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Turning Content Into Communities with BobWP

Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.

David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at n this episode I’m very excited to welcome to the show, someone’s gonna be talking about turning content into communities online communities in particular, and to join us in that conversation again, really excited to to bring Bob WP Bob Dunn, Bob Welcome to press this.

Bob Dunn: Thank you David. This is great to be, I think back here actually and um yeah, really appreciate the invite and looking forward to it.

DV: I’m going to have to go through the archives actually to see if that’s true if you’ve been here before I know we’ve had the opportunity to talk at many word camps, and then of course virtually as well. So if you have been here, I’m glad to have you back, Bob, if not, I’m glad you’re here for the first time. For those listening unfamiliar with Bob. Bob runs, essentially a site a community called do the whoo and what he’s going to share about today is his journey, taking his vast array of content and ongoing content he creates around WooCommerce, and using that in the context of creating a digital community and in his case for WooCommerce developers but maybe you could learn some lessons from what he did to apply that to your own content, I think for me, we often make content is like this kind of like almost like Linkbait social Bay, and don’t realize that a community kind of develops around it sometimes or could, and I think Bob’s a great person to kind of listen to and hear his journey and doing that. So Bob, I asked this question of all my guests also asked to view. And I don’t know if I actually know the answer very curious. Briefly tell me your WordPress version story.

BD: Well, let’s see I’ll make this brief. Prior to WordPress. My wife and I ran a marketing agency for 17 years, so I was, I trade a graphic designer for those 17 years and actually freelance, even before that so this goes back into the print days. I made that migration into online at some point I don’t know exactly when that might have been late 90s And I really didn’t like dating sites, it was like an HTML I can’t even remember the software I was using. Fast forward to 2007. I became fascinated and blogging my wife had been blogging on TypePad I hadn’t dove into it yet and at the same time I was still looking for that solution to design websites for clients and I landed on WordPress I really don’t know how I landed on it, and I thought wow this is really a great solution for both things I can you know move my wife off TypePad put her on WordPress. I can also do client size you know these brochure type sites and we’re real basic, but I could do them and it’d be a lot easier and they actually look a heck a lot better than what I’ve been doing. So I just, yeah I dove into it for about three years we still had our business I was using WordPress and then in 2010 I branded Bob WP and totally kind of shifted everything’s still staying in design but more in the education and content arena. And since then, you know, the rest is history.

DV: Oh wow, so 2007 this would have been right, hearing right after plugins and themes being introduced into WordPress does that sound about right to you, Bob.

BD: Right in my very first theme I can still remember it. My first for my site was from my themes, and it yeah it was I was so tickled I thought this thing actually looks like a business site now, because I had all this weird flash stuff going on before on my old site and it was. It was horrifying. To put it simply.

DV: Yeah, absolutely. And this would have been, I guess this would have been right around the widgetized homepage time as well. It’s a very exciting time to be coming into WordPress I didn’t realize your background went back that far in terms of your marketing agency where are you a madman Bob.

BD: I don’t know what I mean. I actually I think my first freelancing job was in the late 80s and that was when I got into kind of got into design that was actually called desktop publishing, Because it was all done on the computer so so yeah I have a weird and windy history in the space.

DV: Oh it’s great to have that perspective I think, you know, as you start thinking about mashing up these mediums of like content and community. Because obviously, going, having that kind of background and watching the web of balls, kind of had to evolve and watch technologies can evolve and come together over time. It’s a very interesting part of your perspective. So tell me a little bit about your business though before making do the whoo community like how did you operate your content business,

BD: yeah it was it pivoted, a lot, it was always based on Bob WP. COMM And in the shortly after I moved in the WordPress space, I realized I really liked coaching and education so I started doing workshops, and I started just writing more and more content and the content was basically tutorials, type content for beginners. And through that decade, I just morphed a bit I eventually got out of design completely I didn’t want to do any more clients services I focused on content. I picked up on WooCommerce when it came out in 2011 I believe it was, and played or in that around with that and about actually used ever since then. And yeah, it was just, you know I always focused on content really my two drivers to this last decade were probably content in some medium and educating users

DV: so leading up to this over that 10 years, and you’re creating all kinds of content kind of typical coaching and tutorials, before you decided though to do the pivot around do the wooed towards a Community Focus. What was like the primary, you know, business model for your content, like, just before the switch I can get this 10 year span, what was it, what was that mode like right before you decided to make the leap to a community focus.

