With WordPress powering close to one third of websites on the Internet, next month’s Ann Arbor WordCamp conference where all things WordPress will be discussed over the course of two days worth of presentations, panel discussions, and networking opportunities is a rare opportunity.
WordCamp is put on by volunteers from local tech companies like web design firm BuildCreate and web hosting company A2 Hosting, as well as sponsorships by bigger national companies such as BlueHost and SiteLock.
It’s one of more than 750 WordCamps hosted each year currently all over the globe, which isn’t all that many when taking into consideration the fact that WordPress sites collectively receive as much traffic as Facebook, are visited by more than 170 million unique visitors each month, and has nearly a 60 percent slice of the marketshare compared to competing website and blogging frameworks.
Ann Arbor-based freelance content marketer Laura Lynch attended Ann Arbor WordCamp for the first time in 2014. While most people understand WordPress to be a framework for designing webpages and a content management system for publishing blog posts, WordCamp visitors don’t necessarily have to be tech-adept to gain something of value from the conference.
“When I went to my first WordPress conference, I was nervous that it would be over my head,” Lynch said, before confessing that she doesn’t code websites. She had to learn through experiencing WordCamp that it’s designed for people from various difference contexts and skill levels.
She quickly realized that marketers and other content creators are welcomed at WordCamp because of their importance to the success of WordPress, which Lynch feels makes blogging accessible to a much greater extent than other blogging platforms.
At this point, Lynch is presenting during the October 13 and 14 WordCamp on how to create quality content, which is a far cry from delving into the event three years earlier filled with uncertainty. By this point, she’s really upped her game and expanded her network of fellow WordPress professionals and businesses significantly to boot.
“The connections I’ve made helped me become better at my job, and they’ve also brought in business,” she said. “WordCamp turned out to be a great way to make connections.”
Not all of the connections that can be made are local either. WordCamps draw an international crowd including WordPress pros like Rahul Bansal, CEO of rtCamp, a WordPress agency-based firm operating out of Pune, India as the only WordPress VIP program participant in the whole Asian continent.
Bansal started dabbling in WordPress as a hobby in 2007 and ramped his involvement with the platform up from there, attending his first WordCamp in 2014 along the way.
With many of Bansal’s clients being news agencies, he has a lot to say about media production, dissemination, and consumption in the digital space, which he will be discussing at Ann Arbor WordCamp.
“In my opinion, blogging has increased competition these days from conventional news outlets and social media,” he explained. At the same time big media outlets are relaxing their writing styles and shifting more towards the looser style of blogging to satisfy the tastes of the growing audience for blog content.
“There is a visible shift from press-release style reporting to indie-writing style,” Bansal said. “On another hand, social media is moving engagement away from blogs. A small blogger gets more comment on Facebook for the article link shared on Facebook, leaving original articles’ comment section on the main blog empty in many cases.”
The matter he’d like to consider at WordCamp is how WordPress can win the war for audience engagement that’s been going in social media’s favor. It’s one of he themes of his panel discussion topic: “The Future of WordPress.”
Despite living on opposite sides of the planet, both Lynch and Bansal agree that Ann Arbor businesses and organizations should attend WordCamp to enrich their marketing efforts.
“Every business should have a blog,” Lynch advised. Blogging in general is a great means of relating to the public and building brand recognition.
Many businesses in particular use their blog as a means of publishing press releases, which Lynch sees as a wasted opportunity.
“The thing I most want to say to them is that your blog isn’t about you, it’s about your customers,” Lynch explained. “That can mean using your blog to answer customer FAQs, providing instruction or information, or most importantly sharing something inspirational that’s relevant to your business but can still make your customer’s lives better.”
Bansal agreed: “Blogging is essential for every business … I believe if you are selling online, it’s better to have your blog up to date.”
And even if selling isn’t the goal, WordCamp’s got something for everyone.
“The best part about WordCamps is its mixed audience,” he added. “In a single WordCamp, you can talk about many things including writing skills, business strategy, marketing campaigns, engineering challenges, and of course politics too.”
For more information on the 2017 Ann Arbor WordCamp visit the event’s website where tickets can be purchased and volunteers who want to get involved beyond just attending can pitch in to help the organizers who make WordCamps happen as volunteers themselves, making a WordCamp function similarly to many local community events throughout the county.