Nicole Kohler and Content Strategy

Nicole Kohler is a Growth Marketer at Automattic; most of her job revolves around building and publishing content for her team and her main product, Jetpack. So in this episode, I talk to Nicole about Content Strategy. This is something I struggle with, and usually just publish when I think of stuff. Nicole provides us with some great advice from her time at Automattic, working with both the Jetpack and the WooCommerce teams!

Show Notes

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Intro: Hey everybody and welcome to another episode of How I Built It! Continuing our series on How You Build a Business, today I get to talk to Nicole Kohler about Content Strategy. This is something I struggle with, and usually just publish when I think of stuff. Nicole provides us with some great advice from her time at Automattic, working with both the Jetpack and the WooCommerce teams! We’ll get into that in a minute, but first, a word from our sponsors…

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And now…on with the show!

Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built it, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Continuing with a little theme that we have for building different building strategies, today I am talking to Nicole Collier, who is a growth marketer at Automatic about building a content strategy. I’m very excited about this. Nicole, how are you today?

Nicole: I’m great. How are you?

Joe: I am fantastic. So I’ve got to say that I’ve always … Perhaps this is putting the cart before the horse. I’ve always taken a field of dreams approach to marketing. Whereas, I build something and I assume that people will come because it is good. But I’ve learned over the last year so that that’s not the right approach and I think that your experience doing content marketing for Automatic could probably help both me and the listeners improve their marketing strategy.

So first, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Nicole: Yeah. Sure. So I’ve been with Automatic for about two and a half years now. I actually joined with the WooCommerce Team. I joined six weeks before the Automatic acquisition so I had really good timing. I joined to work on content strategy, specifically as a writer initially. So I was working on all of our blog posts and then over time I started working on more of our strategy. I started working on our email strategy, general marketing, copyrighting, etc. etc. Six months ago, I actually changed teams, so I am now working on Jetpack. As a growth marketer, I am responsible for our content strategy, our overall brand messages like how we communicate about our features, our new features, what we’re releasing, and then sort of the copyrighting within the plug in itself, the copyrighting on our website, etc. etc.

So content is a big part of what I do. It’s a big, I would say, obsession of mine. If you see me speaking at a Word Camp, it’s probably related to content in some capacity. Either like how to do better content with Jetpack or content for your WordPress site, something like that.

So that’s a bit about me, professionally. Personally, I love dogs. I’m obsessed with Pokemon and I’m on Twitter a lot.

Joe: Nice. Very nice. Who’s your favorite Pokemon?

Nicole: Raichu. I have a Raichu tattoo. So folks who see me in person, don’t hesitate to ask.

Joe: That is fantastic. One of the original 150. I don’t know. I think I maybe … I feel like I’m a little bit older than you, but I know that I was there for the original 150 and I was like, “Newfangled Pokemon, whatever.”

But that’s awesome. So something you said there is that you focus on the email marketing and blog posts, but you also focus on copy on the website and within the plug in. Can we just touch on that real quick because that’s really important, right?

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s something I didn’t do a lot of with Woo. Now that I’m in Jetpack, I’m learning how important those little touch points are and how much of an impact just like one little line of copy can make. A little nudge to upgrade your plan. If we word that, I don’t want to say incorrectly, but if we word it a certain way versus a different way, it can have a huge impact on conversions on whether or not people trust us. Getting to work on that is really exciting.

Joe: I always feel like … I’m most a developer by trade or at least I build things. Whether it’s my online courses or a plug in or something like that. Copy is always an after thought for me. I’m pretty keen on the error messages. That’s been a crusade of mine to give users good error messages, but the nudges for upgrades or even like the way that you word directions or what a feature does can, like you said, have a really big impact on conversion. Because if you’re not communicating that, if you’re not speaking your user’s language, then there’s going to be a disconnect.