BD: So when I started, I did my very first podcast in 2014 in 2016, I started, do the whoo and that actually changed into WP commerce show on the at the get go of that I monetized, I got sponsored which was a challenge but I also had a lot of trust behind a lot of people I knew in the space, so they were able to, you know step up and actually support me. So I did that podcast and then at the same time it was basically content creation so I did you know I did my own content, blog, blog posts, I’ve moved more towards WooCommerce the last four years or so a little more heavily on that side of things, and the mod the business model was basically sponsored posts sponsorships for the podcasts and affiliate marketing.

DV: Okay, so that makes sense so you kind of, you know, producing this content effectively using advertising to monetize it. And you know I think for people creating content sites, there’s always this question around like, well, what’s our monetization path going to be. And so you’re kind of in the zone, no we’re we’re you’re relying on advertisers in particular, it sounds like, people that like buy advertising directly from you is a heavy part of that and then kind of sprinkling it in with affiliate marketing. So as you thought about like morphing into a community, what were like the business, the things that drew you to that from like say a business perspective like reliability and revenue or diversity in revenue or like other reasons like, what was the draw,

BD: you know, oddly enough it was very strange because at the beginning of 2010, or no 2010 2020 I had totally rebranded Bob WP as Bob to BP do the blue I kept it on Bob to BP, calm but I decided at that point to totally focus on WooCommerce content because I learned through affiliate marketing and things like that the people that ran online store spent more money than people that just ran basic WordPress sites and so that model was in the works. About halfway through last year and it had nothing to do with a pandemic because things are pretty much going normal in my business. In fact, you know, it was picking up because of the popularity of E commerce and everybody wanting to get on line. I had this epiphany, it was like and this is not really a business thing this is like, I’ve written tutorials for 10 years. And if I have to write one more ad just you know somebody, somebody hit me in the head, I just, I got I just was like, Oh, I just can’t write another pose tutorial

DV: Oh, Bob, I hate to cut you out hey that is such a powerful thought, and I think I want to unpack that statement a little bit because I think this really gets to the root of a lot of content strategies which is this notion of, like, infinite work, but we’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back.

DV: Everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community podcast on WMR. We’re in the middle of our interview turning content into community attorney content into communities with Bob WP, Bob, right before the break, you were talking a little bit about the business decisions are kind of drawing you into, you know choosing a Community Focus review the Whoo. You were talking a little bit about how you were kind of at your wit’s end creating new tutorial content and we had to drop the break to help bring us back in there so it’s helped me understand the next part of that journey.

BD: What happened then is I thought okay what am I going to do and I’ve been doing the podcast and I realized I really loved this podcast and I love the way. We’re actually the format of that because it was really all about bringing people in elevating people in the space. And the thought of how can I build on that and I’m if David you’ve seen me pivot, a million times probably over the last 10 years, and it’s not a challenge for me it’s like I go headfirst into it and you know I’ve had a lot of failures too. As a result, but I’ve had successes. I said, I’ve got it, I’ve got to do something, and I want to get back into community because that was what was driving me was getting other people in the forefront and sharing their stories and all this stuff so I started looking at everything in the booth space because I knew I’d already done that transition in the booth space, and I wanted to get away from the beginners and merchants and I saw that builder community and I just, it was like, Okay, there’s, there’s a need there there’s some fragmentation. How can I pull this together and do several discussions and you know just thinking it through, it was like, I thought I’m gonna do this, this is just excites me again, and I can see how content is content no matter what medium. How do I twist that content and mold it a bit to actually shape it into the community. And so I just started heading in headfirst into that it was like, There’s no stopping me. I’m gonna do this.

DV: So if you were to think like it during this phase, you, you notice the opportunity right you kind of niche yourself and in a way by focusing on Whoo, you because of the financial opportunity there, you had some notoriety from that already. And you thought, well, you know, Maybe there’s an opportunity to create kind of a new community if you will or kind of a uniquely focused one in it, within with where like your content and a community could maybe coexist. You know it’s really interesting because like my next question is like Do you have any inspiration from others as you did this because you did you think like geez, these folks really did this and you invoked IBM’s earlier which reminded me of Corey Miller to take over post status, which I think kind of doesn’t do a good job of like integrating community and content although maybe they’re a better a little better at the community side and the content side I love the content, but like, I feel like the community side is more their focus but like, where did you get your inspiration from or did you from anywhere else, you know, it,

