Instead figure out how you can add value.

When people share a product or course or blog post, give them feedback. People will start to recognize you if you’re consistently providing helpful feedback.

You can build real relationships on social media. After you’ve exchanged Tweets or Facebook posts, you can try to take the conversation to Slack or Skype, then solidify it in in-person networking events.

If you want a particular person to share your post with his/her audience, write your post for that individual and anticipate what kind of feedback that person would have. Then edit your post to preempt some of that feedback or address those points. Don’t worry about providing ALL of the context – let people look stuff up or ask you about it in the comments.

Sometimes it pays to ditch the content calendar and write a timely article about what you’re thinking.

Matt Medeiros

10:25 – Creating the Matt Report podcast (the Mixergy of WordPress)
13:55 – Using podcasting to learn and have content to share
15:20 – Is showing up consistently enough to become an influencer?
16:20 – Find your cause
17:50 – How do you know when an influencer strategy isn’t working vs. it just needing more time to work?
22:00 – Why hasn’t the YouTube channel received the same love as the podcast?
30:15 – How becoming an influencer helps your business

About Matt Medeiros:

Matt runs the Matt Report podcast, the Conductor plugin, has a theme shop, and previously ran his own agency, but has since stepped back from the day to day of running that agency and has taken a job with a great WordPress hosting company, Pagely.

Top Quotes:

On why he created the Matt Report podcast:

“I wasn’t sure I knew that the spinoff was maybe it will raise my profile. I will certainly build a network, which is important. For me it was like, ‘hey, I can learn from these people and I can have some content to share.’ For me, it was much more, ‘how can I learn from all these other people that were doing things I wanted to do.’”

On how you can show up and produce content consistently

“It’s important that people find what their cause is and how they align that with who they are.”

On why he has taken a break from YouTube and what he hopes to do with his channel when he resumes:

“I want to be able to sit back and create a video that creates more story and more engagement.”

On how the podcast has benefitted his agency:

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars have come specifically from the podcast in agency work. From legit sales where people have said, ‘I just happened to stumble across your show because I was looking something up and I want to hire your agency for WordPress work’, or because I met another agency at a WordCamp or I had somebody on the show and they were like, ‘hey we’ve got this project. We’re not going to take it on. Can your team take it on?’”

On how having a podcast differentiates you:

“This is why I love podcasting so much…because folks are able to position themselves away from their competition.”

Key Takeaways:

Show up. It can be easy to fall victim to shiny object syndrome and hop from idea to idea and marketing channel to marketing channel, but you get results when you are consistently showing up in a particular channel.

Podcasting is a great way to differentiate yourself from your competition, expand your network, learn new things, and bring in new business.

It’s important to find your overarching cause and personality if you’re going to be publishing content consistently.

Rebecca Gill

2:15 – Why do you think you’ve been able to separate yourself from the crowd in a crowded space?
3:14 – Are any channels in particular more effective than the others?
4:08 – Results from podcasting
5:20 – How do you promote the podcast?
8:00 – Does podcasting help in the sales process?
10:15 – Why the sudden uptick in podcast and speaking appearances?
13:25 – Does speaking at WordCamps lead to podcast appearances?
15:00 – How courses fit in to what you do
16:40 – Are courses a feeder into consulting work?
17:50 – Starting the Facebook group
22:20 – What are you excited to try next?
24:10 – How paid mastermind groups work

About Rebecca Gill:

Rebecca Gill is an SEO expert and has built up quite a profile as a top go-to consultant for WordPress SEO. She runs Web Savvy Marketing, has several SEO courses, an SEO podcast called SEOBits, the SEO Launchpad Facebook group with over 1000 members, and speaks at WordCamps.

Top Quotes:

On whether one channel in particular has been helpful in getting her to where she is today:

“I’ve always been a really strong proponent of having a diversified portfolio and lead stream…I will say though, that the podcast has taken me by surprise.”

On why podcasts are effective:

“I think podcasts work because it is an avenue where it is not the written word so people can hear your voice, they can hear the emotion in your voice, they can hear the passion in your voice, and people get the feeling that I’m not going to BS them; that I am ethical because the way that I speak on the podcast is pretty matter of fact.

On getting out there:

“Honestly, I call myself the podcast whore because I’ll go on pretty much anyone’s podcast because as an SEO consultant, you’re giving me a backlink typically and it’s a great way to get that backlink and referral traffic and boost my authority on the web.”

Key Takeaways:

You can use webinars as a feeder for Facebook groups. If you’re getting a lot of questions after the webinar, move the conversation over to the Facebook group and answer them there.

If you have a course, you can add on a paid mastermind group that gives people some structure around the course, plus the opportunity to ask questions and go through the various stages of the course with other people in the group.

