The Wix / WordPress Campaign Exposes Some Ugly Trends in Both Communities

April 09, 2021 00:14:16
The Wix / WordPress Campaign Exposes Some Ugly Trends in Both Communities
WP Review
The Wix / WordPress Campaign Exposes Some Ugly Trends in Both Communities
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Joe Casabona

Show Notes

In April 2021, WordPress influencers started to get Bose headphones from “WP.” It turns out Wix started a marketing campaign and the WordPress community was upset by it. Turns out, it was a bad look that could have been avoided by both parties.

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Episode Transcript

Hey, everybody. Real quick. Before we get into this episode, I want to tell you about a weekly newsletter I do call, Build Something Weekly. It’s a free newsletter where I offer insights on the WordPress community and ecosystem podcasting. I offer tools, and you get a nice recap of all of the content I’ve written, in a single place. It is free. It is weekly. And you can sign up over at [buildsomething.email]. That’s [buildsomething.email]. I would really appreciate it if you do. All right. So let’s get into this episode of WP Review. This is an audio version of a blog post I wrote regarding the Wix WordPress campaign, my general thoughts on it. So the blog post is called ‘The Wix WordPress campaign exposes some ugly trends in both communities.’ So let’s jump right into that. And, let me start with full disclosure. I got the Bose headphones. Wix reached out in January and it cryptically wanted to send me some swag because I’m a WordPress or a technology influencer. And if it wasn’t for my year of opportunity, I might’ve passed them up completely. I’m generally very skeptical when people reach out and they’re not completely forthright with their intentions. But they explained to me that, you know, they were sending people stuff. I have a PO box. So it’s not like I gave him a home address and I’m grateful that they selected me. The headphones are great. I’m actually, I haven’t been very happy with my Sony version four of their noise-canceling headphones. I feel like the device switching is clunky at best. And maybe I’ll find the same thing with the Bose’s head. Maybe I’ll have to bite the bullet and get the AirPods max. But I am happy because I was considering picking up a different set of noise-canceling headphones. Now I don’t have to. And I appreciate the recognition of the kind of work that I’m doing in the WordPress community. And I know that’s not all of it. But I am appreciative. I also find more humor in the campaign than malice. But as this and the WordPress Community’s reaction to the campaign has been rattling around in my head all week, there are a few things I would like to share. So first let’s talk about what happened. If you have no idea, here’s the rundown. In January 2021, Wix reached out to an undisclosed number of WordPress or technology influencers asking to send us a package as part of an innovative marketing concept they’ve been working on. Anyone who agreed and sent their address got the package around April 5th, 2021. They were much to my surprise and the surprise of others, a pair of $400 Bose quiet comfort, 700 headphones. There was also a QR code that went to a video of a man pretending to be WordPress or WP saying Wix was starting a smear campaign against him, and that we shouldn’t believe it. The package came with a note from WP. The same week, that same week, Wix officially rolled out its campaign in a series of tweets, both free and promoted, and ads that you can find on YouTube talking about all of the reasons WordPress is bad. As soon as recipients tweeted about the headphones, the WordPress community speculated as to why this would happen. Why Wix was doing it. Once the videos came out, many in the WordPress community felt that they were in bad taste. By April 7th, Matt Mullenweg, one of the original creators of WordPress and the CEO of Automattic wrote a pretty scathing blog post condemning Wix for the negative campaign. So the first question I want to address here is, is Wix bad as a company for this negative campaign? And so the first question is all around the morality of the campaign. Unfortunately, going negative is one of the biggest movers in ad campaigns. It appeals to the anger and frustration WordPress users feel when using the platform. Wix has identified a problem probably based on user interviews and are presenting a solution. This is anger and frustration that you will hear frequently if you move outside the WordPress bubble. I hear it all the time as I try it, try to figure out why people are using something other than WordPress for their podcast websites. So it’s not like they’re lying when they say users are frustrated with updates and complexity. I will concede that some of the ads are a little tone-deaf. There is one where a guy is in couples counseling, or maybe it’s like father-son counseling. And the counselor is interviewing him, and WP, the guy who plays WP is kind of this belligerent jerk. And there’s a lot of anxiety around pressing updates. And in a year where many people, including myself, decided to seek counseling to help with anxiety, I think Wix could have done a better job to get their message across without the therapy session. Maybe someone updates their computer in the morning and then spends the rest of the day checking to make sure the site didn’t break. And then realizing it didn’t break, and fixing problems when they should have been working on their business. And I will say that that scenario might be based on real-life experience. But Wix knows who they’re targeting. A lot of comments around the campaign are I’m not going to switch to Wix because they sent me headphones. Wix isn’t targeting people who’ve built their business on WordPress. They are targeting people who are frustrated with WordPress. Though, those admittedly might not be mutually exclusive groups. Targeting influencers is a way of getting people to talk about Wix. If you love WordPress, the ads are not for you. They sent headphones to people with enough Twitter followers, who they knew would tweet about the headphones. Then everyone started talking about Wix, regardless if they got headphones. And Wix could have spent 25 times that on a single super bowl ad. Wix should get some creativity points here. It’s different. It’s cheaper than a traditional ad campaign. And it got really nice headphones into the hands of some people. And because I got these Bose headphones, I’m giving the Sony’s to my brother who doesn’t suffer from the same need to switch devices easily as I do. And on that note, if you tweeted about being mad for getting $400 headphones that you’re not even going to use, one tweet was like, “I’m not going to switch to Wix because they sent me headphones. I’m not going to use it.” Congratulations on all of your success. I will always be grateful to accept a gift. The same way I teach my toddler to. So is WordPress and the WordPress community justified In their frustration? I get it. When someone attacks something you like, you want to defend it. But the whole reaction including Matt Mullenweg’s blog post seems a bit hypocritical. And I say that because it’s apparently okay when the WordPress space attacks other software, which Matt did with Jamstack, and countless other examples. But Matt did seem to walk his comments back a couple of weeks later. So it’s okay when that happens. But it’s not okay when WordPress is attacked for completely valid reasons. I say, may the first person who’s never smugly suggested WordPress over Squarespace or your favorite hosting company over GoDaddy cast the first tweet. And as for the current state of WordPress, it’s probably been a while, or I’m sorry, as for the current state of Wix, it’s probably been a while since you’ve taken a closer look at how they’re building out their platform, says Matty Osman. A friend and fellow headphone recipient, as well as a writer for Wix. She says “Many of the concerns I had about Wix based on impressions from years ago are no longer valid. It’s amazing to see how they’ve transformed the product over the past few years into something that legitimately empowers busy entrepreneurs to get online fast in a way that presents their business professionally. And if we’re comparing Wix to WordPress, Wix is built-in SEO features are a lot more approachable than having to install. And learn how to use various SEO plugins for multiple different tasks.” Now I’m not saying Wix is without sin here. Matt Mullenweg makes an excellent point that Wix seems to be the only website builder where you can’t export your data. That is very, very bad. And they should be criticized for it. That’s a problem that [WordPress.com] can present to Wix users in their own ad campaign. But the whole reaction from the community has been very, they started it and how dare they. All software has its problems. Don’t be mad when someone points out yours when you love to point out everyone else’s. And about the marketing campaign, there’s a lot of anger around how the headphones were sent out and why. But here’s the thing. Two things, actually. We don’t know how much Wix spent, and we don’t know what their key personal, or key performance indicators or KPIs are for the campaign. If a KPI is to get people talking about Wix, it worked like gangbusters. And that brings me to my final point. At least people know Wix is Wix. How many people have confused Automattic with WordPress? It’s been so many that if I weren’t cynical, I’d be confused as to why Automattic doesn’t try to fix that misconception. Ultimately, the problem is that Wix knows their branding and who they are marketing to. They know their messaging. WordPress doesn’t. So that scares and confuses a large part of the community. So what should we do? Honestly, the world can use a little bit more positivity. I think Wix could have executed better. Though, again, negativity does get people to act. I think the WordPress community’s response could have been better. Matt always talks about assuming positive intent. Frankly, I think people who say that a lot are trying to get away with something. But that doesn’t mean you can’t lead by example and respond positively. Maybe instead of calling Wix a Roach motel, we, as a community, can talk about all the ways we’re trying to solve the problems Wix presents, and how we’re doing it out in the open. And how we let you export your data and use whatever platform you want. See, the WordPress community for all its follies does care about democratizing publishing. It’s why WordPress is open source. It’s why being able to export data is so important to us. And if we don’t like when someone goes negative, we should turn to the other chick, and point out the positives. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of WP Review. If you want to subscribe and get all of the episodes delivered directly to you, you can head over to [wpreview.io]. Thanks so much. And until next time. I’ll see you out there.

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