We have another great WP-Tonic round-table discussion of the latest WordPress news stories and a main episode topic for the panel to talk about. This week’s topic is “Social Media: What Role Does it Play in Your WordPress-based Business.” Why don’t you join us on FireTalk every Saturday at 10am PST?
1 – Teaching you isn’t free development time
2 – Why You Want to Get WordPress Plugin Support Licenses
3 – Zerif Lite theme: Make WordPress Themes
Before we got to the main topic we discussed some news stories. First up was the Roy Sivan article “Teaching You Isn’t Free Development Time”.
The panel said this is a familiar scenario and it is hard to draw the line between helping people and getting into a full-blown consultation.
Sallie noted that Roy was writing this as a WordPress Meetup organizer, which Sallie also is for the East Bay. Her observation was people come up to the organizers at the Meetup and sometimes want extensive help learning how to solve a problem. This would fine and dandy if it were WordPress novices asking a basic question. But where it becomes a questionable practice is when it is WordPress professionals seeking you to solve a complex problem for their clients – and oh yeah, can you do it for free?
Sallie’s point was, it’s cool if you’re asking a question where we can just point you to an article for the answer. It’s a totally different ballgame if you are taking money from your client, and you want to get free development help because you are stuck and don’t know how to get unstuck.
It’s not the asking that is a turn-off. It is the presumption that someone else’s time is less valuable than yours, and that the WordPress experts are there to bail you out for free, when you are getting money from your client.
Sallie says she sometimes runs into problems where she needs help. But she is willing and ready to pay for that help, because she values the time and expertise of the person she is asking.
John says he gets requests like this here and there, it’s not a bum rush. He says he draws the line when it becomes more involved, and it starts to feel like a complex answer, and not a simple one. That’s when money should be exchanging hands, because value is being exchanged.
Sallie says there’s a developer at her Meetup that has a rule: If they can solve it five minutes, they will do it for free. Beyond that, it becomes a paid consultation. Kim says that when you give to people, sometimes they keep coming back, over and over again (without expecting to pay). This is where the danger lies.
Kim says it takes time just to communicate, and at a certain point, that should require compensation. Kim brings up another story, where someone hired a cheap developer, and of course, they did not know what they were doing, and the person that hired them wanted Kim to train the cheap developer for free. Kim says that is definitely a boundary line.
Jackie says when she first started, she went to resources like Lynda, Treehouse, and support forums, and learned as much as she could before ever asking other people for help.
Jackie and Sallie talk about people who buy a Genesis theme for the first time, and are disoriented, because it is so different than vanilla WordPress.
Jackie says there are more resources than ever before. Sallie says clients don’t ask for training; they just ask you to do the task. Kim says when people call here, it is a very specific question. The whole panel you should not hesitate to invest in your training as a WordPress professional, because you can use that knowledge over and over again in your client services.
Our second news story was Russell Aaron’s “Why You Want to Get WordPress Plugin Support Licenses”.
Jackie said clients should have their licenses, because developers can leave and the client needs to know when the renewal dates come up, and have general control. Sallie brought up a similar article from Delicious Brains, which said much of the same thing, with the exception of truly developer-centric plugins, like WP Migrate DB Pro.
Sallie also said it is easier for clients to buy their own plugin licenses, as opposed to buying it herself, and then transferring ownership to the client. The renewal notices go to them, and they have complete ownership. It also makes them responsible in case you get hit by a bus, or you part ways from working together.
Kim said if you are a client, and your consultant gets hit by a bus, if you don’t own the plugin licenses, you wouldn’t even know where to start, or where they are located. She says the plugin companies make it easier to cover 25 sites with Developer licenses. But the incremental cost of having each client own their plugin licenses is a better idea all around.
John recounts a story where a client had a WooCommerce site where they thought they had all the licenses, but when digging into their WooThemes account, he found they only had ownership of one license out six WooCommerce plugins on their site.
Our last WordPress new story was related to a WordPress Trac ticket for the Zerif Lite theme on the free theme repo.
The bottom line is the theme review team has certain rules in place, and this theme, which has over 200k active installs, has been dragging their feet on making the necessary changes.
John said the people just submitting themes see larger themes bending the rules, and they cry foul. Sallie said the big issue is this theme has Custom Post Types built into the theme. WordPress developers know that you should always keep Custom Post Types in a plugin, so you can change the theme later without losing all your data – which is the big technical challenge that the Zerif Lite authors are avoiding.
Sallie said they can make a one-time database migration plugin which would handle this, but the theme authors may be reluctant, because some people will undoubtedly not see this, update their theme, and lose some of their information. The theme company is arguing that the users find this easier. But it causes theme lock-in.
