Why even spend time online? Human ROI

I've been criticized ever since my online journey began back in the days of dial-up and AOL. Why do you spend so much time online?I've been criticized ever since my online journey began back in the days of dial-up and AOL. Why do you spend so much time online?

I’ve been criticized ever since my online journey began back in the days of dial-up and AOL. (True story: I attended my first Bible study online in an AOL chat room.) Why do you spend so much time online?

It’s become such a common occurrence that I try to never use my phone in person, save a couple of selfies.

Case in point: A Birthday Party Tonight

@carinarrigo Thank you for being such an amazing friend. 💛

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on


I could not have survived the last five months without @jenblogs4u #TrueStory

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on


And, you know me, I have to grab a sunset.

Great sunset. #ProHDRx #sunset

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on

The point is this:

All of the time I have spent building relationships online has always come back as a return — in humanity.

Human ROI

Relationships matter because people matter. The more you invest in people the more they will invest in you. This has never failed me.

Tonight, I was invited to a surprise birthday party for SMMOC co-founder (with his wife) Bob Watson. This group has been instrumental in my career change and path.

Last week, I told Bob as much and he recorded a small video on his Instagram account.

Of course, I wanted to join in the fun, see old friends, and wish Bob a very happy birthday!

Hugs Galore!

Though I knew I would be surrounded by my social media friends,  I became nervous (would anyone greet me? etc). So, my very good friend Jen Miller said she would be my plus one and it would be fun.

You know what? It was fun.

I had great conversations with people I haven’t seen (in person) in months or even  years. Yet we’ve been able to stay connected, and dare I say not superficially, online.

I engaged in personal conversations, was part of a running birthday joke, ate dinner, drank Diet Coke, cracked jokes. I felt like me.

You know why?

Because I was surrounded by friends. And they weren’t fake.

I was hugged by everyone. Because they’re real people. Real relationships. Real friends.

Why do I spend so much time online?

I spend time online because my friends are there. It’s not a chore. It’s not something I need to be unplugged from. It’s something that helps me feel connected to this world. Maybe I’m weird. But I think people value that time.

Spend time on social media creating, maintaining, and deepening relationships and you’ll always get back Human ROI.



Trust & Communication: Foundations of Any Relationship

communication and trust are important factors for successful relationships

Relationships take on many forms. We have business relationships with coworkers, employees, bosses, supervisors, vendors, and clients. We have family and spouse relationships. We have friends and people that we meet through mutual friends.

Each category of relationship has a different level of intimacy but the same basic element is required in them all: trust.

Communication in the Workplace

“In management settings, trust increases information sharing, openness, fluidity, and cooperation.” Amy J C Cuddy 

It’s easy in this age of technology to take communication for granted — to presume communication. In decades past we overly relied upon in-person meetings. They were deemed a waste of time. And then we moved to conference calls, which have become a total joke. And now, we’re expected to develop relationships and collaborate on projects  solely with text-based tools like Asana, BaseCamp, Trello, and Slack.

I read an article this week called “Let’s end the ‘schedule a call’ culture.’” In it the author says,

“I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to replace the schedule a call culture. Collaboration tools is probably the easiest answer, but … they have flaws too. Maybe we all just put our heads down and wait for the AI robots to take our jobs. But first, let’s discuss this schedule a call culture — albeit briefly.” Ted Bauer

My good friend John Locke and I both commented on this article that addresses both sides and I really liked this quote from his response to mine.

“I LOVE being in web development, because I get to choose who I work with, and though I have several bosses now (clients) it is night and day difference from working for THE MAN, which I did for a little over two decades.

In my current life, I’m happy to take phone calls with clients, because those are the folks I let through, and am agreeing to help. These are true partnerships with a common goal.

The “common goal” is what is missing in a lot of workplaces. Earning a living is reduced to a necessary evil, and there is constant struggle between Mangement and Employees.

We’re very lucky to be knowledge workers in the place and time that we are living in. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of broken workplaces in the digital world too #agencylife. But you and I are both very fortunate to have great bosses.” John Locke

Toxic Communication*

“In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.” Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

If you see warning signs early on in the relationship of unwanted behavior (badmouthing, gossip, indiscretion, inconsistent statements (lying), rudeness (especially to wait staff), irritability, tardiness, addiction, etc.), those red flags should be noted, especially if you notice a pattern.

People don’t improve their behavior as they get to know you; rather, they feel more comfortable and become more “themselves.”

Red flags are warnings to us all. We would be wise to heed them.