Nicole: Oh, yeah. It’s something that I’m trying to get more involved with. Every time that we are about to have a release or about to add a new feature to Jetpack, I’m trying to get in there and take a look at the copy. As you said, make sure that we are communicating something clearly. So if there is an error, are we telling people what to do next? Are we telling them what’s causing the error? Big error messages are horrible. So what causes error? It’s not your fault. Maybe it’s like a temporary thing on the host side or maybe it’s something wrong with the plug in and you need context about … Contact us, excuse me, about it. So clarity is definitely something I’m trying to work on.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. Now, so again, I’m just going to talk about my experience, which is I don’t really know what’s the best way for me to figure out if my copy is connecting, right? I can try different things. I can say, “Okay. I had a bunch of sales after I made this update, but was it because of the update or was it because I was running a discount?” What’s the best way for me to kind of figure out and make sure I’m getting the right connections to the visitors to my website?

Nicole: There’s a couple of different things you can do. The first piece of advice I would give you is only test one thing at once. So if you are running a sale, like you just said, don’t go into that sale expecting to pull concrete results about the success of your copy out of the sale because people are more likely to be drawn to your site from the major discount or the buy one, get one free plan, whatever it is that you’re doing than your copy. So if you want to test new content or new copy, try to test that on its own.

As far as testing goes, there are a lot of tools out there that let you maybe test to versions of a page against another, build dedicated landing pages. You can do that in WordPress or you can do that with different tools. You can get heat map tools out there to see how far people are going down pages. Whether it’s an a version of a page versus a b version, or just your site in general. Then you can just try different versions of social messages. So if you have a tool like Buffer or you’re using Jetpack’s publicize feature, send out multiple tweets or multiple Facebook messages to the same piece of content and just use the built in social analytic tools, I guess I’m trying to say, to see which of those messages got the most people clicking.

So there’s a lot of different ways that you can test depending on what it is you’re trying to test. Whether it’s a social message or home page, blah, blah, blah. But definitely I would emphasize only test one thing at once. Because if you’re trying to test a home page and social messages and a sale and copyrighting in your plug in at the same time, you’re just not going to get a clear results from that.

Joe: Right. Right. Gotcha. Throw a bunch of darts at the board at the same time and you don’t know which is going to hit the best. So you mentioned that you had … I don’t know if you said this on the pre call now or the actual interview, but in case you didn’t mention it in the episode. You mentioned that you had moved over to the Jetpack team and you have more experience now kind of building that strategy, maybe not from scratch but you definitely have more of a hands on approach to that. Jetpack is a well established plug in. So what kind of research did you do to set out and map our your content strategy?

Nicole: Yeah. So a little bit of background, when I joined WooCommerce, I joined at the same time as Aviva Pinchas, who worked originally as our sort of brand strategist, marketing strategist. She had a big, a really, really big hand in creating the WooCommerce content strategy. When I switched to Jetpack, we didn’t have any content strategy. There was nothing. So it was just like we put up blog posts when we have a release and we think we have something to say. So it was just like, “Oh, boy.”

SO some of the research that I was doing wasn’t necessarily research but more of like the experience I had working on WooCommerce and what I learned from Aviva and what she had done. So that played a really big part in it. Knowing what another Automatic product had done to be successful. So talking about your own features, kind of like owning the message about yourself. I took that over. But then I did a little bit more research on what are these other security plug ins? If you want to call Jetpack a security plug in, which it kind of is. What are these other security plug ins talking about? What topics are they talking about? What’s important? So kind of like researching their content. What kind of content are they producing? Are they doing long form, are they doing short form? What social channels are they on? Where are they successful? Kind of since it is a WordPress product, doing a little bit more research in the WordPress environment, I think is the word I’m looking for.

