Announce Your Plugin to the World, Shout It From the Rooftop

The easiest way to kill your WordPress plugin is to fail to let the world know about it. If you cannot manage a tweet, blog post, or quick note on Facebook, you may as well sign the death certificate then and there.

I get it. I have been there. Not everyone is a marketing guru, so putting out the right messaging might seem like speaking in a foreign language. But no messaging at all? That will not bode well for your young project.

Part of my job is finding plugins and sharing them with the community. Every week, I am on the lookout for that next great idea. Or, at least, a sort-of-good idea. I scour Twitter, regular blogs that I read, and official WordPress directories for plugins and themes. What I like most about writing about our beloved platform is not big business deals or the latest drama. While those pieces can be fun, I am most interested in what people create on top of the software. Whether a large company or an individual builds a new plugin, I am always excited when Monday rolls around. I can begin my search anew.

Often, I will find a new plugin that looks promising, so I dive into it. I install and activate it. At times, I find something so interesting that I have no choice but to share it. However, most of the time, I need a little push. To understand “the why” behind it. I do a quick check to see if they have written a blog post, tweeted about it, or shared it in some way. More often than not, nothing exists about it other than its listing in the plugin directory. And, reaching out to devs via email is often a hit-or-miss affair.

When you do not announce your new project to the world, it feels like you are not passionate about it.

I understand that some people simply hash out an idea and decide to drop it in the plugin directory. They are not in it for glory or even recognition. For them, it is just a piece of code they thought might come in hand for others. But, usage is the lifeblood of software. If no one else downloads, installs, and activates your plugin, can we really call it software?

Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, whether it makes a sound is irrelevant if no one is around to hear it.

I have been mulling over whether to finishing writing this post for months, unsure if I was ever going to hit the publish button. I initially scratched down some notes in early April, attempting to understand why so few go through the trouble of doing any marketing of their plugins. I reached out to Bridget Willard to get insight from someone with a rich history in the marketing world. She had just published How To Market Your Plugin the month before, so the timing made sense.

However, I still felt too frustrated with the status quo in the WordPress community. A message from a reader wishing that we would mention alternative choices for plugin-related posts prompted me to revisit this. The truth is simple. So many projects fly under the radar because their authors begin and end their marketing by submitting to WordPress.org.

“Marketing is communication,” said Willard. “At the basic level, you must ‘tell people’ you have a product. The basic minimum is a blog post with social posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It’s scary to market while you build, but that’s what the automobile industry does (along with others). You have to create the desire for the product — more than fixing a problem.”

While she tends to focus on products and services, I asked her what developers should be doing regardless of whether their plugins are commercial or free.

“I advocate with all of my being having a landing page on your main site (not a new site) promoting your plugin — while you’re building it,” paraphrasing from a chapter in her book. “Take signups for beta testers, start email marketing. The blog post is anti-climatic in many ways, and one or two tweets aren’t enough. Even better is to customize the sign-up ‘thank you page’ with something special — a video talking about your goals, for example. It’s not the time to have a tutorial or demo. This is about communicating your vision.

“The sad thing is that many plugin developers don’t see the need to spend money on a ‘free’ plugin. The axiom is true, ‘it takes money to make money.’ If you want sales, you need marketing. The sale for a free plugin is a download, and those are just as important.”

Part of me missed the old Weblog Tools Collection era. Every few days, the site would share a post with the latest plugins (themes too) with short descriptions of each. It was an easy win if you had no marketing skills. Developers could submit their new projects, and the team would share them with the community. When I was a young and upcoming developer, it was one of the only ways I knew how to reach folks in the WordPress community aside from pushing stuff from my own blog.

Today, we have far more avenues for sharing our work via social networking. Of course, the downside is that you have to cut through the noise.

In the long run, I would like to see an overhaul of the WordPress.org directory, focusing on the discoverability of plugins by feature instead of only popularity. Not all developers are known for their marketing skills. Having a little help from the directory they feed into could make it easier for budding developers to jump from hobby to business.

Until then, let the world know about your plugin. Even if it seems like you are shouting into the abyss, you may just hear an answer from someone who noticed your passion. If nothing else, let us know about it here at WP Tavern.

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15 responses to “Announce Your Plugin to the World, Shout It From the Rooftop”

  1. Blake says:

    In the past, I’ve wrongly thought that launching to the wordpress.org directory was “making it.” With my latest plugin project, Edupack, we’ve decided to reach out to users we think will love it before launching on WordPress.org. So far, the strategy has been great. We’ve found a key “braintrust” of vocal users who are helping us define features. We hope our braintrust becomes our evangelists when we’re ready to launch to the masses.

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    • That is closer to the direction I went in after several years. I suppose it was a little easier once I had that established user base. I could build the product in a public beta, get direct feedback during the build, and market it to folks I knew would be early adopters.

      My problem is that I had too many projects and didn’t focus enough on the ones that built my user base. That was a tough lesson to learn.

      My most successful projects though were easily those had plenty of early communication. That buildup of excitement made for great word-of-mouth advertising.