John and Kim both point out that this is what many ThemeForest themes do, building custom post types into the theme, making it impossible to change themes without losing a ton of information. John says the data should be portable for themes that are in the free repo.
Jackie says this is fair, because they are getting their theme in the repo for free. They have to follow the rules, and it’s not fair to let popular themes bend the rules for fifteen months. John says a lot of people try to get themes in the free repo as a gateway to their premium theme services or for promotional purposes.
Kim says they also have a built-in contact form, and have recommended an alternate plugin, but have a duality, because they aren’t yet forcing all theme users to make the change. John says they are fearing the massive onslaught of support tickets after they make the changes to the theme.
Main Topic: Social Media: What Role Does it Play in Your WordPress-based Business
John asked the panel what ROI there is on social media, and how does social media lead to revenue?
Kim said social media leads to people sharing her material. She also uses Twitter cards for email signups, and she also has a tutorial on how to use Twitter cards on her site. John noted barely anyone is using Twitter cards. Kim also said she is paying someone to create podcast artwork for her, so those images will gain traction on Pinterest and Instagram.
Sallie says she uses Twitter to talk to other developers and learn. She says she gets referrals for work through relationships she has developed on Twitter. She also says years ago, she was involved in the WordPress group on LinkedIn, and through this, she was discovered by someone at O’Reilly Publishing, and asked to be a technical advisor on WordPress: The Missing Manual.
Sallie says social media is not usually a source of direct inquiries, but she gets referrals from social media relationships. She points out her clients probably don’t hang out in the same places as she does online. She says she uses the Tweet Wheel plugin to send out archived posts to Twitter at regular intervals. She says this is a way that people actually find information she has published before.
Sallie notes she cannot quantify the effect that social media has, and she does it in an unstructured way, but it has been a source of business. John says it is intriguing that LinkedIn actually led to an opportunity for Sallie.
Jackie says networking on social media has led to referrals, because people know what your expertise is, and you learn other people’s expertise. She says the big challenge is finding where your clients hang out, and sharing things that are interesting to them. She commends John for having a good mix of content aimed at both developers and clients.
Jackie says Facebook and LinkedIn are two places where potential clients are likely to hang out. She says participating is the key to getting anything out of a social platform. You can’t just share your stuff all the time. She says Pinterest would be good for portfolio pieces. John says he has a Portfolio board on Pinterest, but he has really let it fall to the wayside.
Sallie says it would be a great idea to repost your old blog content on Medium and LinkedIn Pulse.
John asks the panel about content curation. Kim says consistency is paramount, and she needs to create more content to share. She says she enjoys sharing things from others, which can lead to real relationships. She says it is cool when she meets people she knows from Twitter and social media in real life.
John asks Sallie about content curation as a way to define your brand. Sallie says she sees one of her favorite podcasts, FIR, using GaggleAMP to make social sharing easy within a network. She notes some of the most shared content she puts out comes from sharing on GaggleAMP.
Jackie said it is important to actually read what you are retweeting or sharing before you hit the button. She also said a great way to add value is to not simply retweet, but to quote the tweet and add your own commentary. This makes it look less spammy, and also adds your personal context to the retweet.
Adding your own quote to retweet makes it more likely that someone will read the original article than if you do a plain retweet. She says you can also do this on Facebook and LinkedIn for a value add. John Says this is reminiscent of what John Gruber on Daring Fireball or Tim Smith on the Bold Report do on their blog posts.
John asks the panel how they see businesses using social media, and what opportunities are there. Kim says it is important to focus on a few things instead of trying to do everything and be everywhere, and make it easy to share. Kim added that social media is not all about you, but find a way to make it about your clients.
Kim and Sallie say you should read the articles and recordings you are sharing instead of blindly sharing, because people can have things you agree with professionally, but they can share something that is diametrically opposed to your brand politically.
Sallie says many of her clients don’t use social media as much as they could. She says it is good to prune accounts where you are not active, and not show them on your website. There is only so much time in the day and you can’t be everywhere. Ask your clients what they are using, and if you want to add more network links when you have time for that, you can certainly do that.
Daphne Backman in the chat room said you should focus on where you want to be and where your customers are, and trim the rest. Jackie said many retailers only blast advertising on social media and don’t know how to add value or educate customers. She notes if you can provide extra information and enrich your customer’s lives, and leave the selling out of it, you are more likely to get people to shop at your store and pay attention to your social posts.
Jackie adds a great point, that it is better to have two social channels that you manage well, as opposed to six you manage poorly and barely post on. It is also imperative to engage with people and not ignore engagement.