So what is the general sentiment right now about Jetpack on like WP Tavern, on other sites and digging into the comments, which is not my favorite thing, but making myself do that. What are people saying right now? What their gripes? What information are they not getting that we could be providing? In some cases, I was finding things that we were not talking about that kind of bled over into docs, like things we were missing in docs. So around the same time that I started, we had a guild forum of mostly happiness engineers to work on Jetpack docs. So it was kind of like a happy coincidence that we also have this happening at the same time. It’s not like just me working on all the written stuff. But it was a lot of research in the kind of like internet spear that Jetpack is in. So like security, products and WordPress products and seeing what people are saying about us right now.

Joe: Gotcha. So it’s interesting that you mention that you feel that Jetpack … Well, you say that Jetpack is a security plug in. It certainly offers that. It offers like the security aspect, the backups aspect. It also offers a whole lot of stuff. Did you find or do you find difficult crafting a clear message because of that? I’m not trying to nail you to the wall with this question. I’m just very curious about this.

Nicole: Oh, no. That was like my big fear coming in is that I would find it very difficult to come up with a concise statement, summarizing the importance of Jetpack. So the first few events I went to I was trying a couple different things.

The most common question we get at Word Camp, specifically is what even is Jetpack because I’ve heard of it. I have no idea what it does. So we’ve kind of summarized it as Jetpack is a WordPress toolkit that lets you design, grow and secure your site. That seems to be working really well. People are just like, “Oh, okay. So how does it do that?” Then we can go on and talk about the features that do all that or the features that they’re most interested in. So if someone says, “Okay. Well, I already have a security suite I like. How does it help me design my site?” Or, “Oh, I don’t have any security tools right now. I just got started. Tell me more.” Then we can talk about backups. We can talk about brute force protection.

So that has been working pretty well. I think that tag line is somewhere on the site now. So yeah. You didn’t catch me off guard with that at all. It’s something I’ve been working on actually.

Joe: Nice. That makes a ton of sense. It’s very concise and then, like we said earlier, you’re speaking the user’s language because now they can say, “Oh okay. How do I do that?” Whereas just saying like, “We’ve got the publicize module.” Like, “Okay, what does that mean? What’s a module?”

Nicole: Yeah. We’re trying to avoid using those words. I’ve heard people at camps go like, “Oh, it takes the features from and puts them in a plug in.” It’s like if someone just viewed WordPress and they’ve used, they’re going to be like, “Okay. What are those features?” Like you said, “What is a module?” In the past, even I’ve been at camps and been like, “Oh, Jetpack has a bunch of cool features and they make your site awesome.” It’s the worst description ever. I think that’s what we’re trying to get away from, especially in our content is just talking about Jetpack as a bunch of features. It’s so much more than that. It can be custom tailored to your site and to your business and your specific needs so that’s what we’re trying to get across.

Joe: Absolutely. That’s awesome. Then the other follow up question I kind of had was about the .com/.org site. You have Jetpack, you connect it to .com. Do you find that that’s … First of all, I should say it’s a very easy process, right?

Jetpack makes it very easy to do all that. Do you find that that has to be part of your messaging or is that just … I guess what I’m trying to say is do you find enough confusion around that that it should be part of your messaging? Or is it just like, “Well, to make it work you do this one, two, three, and you’re done.”

Nicole: So we’ve gone back and forth on this. There’s like two sides to this, right? We don’t want to slip this phrase about you need a account in there because people were going to be like, “Wait, what? Why do I need this?” That brings up this whole new conversation. At the same time, we don’t want to be dishonest about the need for a separate account because then if someone’s setting it up and they assume it’s one click and you’re done, they might be thrown off and too many logins is definitely a problem that we’re all faced with. So the way that I am trying to talk about it now, and again, it something else I’m sort of testing out is if it comes up, I’ve had someone just directly ask me recently at a local meet up group, “Why do I need the .com account?” Some of our features use the .com servers for hosting to speed things up. You just need to connect to .com to utilize those features. If you don’t connect, you can’t utilize those features. That seems to help.

Being up front about why you need that second account, showing them the connection flow if they’re very curious, that it is one click, and then having more detailed documentation about here’s how the process works, here’s how you can disconnect, here’s how you can troubleshoot the connection, which is something, again, that our quill guild has been super, super great about. They are fantastic people working on these docs.