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  2. Towfiq says:

    Justin, we released a free plugin a year ago and sent WPtavern a message, but did not get any replies. I figured you guys were swamped with similar messages and decided to ignore them.
    It would be a tremendous help if you guys could share our exciting plugin (Brave Conversion Engine) with WpTavern readers. Written in ReactJS and WP Rest API it helps users create any kind inbound promotional campaigns with drag and drop builder. So far people seem to love it.

    Kindly let us know if there’s a process to follow to get our plugin featured.
    Thanks & Regards

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  3. Dunskii says:

    When we launched Booking X, we initially decided not to add it to the repo. So we try a multitude of things to promote it, including sponsoring a few wordcamps, with out much success. In the end we added the plugin to the WP repo and started to spend $20 a week on Google Ads, over night we saw a vast improvement in weekly downloads. Changing our mindset from developer to marketer is quite a challenge, with a lot of trial and error, but seems to be starting to work.

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  4. Tony Zeoli says:

    It’s funny because I want to announce my plugin, but I am in the midst of planning after our initial soft launch to relaunch soon. In that, there’s a lot of messaging that goes along with launching and everything has to make sense, especially when you are freemium and have a WordPress plugin page, a PRO site, and a demo site. Plus, we have a fourth site that is integrated with the plugin, as well.

    So, there’s a ton of work to do on multiple sites and they all need to make sense and close the loop. For example, I just had to move our demo site from radistationdemo.com to a sub domain at demo.radiostation.com, because I know that splitting traffic between two separate domains is an SEO problem. That meant setting up new Google Analytics and Google Search Consile accounts for both to then migrate. And the reason that’s happening now is because I just registered the néw domain in the last quarter but had the demo site on the old domain last year..it’s important the demo site works correctly before making any announcement. There’s a few bugs we need ti fix.

    And now thot we’ve launched our PRO site, content has to move from netmix.com, which showcased the free version, to radiostation.pro, which is the new site for all things related. And netmix has to pivot to be just our station directory and nothing else.

    I’ve also been immersed in building out a marketing plan with our tram amd yes, now that we’re going to push hard, I’ll be sending in my plugin press release to start getting the word out.

    There is so much that goes into getting this right. You want to shout it from the rooftops, but there ate things like making sure email addresses are routed from landing pages to the right forms, or graduating to OptinMonster from any random pop up plugin to make sure you’ve got thr best tool for the job.

    We are also using Freemius and there’s a wide learning curve there. I didn’t know about the trial periods you could offer, so that needed to be figured out. And, the initial way we set it up as an “add-on” wasn’t the correct way to do it, so we needed to take tine to fix that too.

    Then there’s Covid parenting. My lead developer/partner is in Australia, so there’s timezone differences. And, I have to take tine for family too.

    So, I’m getting there little by little. But it’s funny you wrote this, because it’s totally speaking directly at me. I hear you loud and clear!

    In due time, my friend, In due time!

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  5. martin says:

    hi dear Justin

    again – great article – food for thoughts. Did you ever think about some aggregation of the data of the latest blocks

    cf. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/67872553/beautifulsoup-4-attributeerror-nonetype-has-no-attribute-find-next

    How about the publishing of a list with the metadata _ in order to keep the folks informed about the latest release !`?

    look forward to hear from you

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    • It’s easy enough to use the WordPress.org Plugin API to gather data. I actually have a plugin lying around to do that. I’m not sure if publishing such a list is best for the Tavern. I personally look over the latest block plugin releases too and try to share stories on them. There are not that many.

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  6. chris pathe says:

    “Marketing is communication”… what a powerful phrase.

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  7. Grzegorz says:

    Thanks for the article. Just to point out, there is a subreddit dedicated to advertising WordPress plugins, with about 13k members.

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  8. ripul says:

    This is one reason why I follow this blog. I wish Blogs on WordPress write more about plugins which have not been discovered yet, early discovery and promotion can guide a plugin to success.

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  9. Steve Burge says:

    I’m commenting quickly to back up what Justin says in this post.

    We were entirely focused on launching and coding our project, then we read this post and were prompted into action. We emailed the team and they couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly. This was the resulting post: https://wptavern.com/logtivity-a-wordpress-activity-log-service-with-customizable-charts-alerts-and-csv-exports

    Three things I appreciate about WPTavern:

    The team are always friendly and want the people they cover to do well.
    The team gives helpful feedback outside the interview/news process.
    Readers trust them. WPTavern posts bring new customers.
    https://steveburge.com/blog/interviews/logtivity-is-featured-on-wptavern/

    In short, get in touch with them :)

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    • We got a ton of emails like yours through this post. The hard thing has been wading through it all, and I’m still working on that. Learning about new projects is one of my favorite parts of the job. Unfortunately, we cannot cover everything that comes out every day, but it never hurts to just reach out. I can almost always tell how passionate folks are when we start talking.

      I think I asked you “the why” or “the inspiration” question behind the project. When people answer that honestly, without PR fluff, it makes for more interesting stories.

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