How To Build A Real Online Community in 2019
At 17, Jonathan co-founded a “young entrepreneurs” community and experienced the joy of watching his life and the life of those around him change through inspiration and education. He was hooked and have continued to pursue opportunities to inspire and teach ever since.
Jonathan has published a free course (“Four Weeks To Your First Client”) to teach aspiring entrepreneurs interested in the world of web development.
This weeks show is Sponsored By Kinsta Hosting
Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show. This is episode 389. We have got a great special guest, Jonathan Worlds with us. He’s a WordPress evangelist, developer and business is built businesses over a number of years. I haven’t got my cohost, Cindy Nicholson. She will be coming back next week. Don’t worry you folks, the intelligent part of this partnership will be returning. But she’s on break with her children and her husband. But she says you will be back next week. So Jonathan, would you like to introduce yourself quickly to the listeners and the viewers?
Jonathon Worlds: All right, I think you covered it man. I’m always excited to talk about WordPress. And also I love talking about online communities. Whatever we should cover today, I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic. So I appreciate the invite. I’ll add that I live in one of the most beautiful places in the United States in North Idaho. I’ve lived all over the place and, it’s one of the big perks of working remotely. You can kind of pick where you want to be. And for me and my family now, this has been the best.
Jonathon: I have to actually look it up, I’ve never heard of it. And you’re on a lake and you got the ski resorts as well. Seems like you’ve got a lot of great countryside and nature around you, I’m sure. But I live in a quiet, nice area myself. So folks, what we’re going to be discussing in this show where we’re going to be touching building community. Because if you’ve got a membership or any kind of website normally, or especially if you’ve got a membership site or learn all your core courses or knowledge that you are selling. You are attempting to build a community and it’s one of the methods, and morphologies that are going to enable you to have a successful online business. But it’s finally the round quite a lot. Jonathan Butler, the nitty gritty of how to do it isn’t talked about that coherently. And that’s what I was hoping that we can achieve in this conversation.
And also we’re going to be talking about how to compare the kind of SAS competition to WordPress. Like Kajabi, Thinkific, Teachable to what the strengths and weaknesses are of WordPress. I know I touched that last week a little bit with our guest Lee Blue. But I was hoping with Jonathan that we were going to have a bit of a different view to it. But before we go into the main part of the interview, folks, I want to talk about one of my major sponsors and that`s Kinsta hosting. And what is Kinsta? Well Kinsta offers WordPress hosting only. And it uses Google cloud hosting as its backbone. But what you get from Kinsta is a super interface and fantastic 24/7 support. And basically we host the WP Tonic website with them. We’ve been hosting with them for a couple of years. They’ve been a major sponsor of the show for a couple of years and they’re just fantastic people to work with. What you get is you get fantastic staging, latest version of PHP that will make your site super quick. And great security, great technical support. And just in a way a great community to work with your website. Especially if we’d got a membership site or Woocommerce and you need something a bit better than just general hosting. So if that sounds interesting, they are quality partners. Go to kinsta.com and find out more. Alright Jonathan.
Jonathon Wold: Kinsta is real quick, that`s what I loved about them. I had some good chats with some of their folks. They were one of the earlier contributors to the tide project. It’s a project on code quality, et Cetera. So they dedicated some time and resources from their team to help kind of give some feedback on what we’ve been doing on the tide project. So anyway, it’s echoing that good people.
Jonathon: Brian Jackson, their marketing manager, he is a friend of mine. Tom, the financial side, he’s a friend I would say now. They are just a good team. So Jonathan community is, it’s a word bonded around the internet quite generally. But the specifics I have talked about. So if you were attempting to build an online community, where would you start? What are some of the things people got to know about attempting to do that into 2019?
Jonathon Wold: So that’s a great question. I think so the first thing I always start with who is the audience for this. We’re just read Seth Godin, this is marketing recently. Kind of refresh a lot of those thoughts. But it’s worth touching on because a lot of us will like nod our heads and like, okay, of course, yes, we need to have a clear audience for this. I’m like, no, no, no, no, no. Not really you need like, who are you, if you want to build a community, who is this actually for? Who are the actual people that you were going to build this for? Because I think if you’re not clear on that, like I’ve had some successes in the past with building communities at different stages in life for different reasons. And when I look back, a big reason it worked when it worked was the audience being super clear. And a lot of people, whether it’s their ambition of like, oh well it’s for everyone or oh it’s for this or for that. So yeah, I think the first thing I’m like, all right, if I want to build a community, who’s the audience and what problem is this community trying to solve for them?