So it’s been a little tricky. Like I said, I’ve kind of gone back and forth about being too honest or not talking about it a lot, but I think we’re figuring it out.

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Joe: That’s fantastic. It sounds like it really comes down to … I mean, you’re out, right? Your boots on the ground here. You’re talking to users. You’re talking to user, right? That’s maybe some of the best research that you could do to see what their pain points are.

Nicole: Yeah.

Joe: So we’re about halfway, a little more than halfway, and I haven’t asked the title question yet. So if I want to build a content strategy myself or let’s talk about Jetpack, how do you build it? We talked a little bit about research and talking to users, but what does that look like? Do I blog first? Where do I even start?

Nicole: Ah. I think something I was actually thinking about yesterday, coming into this recording, one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about content marketing is that you have to talk about topics like other than yourself. So you have to start with this sort of top-of-funnely content that you just sort of link to your brand, right? So for Jetpack that might look like, “Here’s why security is important for your site,” or, “Here’s why you should have professional WordPress themes,” or, “Here’s why WordPress is the best platform.” Then just at the very end have like one call to action for Jetpack. I think that the assumption is that you can’t directly talk about your brand to have successful content. I’ve seen that for so many companies that start content marketing. They avoid talking about themselves until the very end of their content. They have this little call to action saying like, “Oh, by the way, we do this.” That may get them a lot of interest from search engines, like that topi-funnel content might be super popular, but it doesn’t put someone in the right mindset to convert at the end in most cases.

So something I learned for WooCommerce and that I’ve carried over to Jetpack is to sort of … I think I said this phrase earlier, to sort of own the conversation about your brand. So content marketing for us has always looked like we’re going to talk about Jetpack. We’re going to be the experts on Jetpack because we are the experts on Jetpack. So we’re going to talk about, “Here’s how you successfully use our product. Here’s why you should use our product. Here’s some tips for making it easier or taking your site to the next level,” and then like maybe have some content that gets people in from search engines, that topi-funnel type stuff. So like, “Yeah, here’s why WordPress security is important.” But then also give them related reading that is further down the funnel. Like, “By the way, yeah, we do have this thing and here’s how you can find out some more about it,” rather than just trying to sell them when they’re not ready for that.

Joe: Gotcha. Which you can do with Jetpack.

Nicole: Oh yeah. Absolutely. But like I said, it’s a huge misconception that you can’t … A, that you can’t talk directly about yourself and sell yourself in your content. B, that you have to start with this unrelated content. I think if people are … First of all, people are coming to your site to learn about you and read about you. If you’re not serving the people that are already on your site, that’s a big miss. Secondly, I think if you are only producing content that’s going to get people from search engines and then not giving them anything else to read and just putting calls to action to buy at the end of that, it’s like a super short funnel that just ends in the brick wall or something.

I was thinking about that yesterday. I wanted to bring that up. I think it’s really important to think about how you own your own messaging.

Joe: Man, that’s going to be my big takeaway now, right? I mean, my blog is mostly tutorial stuff and yeah, I can get away with that a little bit because I’m teaching people and that’s what my product is, right? It’s my online courses. But I’m not telling people why they should learn from me. So they’re not getting that. What you said made me think of this anecdote. This actually happened at my wife and me. We were meeting up with a friend of my wife. She had worked the night shift, but because of scheduling, she just decided we would meet him after work.

So we go to grab brunch at this place and he walks in with a notepad. He framed the conversation as, “Hey, I would love to catch up with you guys. You were just recently married. I’d love to catch up.” He walks in with a notepad. He said his friend might be joining us. He sits down and I said, “Is this a sales conversation? Are you going to sell us on what financial planning, that’s what you do?” “Oh, well, it doesn’t have to be like that.” I’m like, “We’re not interested.” That made the whole rest of the brunch like awkward because he’s like, “Let me just text my buddy and tell him not to come.” I was like, “Why would you …” The old bait and switch after my wife just worked 12 hours? I’m like, “C’mon, man.”