Joe Casabona

1:50 – Is the How I Built It podcast a feeder into your courses or is it more than that?
4:00 – Monetizing the How I Built It podcast
8:55 – Getting better listener engagement with the podcast
13:15 – Launching a Facebook group as a community to ask questions about podcast episodes
14:40 – Creating a marketing channel for the courses
17:35 – Using public speaking as a feeder into courses
19:15 – Using Udemy vs. launching a course on your own
24:10 – Getting the most out of Udemy
27:35 – Is CaboPress really worth it?
30:55 – One thing that you’re excited to try next

About Joe Casabona:

Joe Casabona is a WordPress developer, formerly with Crowd Favorite, and is currently an instructor and speaker, and creator of Creator Courses (and formerly WP In One Month). He also hosts the How I Built It podcast where he interviews product developers and business owners about how they create.

Top Quotes:

On diversifying your income:

“I got a really good piece of advice from Chris Lema early on when I was in Season 1 of the podcast – ‘You shouldn’t just have one stream of income. You don’t want to bet everything on one thing.’”

On selling products/courses vs. services:

“It’s a lot easier to convince one person to pay me $5,000 for a website than it is to convince 50 people to pay me $100 for a course or a product.”

Key Takeaways:

Installing a Facebook pixel on your podcast website can give you better insight into who your listeners are. And then you can use that to create more relevant content for them.

Podcasts can also be a great feeder for Facebook groups. Your Facebook group can be the place to go to ask questions about a particular episode and you can even invite your podcast guests to answer questions within the Facebook group.

Public speaking is a great way to figure out what questions people have about the content that you’re creating and generate new ideas for content or courses to answer those questions.

Think of Udemy as a marketing channel, not a revenue generator.

Brian Hogg

1:00 – Deciding to build the WordPress plugins courses
4:00 – What’s the difference between launching a course on your own compared to a platform like Udemy
5:25 – How do you promote your Making Pro Plugins course
8:10 – Can a course that’s unrelated to the plugins that you sell help your plugins?
14:10 – Does releasing a course raise your profile?
16:35 – Doing outreach to web design agencies
18:15 – Doing outreach to get interviews for a course
19:56 – Are smaller conferences more beneficial to your business?

About Brian Hogg:

He has a few courses about WordPress plugins including Making Pro Plugins about building a WordPress plugin business. He also has some profitable plugins himself, like the Event Calendar Newsletter.

Top Quotes:

On getting over imposter syndrome:

“I just kept thinking, you know, I’m not Pippin Williamson, I’m not this huge name in the WordPress space, who am I to be creating this course on launching a plugin. But a couple people said it really well, ‘You’ve done it more recently. You’re closer to the starting point and so you remember it better.’”

On why he thinks he’s been getting more requests to be on podcasts lately:

“Just trying to be helpful and staying in touch with a lot of people seems to have led to these podcast [appearances]…At the end of the day, I’ve just tried to keep in touch with people, help as many people as I can, and if I get on a podcast or two, that’s cool too.”

Key Takeaways:

Just because you’re not a huge name yet doesn’t mean you can’t teach people something of value in your field.

Partnerships with other companies that your products piggyback off of or make use of in another way can be an easy way to get the word out about your product.

Get your plugin out as quickly as possible so that you can test the market reaction and market size.

Shawn Hesketh

2:31 – Steps in the growth of WP101
5:45 – Marketing WP101
7:50 – How Shawn built relationships at WordCamps that led to customers
9:50 – Creating a lasting connection with students of your courses
16:30 – Translating the WP101 videos into different languages
20:50 – Can you cooperate with your competition?
24:35 – How you build a Twitter following of over 50k subscribers
29:35 – The best advice for growing your influence and your audience

About Shawn Hesketh:

Shawn Hesketh was a freelancer for 26 years before founding WP101, which is one of the most popular WordPress tutorial sites in the world. WP101 teaches WordPress beginners how to use WordPress to manage their websites. Shawn is also a business coach, helping entrepreneurs clarify their message so they can increase their impact.

Top Quotes:

Shawn noted this truism came from a mentor of his:

“You’re paid commensurate to the size of the problem you’re willing to tackle”

Another quote Shawn liked, with attribution unknown:

“Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.”

On how to build relationships at events:

“I think the best way to tackle events when you’re introverted is to just ask questions”

On whether you need to deliver a product in its most perfect version:

“Sometimes the best thing [you can do] is the thing you can do right now”

On how to become a WordPress influencer:

“The biggest key in terms of becoming an influencer…really just boils down to the principle of reciprocity. It’s doing things that probably don’t scale, but doing things for other people to help shine a spotlight on them.”

Key Takeaways:

Sometimes you can build a business just by being willing to do something that other people aren’t willing to do. In the case of WP101, that’s updating videos with every new release of WordPress.

You can use LifterLMS to engage with students at various points in your course.

Meet customers where they are. Some customers are going to prefer to interact on Facebook, some will prefer forums, some will prefer emails, but having all of those channels means that you can interact with your customers in their prefered environment.