Jonathon: Exactly. So you just got to pick your tribe.
Jonathon Wold: Exactly. And if you’re not clear on whom it is and what’s the problem? Because community is cheap. Like a community like saying I’m part of the community is a very cheap thing. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold that much significance anymore. I could join a group on Facebook and say I’m in a community. So there has to be a very clear like why, why am I going to invest in any time? Because the reality is most people won’t, they’ll join the community, invest no time. So are they, and they’re really not a part of it.
Jonathon: So you want to build online business around your experience. You want to do it through information and training. But you’d be wise to try and build an audience beforehand. It’s going to be easier to get that business up and running if you got an audience for it. If you were in those shoes and you have been in those shoes, how would you approach trying to build that prelaunch community?
Jonathon Wold: I can speak about what I’ve done. I mean, so one of the things that I am part of is a small community called Creating Clients. It’s focused on helping like new entrepreneurs get their first clients. And very kind of web centric. And what I kick started that with, no pun intended, kick started means different things these days. But what I, it was about six years ago, I wrote a free course on how to get your first client. When I wrote that course, I didn’t even really have the idea of a community in mind, which is to say I focused on making it as useful as it could be from the beginning. I wanted it to be a complete package. Sometimes it’s like, oh, we’re gonna make some free content, but we’re really going to like only give a little bit and you got to pay to get the rest of it. So I created something that my intention was for it to be useful as a complete unit. Like someone could take this and get a client. And then my idea was that, hey, you got your first client. Awesome. Now it evolved to over time has joined this community where we’re going to help you get the next 10 and kind of grow from there, etc.
Jonathon: Well that`s a great thing. How would you approach utilizing other platforms like Facebook groups, YouTube? What would it be your strategy utilizing those?
Jonathon Wold: It goes back to the audience is, and what problem you’re trying to solve. If you’re very clear on those things, like if it turns out a lot of your audiences are on Facebook, great, that’s fantastic. Facebook group might be the perfect thing. I don’t like it. But if that’s what my audience finds most effective, that’s where I should be. And then the problem that you’re trying to solve, it could vary a lot. Like YouTube might be a perfect place to build community around a particular type of problem. But so it’s like, so there are so many tools available. And you can’t possibly, I mean you could do, someone says do this, and do that. You might get lucky, like maybe you come up with a good combination. But for me it’s like if I’m clear on whom the audience is, which helps me know where to reach them, where are they? Like what are those things and what problem I’m trying to solve, then I can figure out the tools.
Jonathon: Yeah. I think people, if they don’t do that basic home work. Almost about what is the main problem I am going to be solving? The main hope you’re going to find it very hard to build any community on these diverse platforms. Because there’s definitely really driving these people to join another Facebook group. Or join another YouTube channel because there’s hundreds and thousands of these channels isn’t there?
Jonathon Wold: Yeah. And more all the time as the barrier of entry and technology drops. It’s interesting that there seems to be this correlation of how much we value it as well. Because you know anyone can start it if people are starting YouTube channels all the time. And so we become even more selective as time goes on about which ones we actually engage with.
Jonathon: It’s come to mind because my degree was in graphic design and interface design. And before it got into WordPress and trying to run my own freelance agency, I did a lot of graphic design work. And I’ve got basically Jonathan I’ve got burnt out. And for quite a period of time I do my own stuff. But I wouldn’t do it for clients. I actually I got other people to do it. I’ve got more backing into graphic design, layout, and UX design. Then I’ve joined recently or about half a dozen YouTube channels. Where they’ve got substantial audiences of almost a hundred, 150, 250 subscribers. But they’re around UX design topics. So it’s still possible isn’t it?