It’s an extreme example of what you said, but it’s true. I wasn’t in a position where I wanted to be sold to. It was a Sunday morning. I just wanted to have brunch. He’s like ready to come at me with financial planning, which we didn’t even need.

Nicole: Yeah. No, it’s super true though. If you’re in a position, if you’re reading something online about how to make a great brunch and you get to the end and it’s just like, “Buy a skillet.” You’re like, “It’s not why I came here.”

Joe: I have a skillet. I want to make a good omelet or whatever.

Nicole: But if you end that piece of content with, “By the way, did you know that you can make really great brunches in a skillet? Read some more about that.” That kind of leads you further down, and that’s kind of what I’m talking about. Not ending your content in a brick wall. I’ve never used that phrase before, but I’m going to use that from now on. That’s good.

Joe: I love that. It’s absolutely true. On the same token, you walk into a car dealership knowing you’re going to be sold to, right? So you’re mentally prepared for that.

So you mentioned that you do a lot of testing, right? So I like to ask has the product gone through any transformations? That’s the canned, scripty question that I ask, but in this case, I want to ask were there things that you started off with in your content strategy, which I guess actually, let me back up. Is there like a possible way to do a list, like one through five, these are the things that we’re doing for our content strategy, or is that too boxed in? If I want to start today, do I come up with topics and then blog first? Do I phone, email list, right? What’s that look like? Yeah.

Nicole: Oh, that’s a good question. So number one, start writing. You can’t get any results. you can iterate on anything. you can’t test until you actually have content to test against, until you have content to like pool email subscribers in against. You actually have to start producing something. Kind of along those same lines, I taught a writing class the last two years at the Automatic grand meet up, which is our meet up where every … Since we’re all distributed, everyone meets up in person. The very first lesson that I taught in that class was kind of like accept your mediocrity. Not that you might be a mediocre writer, but if you’re new to content strategy or you’re new to content marketing or if you’re business is brand new, accept that your first few posts might suck. You’re not going to get any comments or people might hate them. But you have to do something. You have to put something out there. So yeah, number one, start writing.

Number two, I do think building an email list of some kind is really important because you can get those people coming back to your content, you can send them content in the future, you can send them maybe sale’s pitches or something. But start doing it. Even if you’re not actively using it. Passively start building that email list. Jetpack has a subscriber option that you can let people just sign up on this sidebar or widgetized area. You can use that if you’re not ready to pay for Mail Temp or use like Mail Poet or another service.

Number three, start researching. Start looking at your competitors, start looking at other people in your spear. Whether that’s like other plug ins, whether that’s other WordPress companies, whether it’s other business, whatever it may be. See what kinds of content they’re doing. Look at their comments, look at their shares, look at their social media profiles. Obviously don’t copy them, but see what’s resonating with their audience because you’re probably going to have very similar results. Take note of what kinds of content they’re doing. If they’re doing customer stories, if they’re highlighting feedback, if they’re highlighting their successes, how well are those types of things going over? If they’re highlighting their successes and they’re not going over very well, maybe don’t talk about yourself as much. Maybe talk about your customers more. Kind of depends on the industry.

Four, start testing content. This can be really vague, right? This might mean just publishing a bunch of stuff and looking at Google analytics and seeing well, this type of post got more time on page versus this type of post. This type of post got 28 comments and this type of post got zero comments. Maybe testing is not the right word, but actively start watching and picking out the successes versus the failures or the sort of in between stuff.

