Are we creating engagement or value? Metrics or relationships? Product-focused or people-focused? It's difficult (if not impossible) to have it both ways, and yet people still try. The business argument (which, mind you, has merit!) is that the business needs to make sales in order to keep the lights on. The community argument is that by spending time engaging with the people who might be future customers (aka the people helping us keep the lights on), we gain their trust and eventually their advocacy.
This week we dive into that dichotomy head-first. Product or person - which takes priority? Metrics or members - which one should we focus on? This is the classic question for any DevRel team trying to make a business case for the value of their work.
I usually try to refrain from promoting my own materials too much through this newsletter, but this week it's far too relevant to avoid, and also, I'm too excited to not highlight the heck out of this:
The Business Value of Developer Relations: How and Why Technical Communities Are Key To Your Success by Mary Thengvall, coming soon to a bookstore near you!
It's available for preorder now and I believe an ebook version is on its way too, but I'm confirming that with my editor. This book has been a labor of love, as many of you know, and I'm so excited to see it finally seeing the light of day! Thanks to all of you who have been a part of it, either via case studies, reviews, or promotion. There's more to come! 🙌❤️
Have a great week!
What defines a community? The people.
A community is made up of people and relationships. Not content. Not platforms/places. Not transactions. All those things can happen IN a community but do not define it.
Community Onboarding Done Right
Great community onboarding:
- makes new members feel welcome and comfortable
- makes specific, simple asks
- does not overwhelm with asks and too much information
- has multiple touch points over time using more than just email
- conveys the culture and voice of the community
It's all about the empathy
“If you are working with people, and you can’t get into their headspace and figure out what it is that’s motivating them, what their needs are, what they’re struggling with, then you’re never really going to be an adequate community pro.” -Lindsay Starke
Befriend your Competition... No, Really.
Adam Jacob, CTO and Co-Founder of Chef, tweeted this yesterday:
Startup friends: it’s hard to do, but you need to learn how to largely ignore your competitors, and if possible, figure out how to care about their success. You’ll win or loose by what you build and the customers you serve, not on some philosophical debate field. Play your game.
This is a hard concept to understand if you're not in it for the community. But those of us in this space know in our hearts that the phrase "you win or lose by what you build and the customers you serve" is essential to the future success of the company. If you focus on your customers' needs, you'll drive the entire industry forward which will, in turn, increase the value of your business.
Purpose Versus Product
This piece by Dan Servantes rings true in so many ways for me and I'm guessing it will for you as well. Here's his main premise:
...communities do not arise out of products. No matter how much anyone enjoys using their Swiffer, you will not find a community that exists to extol the virtues of Swiffers. Rather, communities form around shared interests — in other words, a Purpose.
Even Apple, with their fan base, doesn't have a community around their products -- think about when a new Apple product comes out: the fans jump all over it. They've built a community not around the iPhone, but around creativity. Innovation. Purpose.
Going with the Grain
I've never thought about woodworking as an analogy for DevRel, but this article by Simon Phipps won me over this week. He comments that "going against the grain" of what your community is looking for or expecting from you can’t always be avoided. As he says,
But choosing to go with the grain rather than against it will help immensely. The key to successful community engagement is to go with the grain of the community, rather than fighting needlessly against it.
Should You Chase Engagement Or Chase Value From A Community? (it’s complicated)
Yes, we need to measure engagement, but how do you balance that with providing value to (and getting value out of) a community? Feverbee breaks it down in this article:
...[E]ngagement itself isn’t bad. The problem is when:
a) You align your efforts to drive the most engagement.
b) Engagement is all your colleagues understand about building community.
If everyone understands driving engagement is part of a stepping stone to driving clear results, you can avoid the engagement trap.
The GDPR and Developer Relations
Struggling to understand how Europe’s new data protection law applies to Developer Relations? Matthew Revell breaks it down in this blogpost.
Strategic analytics should be architected around people.
The Community Roundtable digs deep into what we as community professionals need from community platform vendors these days (hint: it's not more metrics around pageviews and impressions). This quote brings it home for me:
Analytics, metrics, and dashboards deserve attention because they’re critical to prioritize community investment. This is true for both community program owners and vendors. Strategic behavioral data would help vendors priorities the right product development, help them market and sell, and help their clients be successful, renewing their platform license. When the platform vendors do analytics right, their value will be self-evident.