*I wish I didn’t feel the need to include this section; but I lived through it in workplaces for decades.

Nonverbal Communication

But how much communication is really verbal? This is wildly debated, but I would argue that if you only rely upon the written word you miss a lot.

“One way of increasing your accuracy is applying the 3 C’s of Nonverbal Communication: context, clusters, and congruence.” Psychology Today

In this world of text messages, email, and Slack, it’s a good time to talk about how much of communication is actually verbal — regardless of where you land on the research — there’s more to communication than the actual words.

So how do you project warmth and build relationships in a (primarily) digital age?

Open Communication

Trust comes from open communication. Open communication occurs when people feel safe. We like to think it’s more complicated than that. It’s not.

You see, if the conditions are wrong, we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organization. When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.” Simon Sinek 

How can you make people feel safe?

In their article called “Connect, Then Lead” on Harvard Business Review, authors Amy J.C. Cuddy, Matthew Kohut, and John Neffinger say:

“A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.”

Communication & Culture

Culture comes from how a group relates to each other. This can be good or bad. So, intentional community building is all the rage these days. Companies who are intentional with their culture protect their culture. They seem to do this in one of two ways: either they all work in-house or have regular meetings on video (Buffer, Automattic are two examples).

“There needs to be no advantage to being in the office, and no disadvantage to being out of the office.”” Joel Gascoigne, Buffer (They have since gotten rid of their office in San Francisco.)

Regardless of your preference, company culture is definitely top-down.

When asked how a middle manager can affect company culture at a recent talk with Simon Sinek that I attended, Simon gave this advice: treat those in your realm of influence as you believe important. Meaning, do what you can where you can.

If you feel uncomfortable at your workplace, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere.

It’s up to you.

Sometimes, believe it or not, it’s difficult to engage in conversations with people. If you want a better relationship, perhaps it’s up to you. Maybe you need to be the person who asks how they are doing, if they watched [insert sports game here] last night, or patted them on the back (verbally, with emojis, or giphys in Slack) for a job well done.



To Whom Are You “GaryVee?”

We all influence people. I'm influenced by Gary Vaynerchuk, Ted Rubin, and Simon Sinek. But are we those people to others?

Influence. It’s something I’ve talked about before. But we forget that we all influence people.

I’m influenced by Gary Vaynerchuk, Ted Rubin, and Simon Sinek. But are we those people to others?

Three of Bridget’s heroes walk into a bar and the bartender says, 

“Write a blog post.”

Just kidding.

Influence is a responsibility — that is, if you want to keep it. So what are some things we can learn from recent interactions I’ve had with three of my own heroes?

Simon Sinek

As I’ve mentioned previously, Jen Miller and I went to the talk and book signing for Together is Better by Simon Sinek. Though he had a plane to catch, he made time to sign books and take photos.

When I told him that I got my dream job because I was inspired by his Ted Talk, he high-fived me and said I made his day.

High Five!

I mean, how many people take the extra 40-90 seconds to even wave at someone, reply to a tweet, or acknowledge another human being?

How do you think that affected my respect for him? 

It went way up.

Ted Rubin

Notable keynote speaker and Marcomm guy, Ted Rubin has advocated of the humanity of brands for years. I’ve always agreed with his concept of focusing on return on relationship instead of return on investment.

I was so stoked about meeting Simon Sinek, I tweeted:

He replied, “let’s make it happen.


He could easily be paying an assistant to respond to his tweets, yet he doesn’t. 

Gary Vaynerchuk

I’ve been a huge fan of Gary’s for a long time. This is no surprise and I’ve even had a couple of questions answered on his show AskGaryVee. But this guy continues to impress me. Why?

He takes care of the community of people he built around himself. He continues to have gratitude in the midst of his success. He continues to reply to people — even on Instagram which is totally awkward for that purpose.

Example 1

I commented “word.”

He replied.


Example 2

Humbled… thank you … ❤️❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Gary Vay-Ner-Chuk (@garyvee) on

My comment was “Thank you!”

He replied.


How would you gauge my respect for Gary Vaynerchuk? It’s still high. He walks the walk.

How about you?

Who looks up to you? Who sees you as their inspiration? Who sees you as their hero? Who comments on your post and is looking to be acknowledged?

To whom are you GaryVee?

Automating Friendships

Two paddleboarders in the sunset at Dana Point Harbor.

Friendship isn’t something that can appear by magic, API calls, or automated audience reports. It takes time listening, investing, responding.

Just like in real life.