Then I would say number five, I wouldn’t actually do this fifth, somewhere in the middle. Try to set up like a content calendar. Try to hold yourself to a standard of publishing even if it’s only once every two weeks, once a month. Get your topics planned out in advance. Know what you’re going to publish when. Know who’s going to be working on it. Know who’s going to be responsible for every single bit of the stuff. Maybe this isn’t the first thing that you would do or the third thing or even the fifth thing, but do it at some point so you can be responsible so that someone can be responsible and that you are definitely publishing a flow of content and that something is nagging you, right? So if you miss a deadline. If I miss something on CoSchedule, I get an email. I get something that’s like, “Hey, you didn’t do this,” even if it’s just like I’m a day late on getting something to our editorial team, right? It helps. It does. So yeah, those are my five things.

Joe: Awesome. I love that. I’m going to link in the show notes to the interview that we did with Nate Ellering from CoSchedule to learn about CoSchedule because it’s a very nice content scheduling tool. I mean, another thing about content scheduling is that if you are building things like … It allows you to kind of create the story you want to create, right? You’re not saying, “Oh, did I write about this already? Should I write it? Do I need to follow up?” You can kind of put that in the schedule, see what you’ve done, see what you then need to do. So I love that. So now back to the transformations part, right? Is there anything that you set out, maybe you like scheduled a piece of content that you realized, “Oh, well, this isn’t really working for looking at our analytics. This is no longer what I want to do.” How do you kind of change things up in the middle of your content strategy?

Nicole: Yeah. Just talking about something that we had at Woo. So we did a lot of these customer stories where we would spend … I mean, these were the most time intensive posts that we did, right? So we would spend several hours interviewing someone who was using WooCommerce. Some of them I think we did on site, some of them we did on Skype, some of them we did on Zune or Google Hangouts or something with multiple people versus one person. So we would interview people, find out how they were using WooCommerce, learning about their business, learn about their aspirations, and then write up these really, really long, involved posts anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 words. I mean, really huge meaty pieces of content. They did not seem to be resonating with our readers, even though we felt like they should be the most successful pieces on our blog.

This was about a year and a half ago, I remember posting something internally like, “Look, our customer stories, they’re not failing, but they’re not doing what we think they should be doing. Why is that? What’s going on?” So that was definitely one of those stop, evaluate everything things and figure out what can we do to make these pieces of content successful or what can we test to make these pieces of content successful? Because we felt like they were so important, right? Like showing other people how they can use WooCommerce, highlighting people’s successes with our product, and ultimately, we just came up with a list of five things we wanted to test over the next few posts. So making them shorter, having less storytelling, having more quotes from the business owners, focusing more on WooCommerce and less on the business, focusing on the business and less on WooCommerce.

I think that’s kind of the key is if you find something that’s not performing the way you think it should, don’t give up right away. Just look at it and kind of think of what could I change in the next version of this that might make it more successful? But then also look at how are you handling distribution? Are you actually promoting that content a lot? Are you putting paid promotion behind it? Could you put paid promotion behind it? Try to evaluate all the potential touch points, right? Email, social, paid ads, blah blah blah. Evaluate everything. Be very critical.

Joe: Awesome. Yeah. Again, that makes a lot of sense because the follow up question that I thought while you were saying this was am I going to have immediate success with … Let’s say I publish this blog post that I think it going to be amazing. I actually did very recently called like What HIPPA Means to Web Designers. I was like, “This is going to get like a million shares.” It didn’t. Does that mean that I did something wrong? Does it mean that it never will? What’s evergreen content, that’s a thing that I’ve heard about. What does that mean in the scheme of content marketing? Am I playing the long game here or are there ways to play the short game?

Nicole: Content marketing is absolutely a long game. Man, one of my annoyances is that I worked at an SEO Agency for a little while, and one of the big things that the team I worked on did was try to create content that would go viral. We were successful several times, but that viral piece of content was viral for a week, right? Then after that, no one cared about us anymore. So like, yes, you absolutely can create viral content and your content marketing can be super, super popular for a short amount of time, but it doesn’t do anything for you. We didn’t even get clients from it that I’m aware of. I don’t want to bash what they were doing at all because they were super, super good at it. But what did they even do for you?

