In her book, The Business Value of Developer Relations, author Mary Thengvall proposes this definition of community: “A group of people who not only share common principles, but also develop and share practices that help individuals in the group thrive.”
Technical content is an important asset in supporting shared technical practices within a developer community. And the interaction of tools, technical content, and your community members enables the developer’s experience within your brand’s community. DevRel teams who set the goals for the community and manage the community are shouldering a big job! The right technical content makes that job easier.DevRel teams who set the goals for the community and manage the community are shouldering a big job! The right technical content makes that job easier. Click To Tweet
Building a Supporting Technical Content Strategy
Content Strategic Thinking
Why, Not What
Like any other strategy, you need to start with why. Thengvall advises starting with a reason for creating a developer community, not a result. For example, a result is sales qualified leads. This result is the product of growing relationships with developers. The reason for the developer community in this case is growing relationships with developers. Find the reason for your developer community investment and connect that to the business result will be if you are successful.
Define your community narrowly. While you want your community to feel inclusive, there also has to be something shared between the members of the community. This is usually a shared goal or purpose (so reaching “all developers” is too broad). Define the type of developer, the experience of the developer, and other relevant traits or skills (hobbyist, programming language, etc.) that best fit into your primary community. Your primary community is your primary audience.
What will your community be doing? Writing code? Writing articles? Are they writing programs that run on your company’s hardware? Implementing an API in their product? Are they feeding back information on what they need? Are they acting as a primary support for each other? Consider all of this to help you answer the next question, which is…
By answering the above questions, you can take a first pass at the technical content your developer community will need to support its activities. Will it just help them get started because your community is giving back articles on how to apply it? Will you focus on a primary use case and then let your members contribute articles about other use cases?
Another strategy is to fling out a million seeds to see what grows. You could also choose to align around a technical creed or perspective that differentiates your community. The approach you encourage your community to take will also define the type and subject matter of your technical content.
In order to define your content needs, keeping track of time is very important. Define the desired time for a developer to get to “Hello, World,” as well as how long it takes for a new developer to answer another developer’s questions. Factor in all the timelines that need to be met for active community members. Use these target timelines to define the mix of quick starts and other technical resources that will get your developers to the place you want in the time you want.
Content Strategy Building
There are a surprising amount of production tasks in building a content strategy. You will need to:
- Define your narrative. Yes, even if it is technical, you are establishing a narrative that will be used by your community. Consider it a shared technical language and story.
- Create a content calendar. Look at all the engagement activities scheduled in the course of a year, including virtual and in-person events, timelines for beginners participating, new versions of your product, and the like. Then create a calendar of the content you need delivered to support these activities.
- Assign responsibility. It’s very important to assign a single person ownership for each piece of content. If it’s assigned to a content manager, part of their job will be to assign the piece to an author with a delivery and publication date. Authors should be technical and include a mix of people from inside and outside your company.
- Determine your content feedback mechanism. Technical content can always be improved. Part of engaging your community will be making room for feedback and improvements. Even if you aren’t asking for articles from community members, create a frictionless workflow for incorporating community contributed improvements to your technical content.
- Make technical content a multiplier. To increase your content’s reach and get your topics to scale, consider applying a multiplier that allows you to reach groups of developers. Jacob Lehrbaum, Vice President of Developer and Admin Relations at Salesforce, recommends doing a workshop-in-a-box to community members in Chapter 3 of Developer Marketing and Relations: The Essential Guide.
Planning Is Everything, The Plan Is Nothing
What happens when your community takes an unexpected but welcome turn? No problem. A good technical content strategy will help your DevRel team define the goals and principles to make good decisions on the fly.A good technical content strategy will help your DevRel team define the goals and principles to make good decisions on the fly. Click To Tweet
Don’t be afraid to change your content to serve your community better just because you have set a content calendar for a year.
The process of technical content planning prepares your team to have the shared principles and knowledge necessary to make decisions quickly, with the confidence that they are aligned with your community and company goals.