Qualitative data can prove to be elusive but is incredibly meaningful if used in the right way. From communicating data in stories to [listening and observing] what's happening with your community before making a change to the way you run your systems, learning how to communicate our value in ways that others throughout the company will understand is crucial to the future of DevRel in your company.
Keep moving forward, friends. Keep (kindly) pointing out things that could be done differently to better serve your community. Keep (humbly) educating your colleagues about the topics you're researching and new lessons you're learning from the community. Keep proving your value through the stories you tell and the connections you make.
And as always, if you need a listening ear or a rubber duck, feel free to reach out.
We're the Connectors
Community managers don't stand in the middle between customers and business, they are the connector!
-Denise Henkel, quoting David Spinks
The heart of DevRel
Genuinely caring about developers and their experience is the heart of #devrel.
A Company's Hierarchy of Needs
Tough love from David Spinks:
Companies also have a hierarchy of needs.
Capital = basic need.
Without it, it will die.
Community tends to be an emotional need. Important, but not life-or-death.
So companies will only invest in community if basic needs are met or community can drive capital.
Community starts with us
Some teams simply aren't culturally ready for building community... They are not yet comfortable with being unscripted or unpolished in public… Perhaps they have low pride or engagement amongst their own team. Sometimes, the most impactful place to start with community is with yourselves.
-Fabian Pfortmüller, via Loyal.is
From Broadcasting to Engagement
I frequently get asked what the difference is between communication and community, and this article sums it up nicely. Dennis Shiao describes how he used Twitter as a broadcasting channel when it first came out, even going so far as to intentionally DM someone when they asked him a question publicly because he wanted to make sure that his profile was full of valuable content. The biggest difference between communication and community? Broadcasting vs. engaging. In one, you're simply pushing out content... talking to your audience rather than with them. In the latter, you're actively interacting -- finding out what content is valuable to them and how you can better help them -- and growing a community organically as a result.
Our Identity is Formed through Communication with Others
Bailey Richardson of People & Company made some interesting observations in this article. From the fact that we actually gain individuality by joining groups to how violence is the opposite of community, she weaves a fantastic story about who we are and how we discover our identities.
People feel they deepen their individuality through the groups they join instead of lose it. We choose to be around people that share our interests, values, and parts of our own identity in order to explore and underscore those things for ourselves.
Building A Developer Community
Props to Ada Nduka Oyom for stepping up and providing a getting started resource for building developer communities! She is spot on with most of these suggestions and I particularly like the section on building up leaders within your community:
Getting specific members to play lead roles helps keep the community more focused and together... [It also] drives more confidence and creates more trust into the rest of the developers as these leaders tend to understand their needs more and can relate to their technical situations.
How Facebook Binds—and Shatters—Communities
This WIRED article is a fascinating look at the narrative that Facebook has told (and continues to tell) anyone who will listen: "We are building communities." For some, that may be true -- Facebook is a way to keep in touch with far-flung friends and acquaintances. But how much of that is simply a story we tell ourselves as well -- a facade that makes social media an easier place to exist? What stories are we telling ourselves about our engagement on Facebook, with our friends or colleagues, in groups or on business pages?
Developer Advocate Arms Race
I'm sure you've noticed over the last 12 months as the Microsofts, Googles, and Amazons of the world have picked off one developer advocate after another. It's no secret that, as Chris Aniszczyk points out, there's an "arms race" in Developer Relations. After all, there are only so many unicorns in the world! So what happens now?
Mikeal Rogers continues the conversation on Twitter, pointing out the problem that many companies are hiring junior developers who can handle the heavy travel schedule and don't mind the inconsistent career path.
But here's the main crux for me:
If DevRel isn't seen as a valuable business entity, it won't get a seat at the table. But if they don't have a seat at the table, they're rarely permitted to demonstrate their true value.
This is a problem that I'm incredibly passionate about and am actively working to remedy. Who's with me?
Don't Base Your Brand Community on Hope: Research Matters
While asking for budget, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best results is certainly the less time-consuming way to go about building a community, it's definitely not the most successful way. Carrie Melissa Jones explores this topic in a recent article on CMS Wire:
There are two ways to build a brand community: ask for budget, cross your fingers and hope you’re gathering the right people in the right way; or research potential and existing members and leaders in your organization to find out exactly how a community can best serve the needs of both groups. The latter sounds tedious and time-consuming and, as a result, many people opt for the former... Community programs are notoriously complex, but you can avoid many mistakes by doing just a bit of research before you go all-in.
The Sense of Community You Nurture Will Outlive Your Platform
Rather than cajoling your community to join you on one platform or another, why don't you join them wherever they already are, and foster a sense of community? By creating the community first, you have the opportunity to influence change along the way, rather than insisting on change from the start.
As Richard Millington of Feverbee says,
You can gain better results from building a strong sense of community among members regardless of which platform they use. Hosting and managing a community platform can help you achieve your goals, but nowhere near as much as fostering a powerful sense of community.
Listen, Observe, and Adapt
The Hobo Hotel in Stockholm gets the concept of community-building better than some companies I've seen! We can learn some valuable lessons from this recent article about hotels that understand the benefit of opening up to their community.
The original mindset was that we would build a community as much as a hotel and that we should be truly connected to local life in Stockholm. This is something you can’t just do by writing some buzzwords in a presentation, we needed to be truly connected and to contribute something to get something back.
By investing in the local community that already exists, they've built up a brand for themselves that far exceeds that of a standard hotel. They've created a name for themselves by listening to their community's needs and providing a unique solution to their problems.
Stories of The Influencer Economy
In the latest episode of The Ryno Lab, Ryan Williams interviews CMX Co-Founder David Spinks. They talk through the 4 steps in community engagement as well as whether the community or the product should come first (spoiler: David says community).
Developer Relations Events
From the last of the Early Bird tickets to a diversity scholarship, you won't want to miss out on this collection of relevant DevRel events this week. Check them out and then be sure to let me know where you'll be -- I'd love to meet up in person!
Developer Relations Jobs
If you're on the look-out for a job, I did an overhaul of the Toby collection this week. I removed about 25 roles that have been filled and vetted a few others. If you know of other current openings, be sure to send them my way!
Developer Avocados 🥑
How the Super Bowl saved the avocado
Even the avocado uses data to tell stories and prove its value! In case you weren't aware, the avocado had its own PR firm in the 1990s, and a mascot -- Mr. Ripe Guy -- emerged. With the emergence of a social side to the Super Bowl in the 1990s, the avocado took its prominent place in the line of dips, and our lives will never be the same.