BD: it was okay I had some, I think, I think over the years, I can probably name dozens of people just you know Korea isn’t perfect example, that always flooded in the back of my head, you know, especially people involved with community and I felt like okay I’ve been involved in community pretty heavily for 10 years, but not really in a business sense, I guess in a business sense, kind of as a side side arm to it but it wasn’t, you know, I wasn’t I didn’t base my whole business around that, In a way I did. So, I did have conversations with WooCommerce and people WooCommerce just because I wanted to know where, where, where are things you know lacking where, where do you need to pick up this pace here or, or what, what community is not being maybe reached to the full, full max. And then I started having conversations, what really helped me was having conversations I just started pulling people together and I think I might have had a conversation with you David, I just shared my idea and heard what people thought about it, and it builds on that and a lot of these people were people I’ve known for a long time so essentially that relationship I built over 10 years. They gave me bits and pieces of inspiration to contact them again and have a discussion with them, and just get some really good feedback from them.

DV: I do remember that conversation Bob actually now that you mentioned it, but it sounds like you did some discovery work there, to get an understanding of how you know people’s ideas in general might be how they’ll react to it I’m sure you probably talk to people that were connected from a business sense in some way. So, did you find like through the content you’d publish today that you had already started a community in some way or was it where like I could turn this content play into a community play, or did you feel like you had already kind of somehow established a community as part of what you’re already doing.

BD: It was interesting because I felt like somebody might remember a few my discussion, somebody said you know everybody in this community, Bob, you have a touch point but everybody. And you know I’m not a developer by trade, but nobody is really surprised by what I do, I mean whatever angle I take, it’s always Yeah, Bob’s been around, he’s kind of this mainstay. What I think that. Now, I’m going to pause here because I totally lost what you had asked me what was

DV: question, I’m sorry. Did you already build a community around your content, when you decided that you built up a little bit of a community around your content before you decided to like go all in on the community side.

BD: Yeah, so one of the challenges was that this community that I built for 10 years was a mix of everything in the world, and there was a lot of beginners a lot of merchants, a lot of users, and then there were builders or developers or agents ever, you know, as a mix so I thought, okay, there is a sector of my community that I can pull over there, although, you know, something like that is always challenging. So there was that base but if you look at the broader picture I did have a bigger community of just people I’ve gotten to know over the years and connected with that I could easily reach out to and get them connected with somebody else, or, you know, make some kind of relationship happen. So that was something that I was important, I would have never even pursued this idea if I hadn’t built up some kind of community already.

DV: Yeah, you know, and it’s funny now that you mentioned it, it’s like if I’m at a word camp I could probably look at someone or meet someone and be like, they probably know Bob, right, and like, but what I mean by that is like, they’re probably in the womb, right, they’re probably a certain kind of site, or short creator maybe. And I guess my point of bringing that up is it sounds like as you’re trying to like figure out what what what part of the community do I focus on and I think as others listening that are considering the same kind of approach, but their content is like, well where do I fit in right and it sounds like you were like okay, WordPress and then WooCommerce and you’re kind of cutting it down and you need to cut. And it sounds like for you to have the community was kind of there and maybe you threaded through a theme of it as you thought about, do the work. Is that right,

BD: yeah exactly and it was it because I knew there’s a lot of people that didn’t come to necessarily, or I should say, didn’t necessarily come to my site mob WP because yeah, they, you know, maybe they would go there everyone swell for tutorial, but they also knew me from just past experiences, other things I’ve done, and I was able to kind of thread them back into okay now I’m doing this community you run an agency, this is something you’re probably more interested in, do you.

DV: Did you get any inspiration from things like blog comments or social shares where people were engaging with your content and it felt like it was like the same cast of characters the same type of characters in each case or any sort of sign like that that hey look this content has a thread in it.

BD: Actually it was to happen all the time, I mean it’s, it’s amazing how much time I spent in the last almost, I would say six months prior to actually starting this, I was looking even deeper I mean, it’s not that that stuff was already there and I’d already adjusted some of it, but I was looking at a closer I was looking at conversations on social and in Slack and and through any content I create and talking with people on the podcast and it all just everything was kind of leading this way and I thought okay, something’s pointing this way. And yeah, it just kind of fell into place.

DV: That’s fantastic. Yeah, I think for me the thing was surprising parts of our content in the past is like just watching the comments section in the social shares and like noticing these patterns of users and types of questions and behaviors and thinking like geez, there’s a theme in there and wouldn’t it be great to get these folks together I know, often will cross post comments and social shares how you should check this out you should check that out. And it’s like, but it’s these different groups these first people in, you know sometimes it makes sense to bring them in and sometimes it makes sense to go where they’re at, but it’s really interesting to hear about your journey there. I want to dig into a little bit more on the implementation side, and just your strategy overall with that, we’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back.

DV: Hello everyone welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host David Vogelpohl, I’m interviewing Bob Dunn or Bob WP of do the Woo, Bob, right before the break, you were talking a little bit about kind of discovering your kind of community within your content if you will. But I want to talk a little bit more tactics here, the content that you’re creating today is that the same as using kind of the same pattern. Under the community umbrella as when you first started with your community focus or did you have to evolve your content strategy over time.

BD: You know it’s been a both a bit of both actually because when I started it, I had all these things laid out and I tried a lot of things and they worked and a lot of things didn’t stick at all. So there’s been the podcast has really been kind of the glue that holds it together, and has hasn’t changed, Although it’s grown in ways so I’m doing you know more episodes, but a lot of it has been community driven and I know that’s a overused word, but everything I did and I would talk to somebody and be in some conversation I was on conversation clubhouse, one time and something inspired me and I thought, well this would be interesting to pursue so I’m going to start looking at this piece. So, there’s a plan and the plan really kind of falls back to a real broader spectrum of. Okay, first thing I want to make sure I can connect people and I can keep them informed and educate them through other people it’s not me necessarily educating them, it’s them listening to the podcast so that has stayed the standard through and also the green people to the front, people, you know, besides me, whether it’s my co hosts guests, whatever. But yeah it’s really organic and business because a business model because you got to kind of go with the flow, and you’ve got to look at things that are changing and what tactics I started incorporating a little bit more of WordPress core in it because I had a conversation with somebody and they said you know I would developers really spending enough time understanding all this stuff happening in core that’s happening at an incredible pace, well, so I thought okay I need to start bringing in people and overlapping that part of it so it is, is a constant, organic growth, and I am there to satisfy others and that you know my own little whims. So, I’m willing to change and look at things or shift,

DV: love it I love it. And that response he said you tried things that worked or didn’t work for the sake of saying we’re saving someone else a massive headache Bob, what what are some things that worked or didn’t work but why should people think about is, they perhaps pursue this to learn from your lessons,

BD: you know, one of the things personally I’m just going to do this real quick, was one of the biggest things was everything I did always was on Bob WP, and I moved this to an entirely new site the podcast over, and I had real struggles with that at first because I was looking at. I was always used to having the existing community kind of transition because everything just morphed and shaped itself on Bob WP but suddenly I had to find people to move over to the new site, and that those numbers you know I was kind of fell back into the old metric tunnel and I was just like, oh, you know, why am I not getting as many people over here as I should be and I thought, and I just launched a brand new site, no matter what. There’s just got to you got to start at that growth, and the other challenge was, was around, and this again is somebody you need to think, what do you, how do you define community one of the interesting things is when I have conversations with everybody. And I was start talking community go so you’re gonna start to Slack channel you started discord, you’re gonna have a Facebook page and I go, No, no no no, and they pause and they say, wait a minute he’s talking community here. I looked at community as a lot differently I don’t look at it just throwing a bunch of people to space, and having them all talk because we have plenty of spaces to do that to you know talk amongst yourselves or whatever. I looked at as connecting this community, almost one person at a time, you know, you’re on the podcast, sometimes I have two guests and never met each other. It’s a slow, slow process, and any kind of community build is a slow process. If you’re going to do it unless you have a lot of people in place and they’re just primed for it. At that moment, you have to have patience with that

DV: bias and I think the other thing that stood out to me and advice is that you’re choosing people like through these moments via the episodes or whatever I’m guessing who also come with their own audiences. So it sounds like, you know, kind of a really kind of, you know, ground level tactic way to kind of slowly build on that audience Bob I wish I had more time to like completely unpack every single challenge you had here, and the successes but we’re at time but this has been incredibly helpful for me as I think about these kinds of strategies. Thank you so much.

BD: Oh you bet I really loved being on it and always happy to come back and you know hopefully I’ll still be doing community next time.

DV: I know you like to pivot and that’s half the fun of the web. So thanks again, Bob, .

BD: Thank you for having me on, David.

DV: Absolutely. To learn more about what Bob is up to please visit again this has been your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to here every week on price.

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