Jonathon Wold: It certainly is. And one of the things that struck me recently. So most of us have smartphones. And it’s interesting that like when you study the history of computers, I mean it’s absolutely amazing. Like what we have capable in our pockets. You can do a video, you can create entire businesses. Like you can does all of this stuff on this little device? But what do most of us use it for? Most of us use it for entertainment, just consuming. We don’t use it to create, we use it to consume. And that’s all fine. What’s interesting to me about that is there seems to be this correlation between. As things become more accessible for some strange reason we tend to value them less. So when I think about the web as an example, you can do just about anything on the web.
It’s incredible the resources that are available. And so it seems I noticed this, like people don’t seem to put the same level of effort as they would to doing like an offline thing or if you didn’t have the thing. Like one of things I love when I talk about SEO is I love talking to people and saying, okay, now what would you do with the search engines didn’t exist. Like how would you get traffic? And then I’m like, if you figure that out, yeah. The spoiler that that usually solved. Well, you’d have to get links and you’d have to have relationships with other properties and like do all this stuff. I’m like, well, tell you what, if you do that, the search engine stuff kind of works itself out.
Jonathon: Yeah. That’s actually very insightful. I’m very impressed with that, Jonathan. That’s quite insightful because it’s a different way of thinking it, but it’s absolutely spot on. I feel it is. So I think we covered, so actually build a forum in WordPress or utilize Facebook groups or a YouTube channel. Like your say the technology’s out there. But it’s just got a lot more voices. There’s a lot more chatter. To recap what we’ve been saying is to compete against that pre planning, doing the things that we’ve discussed in previous episodes about going on other people’s Facebook groups. And being an active member. So your name’s known on those. And also doing the same thing on some of the leading YouTube channels.
But also understanding that you’re going to have to do something a little bit different. And pre planning what the problem you’re going to be the mind, a subset of your industry. I think one of the things I just wanted to see what if you agree before we go to the second half of the show. Is the way to counter all these voices and the technology you get a lot more easier is what I call when it’s probably isn’t a word. Is to nichefy, is to find a sub niche in the subject and then try and to provide real insight and knowledge in that niche. If you’re just talking about design, unless you’re very well-known designer, but find a niche inside a niche. Would you agree with that Jonathon?
Jonathon Wold: I had a couple of more things here from my experience. So one of the things that I stumbled onto that I don’t remember why I did it, but it worked out really well. One of the first communities I formed has over a decade ago been focused on young entrepreneurs. And there were a couple of them at the time and including some that were a lot bigger. But we had at our peak about 800 members and we were the most active by far of any of the communities, a lot of engagement. And we did I think two things. The primary thing we did is we had a barrier of entry you had to apply to become part of this community. And this application asks to tell us about your ambitions. Like what are you trying to do? Like what are you done so far, et cetera?
At the time we actually had some technical hurdles as well. Like it was terrible, absolutely terrible. It was powered by the bulletin. I made this custom form that would time out if you spent too much time on it. So I had people who spent like an hour right in their application for it to be lost. So the talk about like technical hurdle that shouldn’t have existed. I had a few people who did it, multiple times.
Jonathon: Are some of these people still trying to hunt you down Jonathon?
Jonathon Wold: Well some of them became really good friends. But so we clearly we had, that was a bigger barrier than I intended. It’s like the harder you work, the less likely it would go through. But the net effect is that they had to apply to get in. Once they got in, we had a process, everyone had to go and like post a welcome like a new message and then we all welcomed. And suddenly you’d have like 20 people engaging with you, welcoming you and asking you about this or that.
So barrier of entry and as you pick a specific niche. Also think about, okay, because the barriers are so low, you can stand out by actually having barriers. Like whether it’s a price, whether it’s an application, whether it’s in by only like whatever it is. That I think it’s a pretty big factor. The last thing I’ll add when I think about what makes community work these days. I love all the progress we have in automation and all these systems and tools. We have to remember that those are designed to facilitate us having more time to spend individually.
And so a big focus for me in building community is, okay, how do you use the scale thing is that’s all great. But how do you make sure that you’re connecting directly and personally with the individuals. And that can take a lot of different forms and a lot of different shapes, but that to me is a driving emphasis like, as community grows and some of the ones that I’m a part of. What can I do to make sure that I’m really connecting with the individuals? And actually grow in relationship because that’s what makes communities stick.
Jonathon: That’s great. We’re going to go for our break. We will be back in a few moments’ folks.
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Jonathon: We are coming back. Yeah, I thought it was a great discussion in the first half Jonathan because it’s bandied about. I’m basically the dirty part of any kind of membership course base eLearning online business is dropout. And so counter drop out is to have good content but also build up community. So I thought it was a good initial subject for us to discuss. Now let’s go on because I’m like I said in the intro, I’m not being satisfied how I have tried to rationalize this myself. And I did attempt with Lee Blue a little bit last week. And I still don’t think, and it was nothing to do with Lee because he admits it wasn’t something that he had thought a lot about. There’s a scene if you could help out. And WordPress, I have being part of the WordPress community for over 12 years. And I’ve gone to a lot of word camps, a lot of meet-ups, done a leading podcast which you’re on.
But WordPress, so I’m still committed to WordPress, but WordPress in ecommerce, in learning management in membership has a lot of competition now. It has a lot of SAS in the learning management area. There seems to be two distinct SAS competitor groupings. There are those that are really aimed at the corporate medium to corporate market that are looking to build training courses for their employees or vendors. And then there is another side of the learning management that’s aimed at solo entrepreneurs or small groups that are looking for a lot of marketing functionality. I see Kajabi and a couple others. Like Teachable and Kajabi aimed at that specific market. And there’s a little bit of overlap as well between these kind of corporate business and the more marketing focus. And then you have WordPress. Why do you think somebody should be looking at WordPress rather than a SAS partner technology product?
Jonathon Wold: Oh, I love this question. So there are a lot of pieces to this. I think an important foundational piece that is often overlooked. So I think of WordPress as an operating system for the web. That’s worth kind of touching o sort of unwrapped, unwrapping a little bit first because everything else kind of builds off of that. So without going too deep into that. So what does that mean? So like current fact, WordPress powers more than 30% of the web. It’s not too hard to sort of see that. And if you think about WordPress as a thing to create on, we have operating systems on our phones. But what really makes them and our computers and then we choose what to do with it. We install software, we install apps, and we make those things what we want them to be. WordPress is an operating system for creating on the web. We install the plugins that we want to make it what we want it to be, whether it’s ecommerce. Like whatever the category is whatever we want.
This sort of that mix. Now WordPress is interesting for a lot of different reasons. It’s open source, and we haven’t seen it’s a new set of phenomena. It’s new territory. Like it has an incredible range in the market. There’s nothing even close to it, but a lot of people see as kind of this rag tag like oh antiquated like there’s so many different perceptions on it. But if you accept this idea of Word Press’s and operating system. And then you think about it to its logical conclusions, look to a future state where it’s powering 50% of the web. It’s the clear majority in terms of what people are building on. Then the question you have to ask yourself is, you’re building a business, I guess at this point who would invest in a different operating system for the phone?
You certainly could. But like I wouldn’t as an investor, I wouldn’t be putting my money in someone trying to make a new IOS like that’s not going anywhere. It could. It absolutely can, but it begs a few things. IOS itself would need to go way downhill. And there probably need to be a paradigm shift in the market for that position to change significantly. So the same with WordPress. Like when I look at these new investments like another CMS is not going to overtake WordPress anytime soon in terms of overall market share. And so just because of current state now WordPress could go downhill and that would have a big impact. And there’s some, a lot of people I’m sure you think it is. And it also can get a lot better, which they have, a big impact.
But if you sort of accept its current momentum alone. Like if you say, okay, I need to choose an operating system for my web presence. I need to choose an operating system for my eLearning platform. Do I want to make a bet on this small in comparison, proprietary, like don’t know where it’s going. Platform that is closed that like I don’t, I don’t really know about its future. Or do I want to invest in the biggest one and oh by the way, it’s free. It is the biggest it’s my code. I can do what I want with it. I can get in and out of it. And so from a fundament and this as this decision becomes clear, I think we’re gonna see even more traction. But as I talked to business owners, they sense that. They’re like, okay, this is nice over here.