So yeah, it’s absolutely the long game. Just because your piece didn’t garner a lot of popularity right away doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, especially because content takes a long time to generate attention on search engines, which is really where a lot of content marketing is going to get people from. Something might get shared on Facebook on someone’s wall immediately and no one will see it, but then someone will get to it … An influencer will get to it three months later when they actually find it on Google, and then they’ll share it on Facebook. That’s when it has its big amount of success.

So I think you definitely have to realize that you’re playing a long game. Evergreen content also is definitely a thing. If you’re writing about a topic that isn’t happening in this specific moment, if your write … Like security for WordPress, for example, like something that we write about is always going to be a thing. So any content we create about that is going to be evergreen.

I hope that answers your question.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, going back to this HIPPA article, people aren’t going to be interesting in HIPPA until they come across it, right? Not all web designers need to know what HIPPA is. But if somebody gets a medical client and they’re like, “Oh, by the way, you have to be HIPPA compliant.” They’re going to be like, “What’s HIPPA compliant mean?” Like you said, it’s definitely a long game.

So we are coming up on time and I haven’t asked you my favorite question yet. But I do want to ask one more. It’s around plans for the future because you say it’s a long game, is it like a forever game? Am I just going to be like content marketing this thing for the rest of my life? When am I done? How do I know if I’m done? Things like that.

Nicole: So I don’t necessarily think it’s … I can talk. I promise. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a forever game. There are some people and some brands who will find that content marketing just like genuinely does not work for them. It could be because of their audience. It could be because of the products they’re selling. They’re a bunch of different reasons. They may work on it for a little while and just like get no comments, get no interaction, get no shares, get no leads from that content, but then find that they’re publishing videos like how to videos and getting a ton of engagement and a ton of sales leads off that. They may find that their social messages are getting them a ton of engagement and a ton of responses. They may find that direct mail or something is getting them a ton of leads. They may be like, “Okay. So I’m getting tons and tons of success elsewhere. These channels are highly successful. Content just isn’t going to do it for me.” I think that’s a, that speaks to the importance of multi-channel marketing and trying multiple things. But b, it also says that just for some people content marketing because of your audience or because of your products may not necessarily work and it’s okay in that situation to … YOu’re not giving up, right? You’re folding a non-successful, non-viable method of reaching customers.

You also can re approach it later, right? There are plenty of industries where customers were not looking online for products five years ago, but they might be doing that now. So maybe now’s the time to revisit content marketing or revisit social media. So no, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a long game, but it is something that you probably, potentially should try.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, just to drive home to point of you’re not giving up, right? I mean, you don’t want to keep … If I started a pager business in 2005 and was like, “It’s going to work one of these days.” I mean, I’d just be wasting time and money. I’d be like, what’s his name, Duffy from 30 Rock. That was the inspiration of that. So…do you have any trade secrets for us?

Nicole: Oh. I don’t know if I have any trade secrets. I think a lot of what I know and talk about is public knowledge. But I like the phrase, “Don’t read the comments.” But I like to take that one further, which is, “Don’t read the comments if you haven’t eaten lately because you’ll respond really badly.” One of my major responsibilities at Woo and not so much at Jetpack because we have a team that handles comments is like was to respond to comments, especially on our release posts. We would get hundreds of comments on these posts and some of them were not great. There were people trying to stir things up. Imagine WP Tavern just toned down a little bit. So that was the release posts comments.

My advice for dealing with comments and you could probably take this as a trade secret is to always put yourself in that person’s shoes. Imagine the worst possible day that person could be having and why they’d be motivated to make a comment like that. No matter how nasty it is, no matter how frustrated they may seem, no matter how illogical it may see. Because we did people commenting and being like, “I can’t login to my site.” It’s like this has nothing to do with the content of this post, but like image what drove them to that level of desperation to make that comment on that post.