This tweet is the inspiration for this post.

I know that I’ve talked about relationship marketing before. It takes time.

If we could automate friendship, there would be a lot fewer lonely people in this world.

The lure of automation

Automation is like the siren song to marketers luring them with promises of slick reports, extra time, and better insights. What they forget to tell you is that the rest of us can tell when something is automated.

There is no software that will replace authentic, real interaction between you and your customer.

Sure, you can send auto tweets thanking people, auto responders in emails, and even direct messages to people who followed you in the last ten seconds.

Here’s the thing: we know they’re not real. So, who are you really fooling?

Auto Direct Messages on Twitter

I’ve talked about this for years. People are convinced that they work. For me, it’s just one more thing to delete. It’s noise that drowns out legitimate messages.

If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d unfollow anyone who sent me one of these.

Read these two examples. If either one of them had bothered to really check me out, they would have known that I don’t like automation.

autodm-example1 autodm-example2

Automation and Curation

Look. Let’s be honest. I have tons of friends who use APIs, RSS feeds, and other kinds of automation. They choose the people they trust then load them into Buffer or whatever. That’s fine. If you’re sure that all of the content is something you feel comfortable tweeting, posting, etc., then do it — with my blessing.

Curating content is hard. I admit it. It means I read. It means I interact with people. I trust instinct, gut, and messaging.

I’ve talked about it before. I curate content by curating people. I make friends, put them on Twitter Lists, and read their tweets. If their blog post, video, etc. is something that I agree with, then I will share it on the appropriate social network.

Hybrid Approach

Like most things in life, hybrid solutions are usually best. Of course, I schedule some tweets. What I don’t do is auto schedule based on an RSS feed or a hashtag or a keyword.

I don’t tweet things I don’t read. Why? Because I am responsible for ensuring that the things shared for a brand do not conflict with their messaging. No app can do that.

So, how do I make friends online?

You talk to people.

You can start with asking questions. You can reply to tweets. Take two weeks and spend ten minutes a day on Twitter actually talking to people. Read tweets. Get to know what the person likes.

We call this providing value.

You can also share their posts.

You can comment on their blogs.

You can step outside of your own world and read other people’s content.

Invest in people and they’ll invest in you.

This has been my experience.

I believe it can be yours, too.



WPblab – Looking back over a year of learning, video platforms, and community.

One year of WPblab

Community, friendship, video, learning, guests, oh my! So much has happened since Jason Tucker invited me to co-host WPblab Oct 1, 2015!

A Day that Will Live in Infamy

Well, not really. But October 1, 2015, changed my life forever.

Blab(dot im) came out and Jason Tucker sent me a message. Would I want to co-host a new show on the WPwatercooler network?

“Did you ask the right person?”

A developer and a marketer is the perfect combination. And so, Thursday, October 1, a show was born.


You can watch that episode here:



Video Platforms are Fickle

With live video, you learn to roll with things. Seriously. Blab(dot)im was there for quite a while. But when they shut down, we were ready. Jason Tucker had already moved us to Firetalk. But when Firetalk stopped reliably providing video download, we went to YouTube Live in a Custom Post Type.

Gee. When I started this journey, I had no idea what a CPT was.

It’s been a great year. But I digress.

The point is, if you’re hosting a live show — especially on video — you have to have grace and be ready for anything.

Main takeaways besides that are:

  1. Wear headphones.
  2. Don’t allow anyone to stream in your house.
  3. Be hard wired.
  4. Have a good attitude.
  5. Laugh a lot.
  6. Make friends.
  7. Take selfies.

Cross-over Opportunities

We’ve both been guests on WP-Tonic and both Jonathan Denwood and John Locke have been on our show. Adam Silver of KitchenSinkWP has appeared on our show dozens of times, too. We’ve had tons of people from The WP Crowd, too! They even made me an honorary member.

Also, Jason Tucker scheduled a cross-over with Jeffrey Bradbury of Teacher Cast that was epic. Be open to these opportunities. They’ve always been awesome.

*My disclaimer is that we’ve had so many amazing people, I’m probably leaving someone out. Apologies in advance.

A New Career

On December 1, 2015, I was offered my dream job doing marketing at WordImpress. You can read all about that transition in my blog post here.


A theme song is born.

Jason Tucker challenged me to come up with a theme song. And, so, I did.

It debuted on January 14, 2016. My favorite part is when Jason went “woo” at the end.

Favorite Episode

It’s hard to pin down my favorite episode, because they all have great moments. That said, this episode with James Laws of Ninja Forms and Josh Pollock of Caldera blew my mind. I didn’t realize forms were that functional.



