As Developer Relations professionals, we're one of the only departments (or individuals) whose job revolves solely around the community. We have the community's best interests at heart, 100% of the time. But often, we forget that having the community's best interests at heart requires us to interact with all of our coworkers as well. In order to best serve our community, we must be constantly working and communicating with Product, Marketing, Engineering, and yes... even Sales! We hold the unique (and sometimes overwhelming) responsibility of not only being advocates, but translators, mediators, representatives, ambassadors, and liaisons.
But what does that look like on a practical basis? After all, we can't be chasing down every fire, but we do need to understand other's perspectives. We also need to hold our ground and ask the right questions, even when it's hard. We need to know what our main principles are when building a community so that we always have a touchstone to return to when things get confusing. And we need to be consistent, both internally and externally, because we need to build trust if we're going to be successful at our jobs.
These are all difficult lines to walk, but don't forget that we're all in this together. Reach out if you need a reminder of that, or to share your weekly high (or low). Hang in there, friends. Remember that you're awesome and that you're not alone, and give yourself a little grace when the hiccups come, as they always do.
Walk a Mile
When running a company or community, you always have more information, context, and understanding of the personalities involved. Your critics don't. Put your brain in "incognito mode" and in their shoes. See what they see and over-communicate: perception risks will be reduced.
Find a Community
There is so much great conversation happening online in smaller, well-managed online communities. It can be very easy to think Facebook, Twitter or YouTube comments represent online discourse, but they only represent generic, loud, unfocused communication. Find a community. When my faith in the internet needs restoring, or I think we've finally teetered over the edge in a way we may not be able to return from, I need only look at a small, well-moderated community and then, it's attainable again. I've done it, we've done it. It can be done.
Private vs. Public
According to my friends' estimates, 43% of Facebook activity and engagement is in private or hidden groups. That has got to be dramatically changing business priorities and emphasis at Facebook.
It's Our Job to Design the Fire Department
One of the hardest parts of focusing on strategy is seeing all the little fires you want to put out but knowing that instead, you need to be designing the fire department.
Accessibility in the Social World
Access to social media platforms is something that we don’t think twice about. We simply log on, like, share, and post. But what if you have accessibility problems?
In this practical article, Erin Tierney walks through ways to make sure your social media accounts are not only engaging but accessible to all of your community members.
How to get developer relations right for your company
Matt Asay gave a fantastic talk at DevXcon last week. In fact, his was one of my favorites, not because it delved into the latest and greatest tools, but because it went back to the basics of why we do what we do, and how we do it successfully. You don't start with tools or even a hire -- you start with asking questions like "Who is our audience?" and "Why is that the community we're going after?" Only by answering those questions can you begin to build a strategy around DevRel that will be successful at your unique company.
He gives a great summary of his talk in this Tech Republic article that should be mandatory reading for anyone looking to venture into DevRel at their company.
News Flash: AI is Not a Community Management Strategy
Derek Powazek wrote up a powerful statement this week on what is (and isn't) community management, and what it actually involves. Rather than summarize, I'm simply going to give you a TL;DR from his post (but trust me... it's worth clicking through to read the full piece!).
Anyone who’s ever managed a community knows how complicated people are. A reasonable community member can suddenly have a bad day. Sometimes things that look like bad contributions are honest mistakes. Other times things that look reasonable to a bystander are known to be abusive to the sender and recipient... Point is, we’re complicated critters.
Of course humans need tools to help manage community. I’ve built systems to do this. And, sure, machine learning can be part of that. But I fear the leaders of Twitter and Facebook are depending too much on technology (again), and overlooking the kinds of systems that are great at this kind of empathetic flexible pattern recognition: humans.
...Thus far, [their communities have] been for everyone and everything. It’s time to rethink that. While there’s a community for everyone, not everyone is welcome in every community, and that’s okay. That’s how communities work.
You can’t create a system for everyone, where everything goes, not communicate the rules, not design for community, and then say it’s just too hard to protect everyone. This end state is the outcome of all of those decisions. And AI is not going to be the patch that fixes all the bugs.
Gather Community Newsletter from Carrie Jones
If you've been reading my newsletter faithfully, you know that I have a great deal of respect for Carrie Jones, who just recently launched a newsletter herself! While mine is links- and news-driven, hers is more conversation-driven, and I think you'll find a lot of value in it. If you're a community professional, I'd encourage you to read the first issue and subscribe today!
Consistency creates trust
Fabian Pfortmüller nails it with this recent article. So many communities struggle with this "rollercoaster" of highs and lows. How many of us have had to write messages like "So sorry it's been so quiet, but here's this awesome thing coming soon!" and then we disappear again for a few more months? ✋As Fabian says,
Consistency matters, because it affects how members assess the future of the group.
In short, small, consistent communication is far better than the occasional awesome surprise.
Another name for community manager could be relationship manager. After all, we're often connecting, moderating, and influencing relationships among community members. But how often do we also connect, moderate, and influence relationships internal to our organizations? This article from Community By Association talks about how to navigate interdepartmental relationships just as smoothly as you do community ones, which is likely a skill all of us could use to improve.
Does Nadella have a Community-Driven strategy?
It's fairly obvious based on last week's acquisition that Microsoft is a different company than they used to be. Under the direction of Satya Nadella for the last four years, it's become clear that Nadella's main focus is not just developers, but developer communities, and it seems to be working for him. No matter how you feel about the Github acquisition, it should be a feather in our caps -- something that excites us as community and DevRel professionals. After all, if Microsoft can justify the business value of community to the tune of $7.5 billion, that should help pave the way for us to justify a $3000 event sponsorship.
The Cross-Functional Impact of Communities
The Community Roundtable gives us one more reason why it's crucial for us as community professionals to build relationships internally at our companies as well as externally: we can engage people across departments and deliver value by making connections between our coworkers, just like we connect those in our communities.
In this article, they dive into all of the different functions that Community Management can serve within a company.
How to Build a Community (the right way)
I'm always hesitant to believe in something that says it's "the right way" -- largely because I believe there's more than one "right way" for most things. That being said, this article from Babble founder Juyan Azhang is fairly spot on! Here are the 7 principles he says are necessary in order to build a successful community.
What else would you add to the list? Hit reply to let me know, or leave a comment for him to take part in the conversation.
How to organize your community conference
I've been poring over this three-part series on community conferences this week (start with Part 1) as we're 2 months out from REdeploy and things are ramping up!
Nicola Corti walks through how to choose a venue, what needs to go in the CFP, how to ask for help, setting up a website and schedule, and more. If you're planning a conference (and aren't a whiz at event planning from top to bottom), this is an incredible resource!
Interdepartmental Dynamics, Team Relationships, and Communication. Oh My!
Teamwork and inter-departmental communication can be a tricky subject when it comes to Developer Relations. Figuring out where your job starts and ends and overlaps with 5 other roles throughout the company isn't an easy position to be in! In the latest episode of Community Pulse, PJ, Jason, and I sat down with Greg Bulmash and J. Paul Reed to talk about team dynamics, communication, maintaining good relationships, and more. Check it out wherever you listen to podcasts and then head over to communitypulse.io to check out the show notes.
How Thick Data Helps You Build Emotional Connections With Customers
I almost skipped past this article when I read the headline... to be honest, "thick data" and "emotional connections" don't tend to go together in my mind, but as I started reading, it made more sense.
I find that numbers alone (the quantitative data) are not enough for understanding what makes your customers tick. To understand the whys behind your customer’s actions, you need to have thick data.*
*Thick data (for those, like me, who aren't familiar with the term) is data related to qualitative aspects of human experience and behavior, particularly when used as context for the analysis of a large data set.
I found their need for flexibility in research particularly interesting as well, given how often we emphasize flexibility with regard to pulling levers and testing hypotheses in DevRel:
Gathering and leveraging thick data takes work. But combining it with experimentation can lead to incredible results that compound over time to build a deep emotional connection with your customers.
Now that sounds like community building to me...
After Pulse: Imposter Syndrome
Community Pulse introduced a new series this week: After Pulse. These short segments recorded immediately after the long-form episodes feature Jason Hand, PJ Hagerty, and Yours Truly chatting about the topic at hand and recapping the conversations we just had with our guests. Check out the first one on Imposter Syndrome on your favorite podcasting app or on our website, then hit reply and let me know what you think!
Developer Programs Engineer — Say What!?
Just when we thought we were done trying to figure out all of the different titles (or at least had a better handle on them), Google went and introduced a new one. Franziska Hinkelmann explains what her new title means in a recent Medium post.
REdeploy CFP closes June 15
Interested in how we can make our teams, organizations, and people more resilient? I am too! The CFP for REdeploy 2018 closes at 11:59pm PDT June 15th -- don't forget to submit your ideas. I'm excited to talk through these conversations with all of you!
Developer Relations Events
We've got events happening all around the world in these upcoming weeks! From Italy to Japan, New Zealand to Portland, you've got your pick to choose from, no matter where you live (there are online events as well!). Drop me a line if you're going to be at Community Leadership Summit or REdeploy in particular -- I'd love to meet you in person!
Acing Your Next Community Job Search – Community Signal
If you're looking for a job in DevRel, you'll want to check out the latest episode of Community Signal from Patrick O'Keefe. He talks to Maria Ogneva, Director of Online Customer Experience and Community at FinancialForce about:
- Breaking the work of community into small, manageable tasks
- Approaching your job hunt from a place of empowerment
- How to always be prepared for your next big opportunity
- Tooting your own horn (that’s talking about your accomplishments)
Developer Relations Jobs
I spent a fair amount of time this week updating the collection of job listings -- removing duplicates and old listings, as well as adding a whole slew of new ones! Take a look and let me know if you have any questions or know of any other open jobs to add. Happy hunting!
Developer Avocados 🥑
The World Avocado Organization (no, I'm not kidding)
As I mentioned in the intro to this week's newsletter, DevRel professionals are the negotiators, moderators, and advocates of the technical world. Likewise, the World Avocado Organization (WAO) represents, consults, and advocates on behalf of more than 120 leaders in avocado produce, export, and import. Their mission? Fuel the demand for avocados and educate about the avocado's dietary value... or in other terms, respond to the needs of the community.