Two 5-Minute Ways to Decide if Event Technology Fits Your Needs
Putting on a conference and looking for the best event technology? With so many options out there, it's hard to decide which is the best for you. Tito breaks it down for you in this awesomely vendor-agnostic blogpost. Be sure to check it out before your next conference -- the spreadsheets and checklists are paramount to making an informed decision.
The Twelve C’s of Developer Relations
Trying to help someone understand the basics of community building and DevRel? Send them over to this article from Evan's Data Corporation. While a bit high-level and slightly biased toward the segment of DevRel with strictly developer backgrounds, it's a good overview of the value we can provide to both our communities and our companies.
What are our core members getting out of the community?
Saying goodbye to a community is never easy, but it's a reality we all have to face at times. In this article from Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré we hear about the demise of Inbound.org from the inside. She recalls an interesting observation from former General Manager Ed Fry:
[Ed] says he saw the writing on the wall when founding members stopped being “weekly active users.” This, incidentally, is something all of us community builders — who are busily recruiting thought leaders — have to consider. What are those thought leaders getting out of the community?
If we aren't continually providing value and engaging our core community members, why are they sticking around? It's our job to make sure they're getting as much value out of it as they're putting in, or else the scales are tipped and people are likely to leave.
Customer-Centric? Employee-Centric? How About a People-Centric Culture
As companies start to shift from a product-centric approach, they're struggling with being customer-centric or employee-centric, and running into all of the roadblocks around how that applies to different circumstances and situations.
This article from CMSWire hits the nail on the head:
Let’s focus on making companies more people-centric rather than profit-centric. Yes, companies must make money, but there’s a better way of doing it that benefits all constituencies involved.
Sound familiar? 🤔😅
One from the Archives 📰
At the end of the day, we all know that we need to invest in the people, which will then result in an investment in the product, which will drive the business. But we're also required to show the corresponding business value. This is where one of my favorite posts about DevRel comes into play. Tyler Brooks, Founder of Analytive, draws an analogy between measuring the effort it took to create a relationship with a good friend and trying to get our hands around measuring community relationships.
We don’t go up to a friend and say, “Well, it took me a cumulative sixty-eight hours of conversation, sixteen cups of coffee, and a birthday cake to go from being an acquaintance to a close friend (as defined by the discovery of common ground and the mutual exchange of confidences). However, I have derived 1.21 gigawatts of emotional satisfaction, three new friends, eight book recommendations, and three homemade dinners in return. Also, if I hadn’t been at your house eating one of those dinners, I would instead have been on the freeway during the thirteen car pile-up last month.”
It just doesn’t work like that.
So we can’t really measure relationships, however we can most certainly measure engagement. Engagement, especially positive engagement, can be a great indicator of relationships – their number, their depth, their add-on benefits. In short, measuring engagement is probably the closest you can get to measuring relationships.
The key is to put the relationship first and the measurement second. In doing this, we ensure that the connections are sincere and the engagement continues long after the first time the individual sees your company logo.
Call For Sessions - Community Leadership Summit
Jono and the rest of the CLS crew is trying something new this year and asking for submissions for open spaces at the Community Leadership Summit. Got a topic you'd like to lead a discussion on? The deadline closes May 14th.
DevRel Israel Meetup
Based in Israel and looking for a regular DevRel meetup? Get involved with the brand-new Developer Relations Tech Evangelism Israel meetup.
Developer Relations Events
Here's an event, there's an event... where are you going next? Know of a community-related event that should be on here and isn't? Drop me a line!. Additionally, reach out if you're going to be at DevXCon in a few short weeks -- I'd love to meet you in person.
Developer Relations Jobs
Thanks to all of you who have let me know that this list is useful for you -- it means a lot to me that it's beneficial to your job search! As always, if you see a job that's no longer available or hear of one that doesn't appear to be listed, feel free to reach out. Happy job hunting!
Developer Avocados 🥑
Relationships are Kind of Like Avocados
I took a chance this week and googled "relationship with avocado" when putting together the newsletter. I had no idea what I would find, but I definitely didn't expect this gem:
The best ones are a dime a dozen, but when you have a good one you sure do appreciate it.
We who do Developer Relations know this best of all: that 10th person that you meet after a particularly long day of conferencing just might wind up being the connection that changes the entire trajectory of your company. Now to cultivate that relationship and communicate the story back to your stakeholders. Let's do this! 🥑