Life Happens

So, when the worst thing could happen — and did — the WordPress and WPblab community was there for me, quite literally.

You can read about it in detail here.

My Coral Reef: The WordPress Community

Accidental Community

I can’t even start listing all of the wonderful people I’ve met both there and in person since we started this show.

Russell Aaron has been a regular regular. Regular regular? Yes. He’s been on the show dozens of times. I finally got to meet him in person this year at WordCamp San Diego and we chatted again in person at WordCamp Orange County. He’s become a mentor of mine. Would that have happened without WPblab? I doubt it.

I’ve also met Josh Pollock from Caldera  and Jacob Arriola from Zeek Interactive.

I expect to meet so many more people as I attend more WordCamps around the nation. This is partly why I made the GuruSelfies page.

I can say without a doubt that I feel more connected to the WordPress community than ever before. And I feel invested. And I care.

We’ve become a virtual meetup.

People have shared their struggles and triumphs. We’ve chatted. We’ve become friends on Twitter and Facebook. We’ve met in person. We’re planning to meet in person. People have started blogs, meetups, quit jobs, leveled up their careers, and applied to be WordCamp organizers.

I feel safe to say that Jason Tucker’s gift of hospitality really shines through in this show’s format and I’m proud to play a part in it.

Keys to Being Social: Diversity

Keys to Being Social: Diversity (of Thought)

When diversity is discussed, we generally think of it in terms of gender or race. But there is so much more to the value of diversity — within our social circles and workplaces.

It’s great to be with people we like or that like us. But is it the best thing for us?

When I have conversations with people about following others, especially within the context of twitter, one word inevitably pops up: relevant.

Who’s really relevant?

“Who’s relevant to me?”

“I only follow people who are relevant?”

So, I’ll freely admit that this phrase comes off as short-sighted at best and elitist at worst.

“So, you want 10,000 followers from whichever backgrounds serve your purpose, but you only want to follow 37? Okay. Whatever.”

Relevance is a subjective and self-centered metric. There’s no other way to describe it. Well, Gary Vaynerchuk has a few choice words about this subject, but it’s Rated R for Language.

Why does diversity matter?

I totally understand the need and impulse to create and protect a company’s culture. It’s great when you all like doing the same thing and show up for morning yoga sessions.

“A growing body of research shows that diversity—in gender,thinking styles, and intro- and extroversion—is needed for teams to be their most productive.” Drake Baer, Fast Company

But company culture is more than shared hobbies. It’s more than shared interests. And this is also true of your social media circles. If you only ever listen to people who think exactly the way you do, how will you change, grow, or improve?

“By focusing on different skills we support and balance our partner, instead of competing at the same tasks. Our partnerships promote a diversity of thinking, perspective, and knowledge.” Stefan Klocek, Cooper 

Listening to Outsiders

Together is Better Book Signing with Simon Sinek
Together is Better Book Signing with Simon Sinek

This past Wednesday I went to a book signing and talk by Simon Sinek. I saw the event on LinkedIn and asked Jen Miller of NeedSomeoneToBlog.com if she was free. It was close (LA) and $40. There was no reason not to go.

Afterward, we felt so inspired! I had a second wind kick in with my writing for work. Jen called me and said, “we need to go to more of these.”

His third book, Together is Better, follows the theme of his first two: we’re social animals and we need each other.

So, why did I go see Simon Sinek? It has nothing to do with WordPress. Or does it?

If my frame of reference for listening and learning was “does this help me with WordPress?” I would lose out on a lot. That’s an understatement, too. I don’t only read blogs about WordPress. I listen to podcasts that have nothing to do with WordPress.

If I were only following people I deemed “relevant,” would Simon Sinek make the cut? And what kind of a world would that leave me in?

The Danger of Thought Incest.

My boss is always saying, “be curious.” And that’s key to learning, isn’t it? If you weren’t curious, you would never “what if?” You would never dream, innovate, create. And if there was no reason to be curious, we’d only listen to the five thought leaders within our own industry (WordPress, tech, construction, social media, etc.).

That only leads to what I call thought incest. Do we really want to regurgitate the ideas someone else is saying over and over and over? Do we only speak jargon without ever understanding its true meaning? Do we take the time to follow the logical conclusion of the presumptions we build our businesses upon?

In his Ted Talk about where ideas come from, Steven Johnson talks about the English coffee house and the birth of the enlightenment.