Kim said there are different ways to educate people using social media, and she used Pinterest as a n example. She said, instead of just showing a picture of a meal, share the recipe, or share where you got it. There has to be some context around picture shares, or what’s the point? There has to be something extra when you are pinning stuff to each board.
Kim said Facebook Live offers more options than ever for educating customers. She said where a lot of brands make a mistake is not engaging customers on the platform where they already are.
She notes it is a pet peeve if she is on Twitter and then she gets a direct message to “Follow us on Facebook”. Engage with me in the arena where I’m at!
Kim asks the panel what their go-to social plugins are, as many are hard on site performance. Jackie like Social Warfare, as it stores the share numbers for a while before it caches again. You can also add your own pictures for Twitter and Facebook, so it is worth the $29/year.
John says he does site builds for larger agencies, and he likes Social Warfare, Social, or if they are already using Jetpack, just using the native sharing module there.
Sallie likes Scriptless Social Sharing when you just need the main sharing options. On other sites, she uses WPSSO. With WPSSO, she uses the Ridiculously Responsive add-on. There are some other add-ons, some free, others premium with WPSSO.
John next asked the panel about clients that use their Facebook page as a de facto website. Kim ups the ante by telling a story about someone who uses their Libsyn page for a website. Kim says the end goal is to get people back to your platform, which is your website. When people rely on their Facebook page instead of a website, it usually means they are overwhelmed by hiring someone. But it is better to get a one-page site up, because it makes you look more professional, and you have somewhere that you control and make the rules.
Sallie says there are people who cash in around specific platforms to build their business, but that can bite you when those platforms invariably change their rules. Having your own site allows you to control your destiny.
Jackie compares your website to the hub of a wheel, and social channels as the spokes on the wheel. She says it is crucial to control your content, and you can’t do that in someone else’s playground. You have to own the copyright to your content. John says your website is the steak, and your social platforms are the garnish, or the sizzle on the steak.
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John asks Sallie why people are reluctant to hire a social media person, and what are the best options? Sallie says small businesses waver on hiring someone to run their social media because of cash flow and the time overhead that comes with managing them. Another thing she points out is that business owners can’t tell the difference between someone who is an expert and someone who is fraudulent.
Sallie showcases this point with stories of clients who call in a panic because they got a spam email about their site not being mobile-friendly, or saying that their SEO is dismal. Sallie says, “Of course your site is mobile-friendly, I wouldn’t have built it any other way”, and points them towards the Google Mobile-Friendly test tool.
The point is, clients are not the best judge of who can do the job and who can’t, so it becomes difficult to hire anyone to do social media or anything else related to technology. Sallie says there are no degrees in social media or board certifications, so many businesses default to handing that job to the intern.
She says this is a bad idea. The intern does not know your business inside-out, and the person running your social media campaigns should. Sallie says there is a huge difference between using Facebook and Snapchat for your personal use and to promote a business. She also cautions against hiring your teenager to run your social media campaigns just because they are on Instagram and Snapchat, because how they post there is not necessarily how you want your business to be represented.
John says many of his clients either don’t post on social media because they are busy and don’t trust anyone, or they hire someone twenty years old.
Kim says her mother is starting a social media business for seniors! Kim says her mom knows business so this is a good fit.
Kim brings up a great point, that most businesses can’t describe their own business, so it is hard for them to teach someone else what to post. There is a lot of work that has nothing to do with social media itself that has to precede having a social campaign, and this is the biggest weakness of many businesses, the lack of a cohesive story about their business.
John says most businesses don’t know their own Hero’s Journey, origin story, or identity, and maybe this is why their social media sits rotting away on the sidelines.
Jackie brings up some excellent points, that most businesses don’t have protocols, guidelines, or policies about replying when people talk about your business. How do you respond when someone speaks negatively about your business? This needs to be part of your overall social plan. Hoe to you interact in the community? Have a plan of how you acknowledge positive feedback and negative stuff.
The worst thing that can happen is when you hand over the reins to your social account to a teenager, and they use profanity, or say something that isn’t politically correct, all because you don’t have protocols in place.
Jackie says most guidelines are not prepared until after a boo-boo happens, and someone drops the ball.
John asks the panel about automation. Kim says she automates posting, but never engagement. She says you are always hearing from her on social media. She says never use auto-DMs when people follow you. Sallie and John says human engagement is paramount, and robot tweets are no good. Jackie says it is suspicious when you receive a response a millisecond after you send a tweet, it feels spammy. She says you have to designate time to respond to everything because things take time.
John says when a big tragedy or polarizing news story is taking place, you absolutely must put your auto-tweets and auto-sharing on hold. Otherwise you run the risk of looking callous or offending customers.