So rather than being snippy and being like, “Go contact support,” I try to put myself in that person’s shoes and then leave. Again, it maybe not necessarily be trade secret. But I’ll always make sure that I wasn’t replying to comments on an empty stomach because then I wouldn’t be that helpful.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. My brother said I don’t get hangry. They say I get “hustrated,” right? I’m not like mean and mad, I’m just like, “UH. Everything’s annoying,” when I’m not in the mood. If you still need to … If you feel the need to write out a snarky response, open up NotePad or whatever and just type it out. I do that with Tweets. I must have drafts of like a bunch of like stupid responses in TweetBot because I type it out and then I’m like, “Is it worth it?” No. It’s not worth it.

Nicole: There’s only one time that I’ve posted a snarky response to a WooCommerce comment. I will own up to it. I posted it on Twitter. Someone asks why we didn’t warn them that we had a major update and I kid you not, the plug in update thing had a bar in red above the notification that said, WooCommerce, blah blah blah, is a major update. I mean, it was in red. Highlight in yellow. I took a screenshot of that comment and a screenshot of the thing and put it on Twitter. That is the one time I had a snarky response. I felt bad about ti later, but I was also like, “Come on. We did warn you.

Joe: Abstrusely. That’s exactly right.

Nicole: Yes. I feel horrible that your site broke and I’m very sorry about that. But don’t say what … It was right there. It was red.

Joe: We tried with everything we do.

Nicole: We tried.

Joe: Yep. So it does feel cathartic for like a minute. It’s a lot like Chinese food. It feels really good and then later you’re like why did I do that? I feel terrible.

Nicole: Oh yeah. Yep.

Joe: Awesome. That’s going to be the tagline for this – “Snarky Comments are like Chinese Food.”

Nicole: I love it.

Joe: Awesome. Nicole, thanks so much for your time today. I had a really great time. I learned a lot. If people want to learn more, where can they find you?

Nicole: So right now I am occasionally blogging on You can keep up with my adventures and my word Camp talks at or follow me on Twitter @NicoleCKohler

Joe: All right. Easy enough. I will link all of those in the show notes too. Thanks again so much for joining me. I really appreciate your time.

Nicole: Yeah, thanks, Joe. I had a great time.

Outro: Thanks again to Nicole for joining me. I know after this interview I started to put my own strategy in place, and hopefully this has inspired you to do so as well!

And Thanks again to our sponsors – make sure to check out Liquid Web for managed WordPress hosting. I use them on all of my important sites – they are that good! They are at They’ll give you 50% off your first 2 months just for being a listener! If you want to save your clients (or yourself) money through recovering abandoned carts, check out jilt. They are over at And finally, if you want conference call to be crystal clear and easy as possible, check out Vast Conference. You can get a 30 Day free trial by mentioning How I Built It when you speak to a sales rep over at

For all of the show notes, head over to If you like the show, head over to Apple Podcasts and leaving us a rating and review. It helps people discover us! Finally, last week I published my brand-new Patreon page. It offers a lot better rewards, and great goals, and I’m really doubling down on it. So if you like the show and what to support it directly, head over to You can support the show for as little as $1/month.

Next Week, we’ll talk to Jen Jamar about a Marketing Strategy for your business. This is another great conversation that I couldn’t enjoy more. Jen’s worked with some great clients and has some fantastic insight on how you can market yourself and your product. SO until next week, get out there and build something.

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One thought on “Nicole Kohler and Content Strategy

  1. That was such an intense conversation. I have been reading Nicole over at

    But this behind the scene analysis of her content strategy, took this to a whole new level.

    I have a very similar role to Nicole at my company. I got a new perspective to look at it.

    My major takeaway from the podcast was- testing, testing and testing everything. Even the tweets!

    Cant wait to go back to the table and implement what I learned here.

    Also, Joe, you asked very pertinent questions. Thanks for making this interview so insightful. How much the audience gets out of a podcast has a LOT to do with the questions asked by host!! You were curious throughout and that made it gripping. 🙂

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