Back in January of 2015, I decided to shift my freelance social media marketing business to full-time. That decision required a website. WordPress was the easy choice as I had been using a WordPress.com account for the few years prior. It was also a platform I felt I could build out with no development experience.
While my advice has and will always be to hire a professional developer, that your website is the foundation of your online presence and skimping here will have a negative impact done the road, I had a theory to prove.
I have been using social media marketing for my own brands since 2007, teaching it since 2009, and using content marketing since 2010. What I discovered was the power of social media coupled with good content to drive a company’s SEO and search ranking, without applying any other SEO principles. I needed to repeat the results to prove it worked. A professionally-built site would skew my results.
I set up a hosting account (it was on a VPN, not the cheap shared hosting), purchased a domain I thought I could learn, and built a site. I began to read, learn, and play with the code. researched and tested plugins to fit needs, see what worked, and over time upgraded as I learned more and found better options. The site was clean, technically good (passed every technical audit I could find), yet completely unbecoming for any legit business.
By the summer, my website was ranking in SERPS at the top for key words I never tried to include. My click through rate and site authority, and anything else I could measure was better than may SEO firms. It continued to improve and by mid 2016 I was at a point where I had a system I could duplicate (having tested it again for clients). Everything I did within the realm of content and social media marketing worked…the issue for me was that it was tied entirely to the brand’s website. And I didn’t know WordPress well enough. I needed to learn and connect with the community and develop a few strategic partnerships.
Enter WordCamp Seattle
I never saw the value in attending a WordCamp, even though my friend Bridget Willard, also working in marketing, was finding success with them. I sent her a message about my thoughts. She told me to do it. So in my typical fashion, I jumped in and volunteered at WordCamp Seattle 2016.
By the end of day two, I had made some great connections, met some amazing people, and had so many ideas for the next year. I immediately put my name in as an organizer for 2017, handling social media.
That first experience was an eye-opener. The biggest logistical challenge was my being in Tacoma and the rest of the team in Seattle. It was a big commitment. The second was that I was not part of the WordPress community. I was a marketing person. The rest of the team had years of WordPress experience. They were developers, content writers, graphic artists used to working within and using the platform.
It turned out that didn’t matter. The one take-away which still stands out from that first organizer experience was how open and inviting the community is. It’s preached yes, but also practiced, That is not something I have seen working with past organizations. Certainly not on this level. For 2018, I decided to take on a bigger role. I would be the lead marketing wrangler. It was now less about me needing the community; it was me wanting to give back. The organizer role in 2017 brought me closer to more people within the WordPress space, to the sponsors, the speakers. Had I simply chosen to attend instead of being part of the team, I would have left with connections and what I needed, but not at the level I did. Being an organizer in 2018 meant a chance to strengthen those previous connections, make new ones, give back, learn, and most importantly, be an integral part of a community.
WordCamp Seattle 2018 was a huge time commitment for me. I still had my business, my side business, and my family vying for my time. By the time the event was over, I was tired. Yet, there was this feeling of being so connected to the community that Sunday evening that I immediately agreed to do it again in 2019.
The team this year is different. I think I am one with the most organizer experience. With the breakdown of the roles this year, I have a bit less work to do, but I am as involved. For me in 2019, my focus is bringing others into the community. My goal is to see more every-day WordPress users attend, speak, and get involved. The end users are part of our community. After all, WordPress exists to give everyone a voice and make getting it heard possible. WordCamps provide a bridge connecting the end users to the creators. I want to see that bridge continue to be built, strengthened, and expanded.
What has it meant for me to be an organizer?
It’s more than being part of a community at this point. My three years of involvement has meant personal growth, an ability to help others grow within the community, a chance to expand that community and welcome others. It’s been a way to get and to give on a bigger level. Yes, it has helped my personal business. It would be wrong to say that is the real value received, though. That would be the friendships made along the way.
Will I be back in 2020?
I am undecided. I love my role, yet I know the best way to continue to strengthen the community is to have others more involved. Stepping down would provide that opportunity, an opportunity everyone should consider, whether they feel they are part of the WordPress community or not. I can promise they will be by the end of the event.