But the other thing that makes the coffeehouse important is the architecture of the space. It was a space where people would get together from different backgrounds, different fields of expertise, and share. It was a space, as Matt Ridley talked about, where ideas could have sex. This was their conjugal bed, in a sense — ideas would get together there. And an astonishing number of innovations from this period have a coffeehouse somewhere in their story.” Steven Johnson

Our coffee house can be a co-working space, a meetup, or even Twitter. We should listen to people’s ideas, think about them, and consider them for their own sake — regardless if we think they are relevant to us. But when we deeply think about other ideas, we allow them to affect us. We allow cross-pollination.

I believe it’s dangerous to only listen to people you agree with — politically, socially, and creatively.

As he said in the video noted above,

“Chance favors the connected mind.” Steven Johnson

Diversity and Collaboration

I have friends from all walks of life. Long ago I decided that I would focus on the things we have in common and not argue about the things we don’t agree about. But still, if you’re closed to ideas, you’re closed to relationships.

Next time you feel like you’re in a mental rut, consume. You cannot create without consuming. But consume from something different. Read nonfiction. Watch a documentary. Listen to a comedy podcast.

Allow your mind to passively think about other things and you will always be ready for serendipity.




Alone. Together.

How does remote work, company culture, and productivity work together? We're alone. So how do we fell together?

How does remote work, company culture, and productivity work together? We’re alone. So how do we feel together?

Recently, Automattic, the company behind WordPress, announced their annual World Wide WP 5k.  And that got me thinking about intentional company culture with a distributed workforce.

100% Distributed Companies

Buffer and Automattic stand out as the two technology companies who are large and are successful with consumers as well as with intentionally creating and maintaining a company culture. Now, Zappos is famous for their company culture, but that’s a localized culture. Meaning, everyone works in the same building.

Buffer especially writes about their culture and their values. Both companies have video meetups and local and global world wide company gatherings. Of course, they also utilize tools like Slack to communicate in the day to day.

Working Alone

Many people I know who work with WordPress are freelancers, solopreneurs, or remote workers.

I’m a mix. So, in many ways I’m fortunate. I work alone remotely at home but I go into the office one day a week. Tuesdays are my fun days full of collaboration, small talk, inside jokes, and long walks to our favorite lunch spots. So, though I work alone, I feel like I’m part of a group.

But not everyone lives within driving distance from their company. So then what?

Alone. Together.

A couple weekends ago, I attended the “UnCompany Picnic” started by Jason and Jen Tucker five years ago. At first, I was thinking that I didn’t want to be the only person to show up to a family picnic alone. But then my friend Theresa reminded me that we’re all alone.

And so I went. Would it be weird? Maybe. Even if it was weird, it would still be better than staying home on Labor Day weekend — alone.

And, so, you can be alone together.

Selfies at the UnCompany Picnic 2016

It was a fun potluck with times to chat and, of course, take selfies. And I didn’t feel alone at all.

Social Media and Isolation

Social media, for me, has been the way I broke out of my isolation. First, I was isolated because of illness, then because of a bad work situation. Either way, turning to social media to make connections and deepen friendships has easily been the vehicle that changed my life.

So, if you’re feeling alone and isolated, reach out. Talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be “talk to someone as in a psychologist” talk to someone but it can be. The point is that the more you engage with people, the less isolated you’ll feel.

Reply to someone’s tweet instead of just liking it. Do the same on Facebook. Ask questions. Join a Slack channel.

Better yet? Join an in-person meetup. It doesn’t have to be about your trade. It could be about a hobby or activity.

WordPress and Culture

I’ve said it before. The WordPress community is teaching me how to be loved.

Last weekend was WordCamp Los Angeles. I could not believe how many people came up to me at the dinner, booth, camp, etc. just to say, “Hi Bridget!” and give me a hug.

I didn’t feel alone for one second. I felt loved. I felt included. I felt like I belonged.

And I had fun. Here are some of the selfies.

Company Culture

Back to the topic: culture. Culture exists regardless of whether it is intentionally created. Culture is a fancy way to describe group dynamics. And maybe you’re not in a position to shape the culture of your company. So what can you do?

You can be an encourager. You can be someone who mentors instead of throwing people to find their own way. You can join a community.

But here’s the thing.

(And this is important)

You get out of a community what you put in to the community.

Be social. Offer help. Be the friend you want to have.

It’s like that saying, “he who wants friends must himself first be friendly.”

I love you guys. You’re my tribe.


Never feel alone.





Further reading: