If you want to grow your tribe, migrate your WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted version of WordPress
Hosting a blog with WordPress.com and using the software from WordPress.org to host the blog yourself are not the same thing. This distinction is often confusing.
I am working with a client who is preparing for the launch of his first book and a critical component of his marketing and launch strategy is the community he has built on his blog. The blog was hosted on WordPress.com for over 3 years and had a healthy following of several hundred that received his weekly blog posts and engaged with him on his content.
In our initial meeting, he explained that he had received feedback from several advisors that he needed to move off WordPress.com and get a self-hosted version of his blog prior to launching the book and significantly growing his tribe. He understood conceptually that this was important to do, but he wanted me to both outline the benefits clearly and help him to actually implement the migration since this is not an area of expertise for him.
Since setting up an account is free, WordPress.com is a good testing ground if you are trying to determine whether or not you want to publish content on a consistent basis. But once you get the hang of blogging and know that you want to do it consistently, I am a big advocate of switching over to a self-hosted version. The WordPress.com platform provides a rich set of functionality, but there are some significant limitations which don’t lend themselves well to building a brand and extending your reach with your tribe.
Customization is limited on WordPress.com
Your blog will look like other bloggers hosted on the platform because you are not permitted to install custom themes with the free service. There are hundreds of themes to choose from on WordPress.com but since the platform has millions of users, there is a good chance that the styling of your blog will look like several other blogs.
With a self-hosted blog, the ‘look and feel’ of your blog is only limited by the capabilities of the person designing the website since you can build a theme from scratch or modify one of the millions of WordPress themes available online.
Functionality is limited too
The open-source version of WordPress has evolved from its initial roots as a blogging software to a full-blown content management system (CMS) that can power major websites for well established brands across a wide variety of industries. The wide range of capabilities for WordPress as a content management system is primarily provided through the use of plugins. When you are using the self-hosted version of WordPress, you have access to such a large variety of functionality through these plugins that most of the time if you can think of something you want to accomplish on your website, you can find a plugin that does it.
WordPress.com on the other hand, for security reasons, limits the number of plugins that can be used with their blogs which means that you would not be able to extend the functionality of your site past the handful of plugins that are currently available (for example, you are limited to their site statistics plugin and cannot use Google Analytics).
Your interactions with your tribe are dictated by the WordPress.com platform
The final reason I recommend migrating your site if you are taking the next step and want to grow your tribe is to gain better control over the interactions with that community. In WordPress.com, you grow your community by getting people to subscribe to your blog (if they are not signed up with WordPress) and to ‘follow’ you (if they are a part of the WordPress.com community). They then become your ‘subscribers’ and receive a notification every time you publish new content.
You also have the WordPress comments function connected to each article or page that you publish and you can interact directly with your tribe there through discussion threads below your posts.
This set-up works well if the comments and email-each-post functionality is all you need.
But what happens when you want to interact with your tribe via email in a more personal way with content that is not published on your public website or blog?
What if you want to reward people who have shown their commitment to your message by signing up on your site? Maybe you would like to give them sneak previews of an upcoming book or special offers for an event that is not available to casual visitors of your site.
You can’t with WordPress.com.
But you can with a self-hosted version of WordPress.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Depending on where else you interact with your subscribers outside of your site, you can integrate with other social networks like Facebook and Twitter in several cool and interesting ways. You can get as creative as you want – because you have the flexibility.
I hope that helps to give you a good understanding of the benefits you can get from migrating to a self-hosted version of WordPress. My next couple of posts will go into the actual process of migrating from WordPress.com and some of my recent experiences transferring my client’s site this past weekend.