Shawn grew WP101’s Twitter following by becoming an aggregator for WordPress related news. He also would tweet about WordCamps that he attended and even tweet pictures that he took of presenters, which could be helpful for the presenters.

Mel Choyce

3:25 – Co-leading the WordPress 4.9 release and how Automattic employees get on core teams
7:10 – Did you want to work on WordPress core?
10:15 – Raising your profile and influence within Automattic
14:50 – The role of the WP API in the next few years
18:55 – The customizer and the WP API
20:00 – Gutenberg and the customizer
22:10 – Being an organizer of the Boston WordPress Meetup group

About Mel Choyce:

Mel Choyce works for Automattic, is a WordPress core contributor, was a co-lead in the 4.9 release, designed the 2017 theme, has worked on WordPress.com and even did a mini-presentation at last year’s State of the Word at WordCamp US.

Top Quotes:

On how she’s been able to grow her influence within Automattic:

“Decisions are made by the people who show up. So the more consistent you are, the more reliable you are, the more responsibility you’ll be given.”

Key Takeaways:

If you want to be a core contributor or increase your influence within Automattic, it really boils down to showing up and being dependable.

Matt Mullenweg has a lot of influence on the direction of WordPress, even in the .org side.

Jason Resnick

2:30 – The best part about having a course
5:00 – Developing a launch plan for the Feast course
7:45 – Adding interviews with experts to a course
8:50 – The value of doing live Q&As
14:00 – Pitching WP Field Guides before it was even a finished product
18:30 – Launching WP Field Guides
20:30 – Should you be concerned to bring on launch partners in the event the launch doesn’t go well?
25:40 – What’s your most successful side project?
26:45 – Launching a new productized service side project

About Jason Resnick:

Jason Resnick is a freelancer that runs rezzz.com and is also a well-known educator in the freelance community. He has a course/coaching program for freelancers called Feast.

Top Quotes:

On why Q&As can be more valuable than webinars:

“I think to be able to open the door where people can ask a question and get value out of asking that question is much more than saying ‘hey, on Wednesday I’m going to hold a webinar,’ and for the first 40 minutes you know you’re going to get a presentation and the next 20 is all about the pitch. I’d much rather pitch for 5 minutes and say, ‘look, here’s this thing that I’m doing and you can click the button below and buy in if you want. [Now] let’s open the floor for any and all questions.’”

“Hearing 15 or so questions over the course of an hour…turns into 15 videos, or 15 blog posts.”

On what success means:

“I think success can be measured in money, but it can also be measured in audience, like what you hear back from people – how it affects their lives.”

Key Takeaways:

It’s not always a good idea to pitch your courses to everyone that you can find. Instead, you can create content and other events that serve as indicators that someone is in the right stage in their business and the right place in your funnel to be able to benefit from your course.

Add interviews with other experts to your course as a way to build relationships with other people who already have an audience and who are then more likely to promote your course to them.

Hosting Q&As is a great way to develop ideas for blog posts.

Make sure you’re asking potential customer about their pain points and not relying solely on feedback from people who may be very smart, but who aren’t your target customer.

Kim Doyal

3:35 – Branding as the WordPress Chick
5:00 – Getting over the “fake it until you make it” mentality
7:20 – Why expand your content into other content channels
9:00 – Promoting your content
11:00 – Specifics about promoting content
14:50 – Which (and how many) promotional channels should you use?
17:35 – Will lifestyle content replace/enhance more traditional content?
19:45 – Have you ever tried a channel and failed?
21:35 – How does the Facebook group fit in?
31:35 – LeadSurveys
35:30 – Why use paid traffic if you’re generating a ton of organic traffic

About Kim Doyal:

Kim Doyal is known as the WordPress Chick, runs a blog and a podcast by that same name, is a business coach, and she’s a big proponent of finding your authentic voice. She also runs a SaaS (the interview was recorded before launch, but it is now fully launched) to help you generate leads via surveys, aptly named LeadSurveys.

Top Quotes:

On being more authentic:

“‘Fake it until you make it’ is not working anymore. I think there was a time in the internet space where it was, but the market has matured. And people want to connect with people again.”

On what content channels to focus on:

“The best type of content you can create is whatever you can create consistently.”

Key Takeaways:

Do the stuff that you enjoy doing. Because people want to connect with people more today than in years past and you’re going to be able to build better relationships if you enjoy what you’re doing.

You don’t have to be everywhere, but you should choose at least a few marketing channels that you know you can be on consistently.

Getting more personal in your content can create a deeper connection with your audience and your customers that may be able to set you apart or increase your influence and customer evangelism.

Conclusion

The road to becoming a true WordPress influencer is not an easy one, nor is it a short one. But if you’re helpful, you show up consistently, and you employ some smart tactics, it seems possible for anyone to get there.

Are there any other influencers you’d like to hear from?

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