These features are, it sure is a streamlined integration. People will go and they’ll experiments it and it’s like, oh, this is good. But WordPress is theirs. It’s not going anywhere. The integrations are there. I’m starting to get abreast with it, but like I think that concept of thinking about, okay, I’m going to be building a business here. I’m building something on the web. I need to choose the right operating system for this out of which everything else wouldn’t come because I’m actually a huge fan of SAS. I think it’s fantastic. My position is that the best SAS are those that integrate with my WordPress. WordPress is the central hub for all of this. And I’ll use a SAS. I think it’s fantastic. It can do things that WordPress can’t do, at least today, right. But I want WordPress to be at the heart of what I’m building so that SAS is can come and go. WordPress is still going to be here.
Jonathon: Yeah. I think you put that really fantastic. And the other thing is kind of that feature. It’s integrated. This isn’t a criticism, Kajabi and the people behind Kajabi are really fantastic marketers. And they’ve got a story line and they’re not lying. They are not misleading. It’s just my experience of complicated SAS platforms is there just, you have literally as many headaches and frustrations as if you went with WordPress with a good support team. What do you think of that statement?
Jonathon Wold: So I want to touch on Kajabi for just a moment. I don’t know them well. I did a little, you mentioned them and so I did a little bit of looking. So they have this delightful post from like a couple of weeks back. It says do you use WordPress? 90% of all hacks happened to WordPress sites. Do this or get hacked. And they have this long post about WordPress security. And so it’s interesting. So first off, it’s 90%. Anyway, I don’t want to get into the specifics. But the point that I want to make is that I don’t think this is ill intended on anyone’s part. I talked to a lot of people in SAS. They don’t understand WordPress, what it is. It’s how big it is, like how to think about it. And so there’s a lot of misinformation. And you think about it, it’s kind of easy to understand why WordPress is an open source, volunteer driven project. Like we’re trying to grow up a bit, but there’s no cohesive messaging. There’s not a bunch of money going into like how we kind of get this out there. So I see a lot of times where people, they just don’t get it. Like I read a post like this and it’s basically and this is why you should use Kajabi. WordPress is not secure, use Kajabi, WordPress, not secure use Kajabi. SAS breaches happen all the time.
Jonathon: They just don`t publicizes them do they.
Jonathon Wold: And it’s much more devastating than like, well, there’s not going to be a WordPress breach that isn’t addressed in some way. It’s in all of our best interests to address it anyway. So, but I see that a lot where it’s like these people, these folks mean well, but they don’t understand the messaging if they didn’t dig into it. Or I mean, and I don’t criticize a lot of folks. You have to kind of know the project and I’m hoping to change that over time for us to get better at our messaging. But you have to kind of. You’d have to know how to think about it. And when I talked to people about WordPress is an operating system. Oh, that makes sense. Now I can kind of think about that. Yeah, yeah. Well we shouldn’t be investing in this. Like I’m like, do you really want to be in the operating system game? Are you trying to like create a thing bigger than WordPress? And they’re like, that’s a good point. Maybe they will, but you know if you think about it that way it’s very different.
Jonathon: Yeah. We’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. Those 30 minutes have gone quick. But John as agreed to stay on. We’re going to be talking in the bonus content, about a recent article that he wrote. It was one of the reasons why I invite you Jonathon onto the show. I thought it was an excellent post. And we’d be talking micro plugins. Jonathan, it’s got a different terminology which is going to be telling us about. And he’s going to be discussing this article. But before we wrap up I also want to tell you about a free webinar that he’s doing on the 25th of this month. A Thursday at [9:00] AM Pacific standard time. It’s going to be the seven things that you need to know to build your first online course. And me and Cindy are going to be going through those seven things that you need to know. And also we are going to be available to answer any questions that you got about building that first online course. And it’s free and all you have to do is go to WP Tonic stroke Webinar and you can register for this free Webinar.
It’s going to be about an hour in length and it’s going to be great. So join us next Thursday for that folks. So Jonathan, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to?
Jonathon Wold: Jonathanwold.com is the best place. I’ve got links to all the of the other things that I do. Yup, that’s the best way to do it.
Jonathon: That was short and sweet. We’ll be back next week with another great guest. And we’re going to be trying to give you some insights about some of the business challenges and solutions. And some of the things that you should be thinking about when you’re building that first online course. Or if you’re thinking of building up your business. And some of the things that are involved with that. We will be back soon folks. See you soon. Bye.
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