I enjoy mentoring IT Pros and acting as a sounding board for their ideas, thoughts, and opinions.
I often get asked, “How can I get into a technical marketing or a community manager role?” This usually comes from IT Pros who want to give back to a community that has helped them grow in their professional career. These roles are typically in the market organization.
Technical marketing work with sales teams, to develop marketing materials, do product demos and help customers and prospects understand the product. Whereas a community manager acts as a bridge between the organization (brand) and IT pros with similar interests. They engage with potential customers and build relationships with existing ones. I like to think of a community manager as a concierge between the organization and fans of the brand.
I probe a little deeper and ask, “Show me your body of online work” and often they have nothing to share, or they have an outdated blog, GitHub page, etc.
This is where I share lessons I’ve learned on how to impact a technical community. Many of the lessons are common sense, but when applied consistently can really make an impact. I encourage them to think long term. Consistent does not mean 1 - 3 months, it means a good 12-24 months. It doesn’t happen overnight.
You should think in terms of three categories:
- Information - What are others discussing
- Contribution – How can I help
- Creation - Teach what you know
Using this formula will showcase your body of work and spark interest in what you have to say.
Information - What are others discussing
In this stage, it’s about getting an understanding of what others are looking for in these types of roles. You do research and conduct an audit of the skills needed.
A community role might be a new area for you, I suggest browsing company career sections and find out what they are looking for in a community, technical marketing and developer relations role. Then you can do an audit of your skill to see where you match, or what you are missing, and where you need to gain some experience.
Join community newsletters, and find out what people are talking about, what language they used. Newsletters are also an excellent source of curated information from blogs that you may not have heard of. Newsletters are also a good signal to which people influence the creator of the newsletter and broader community. This is such a wonderful source of information and just think of this as your personal assistant collecting content for you each week.
Subscribe to podcasts, find out who folks like to interview and follow those thought leaders. Record and research links, best practices and books the host and guest are sharing. Sometimes the host will have a show notes page, with all the links mentioned in the podcast.
Subscribe and follow forums, discussion boards and people on social media where they talk about community, technical marketing and developer relations. There are Twitter lists you can leverage where folks have already collected people from these categories. Get a sense of what people are challenged with and figure out how, if you were presented with that challenge, how you would deal with it.
There is no real timeline for the information section, but I would suggest being stealthy and just follow and consume for 3-6 months. Or until you feel ready to move to the next stage.
Contribute - How can I help
Once you have a sense of the language, terms, and challenges, now is a good time to jump into conversations and leaving a footprint across multiple platforms. As your name surfaces, folks will take notice.
Comment on forum posts, share your thoughts and opinions. I also suggest that when you comment, be sure it moves the discussion along and be as helpful as possible. Always follow-up when you commit to get information for someone and do it publicly so people know they can count on you.
Start injecting yourself into Twitter threads and replying to folks who you follow on social platforms. Provide as much value as possible when sharing content. Don’t worry about Twitter follower numbers, it’s a vanity metric that is just a distraction. Remember, it’s about exposure and getting a role in the community, technical marketing and developer relations space.
He is a tip for Twitter, find out who the people you follow are following and start following some of those people. It can be inferred that they influence the people you follow.
Don’t be shy about contributing and as I mentioned in the Information stage that it may take 3-6 months before you have a good grasp of what is ahead of you. In the contribute stage I would suggest that it takes 6-9 months of adding your voice to the different platforms.
Creation - Tech what you know
Now it's time to flip the script and start creating content that will inform the people you are trying to reach. This is where the real fun starts, because you get to use your imagination and find creative ways to reach the audience you want to work for. It’s also in this stage where you get to experiment with different content channels and find the one that works best for you.
At this point you should have a blog, and all that work you invested upfront in this process will now pay off. Looking for topics to blog about, look back at newsletters, etc. and look at the data to find what was the most popular, what do you have a unique spin or opinion on? Need more ideas. Remember when you ask for what books the community reads, go to Amazon and look at the book online and review the comments, what are people saying - are there any ideas there? Look at the table of contents, take note of the chapter titles which can be blog posts. Any ideas there? Which posts on Reddit have been rated the highest - is that an idea for a blog post? There is no excuse to not start blogging, the ideas are right in front of you. But the secret here is to publish consistently. Don’t miss a week of publishing, as you will be surprised at the results.
Reach out to your favourite podcast and ask if you can be a guest and let them know you are a long-time listener. Share your thoughts on past podcast episodes. Pro tip here is to ensure you have a good mic, quality sound is what folks are expecting with podcasting and you want to let the podcaster know you take this seriously.
With podcasting, consider starting your own and inviting thought leaders from the community, technical marketing and developer relations space on the show. Publishing consistency is key here as with blogging.
In the era of COVID, join online meetups and become a panellist. This is great exposure, as the organizer will promote the meetup with your name. When we go back to in-person events, be sure to get to know as many people as possible, volunteer to help onsite, and give community presentations. Don’t be surprised if your social following grows.
Ask some of your favourite bloggers and industry sites (like TheNewStack), if you can do a guest blog, share some of your most popular blogs with them and always ask what they think their audience would like to read.
If you enjoy coding, make sure your GitHub page is updated and you have a consistent posting schedule. I had someone reach out to me once just based on my GitHub activity.
Consider writing an ebook and share it freely, start a YouTube or Twitch channel and create an online course. The possibilities are endless here to create content and share it freely.
The creation stage lasts forever, and it’s the stage that is the most work but will have the greatest payoff. But consistency is key here, don’t forget that.
Let’s review what you have created:
- Body of work for future employers to review and the community to benefit from
- You got exposure and more widely known in a space
- You created more interest in your work which can lead to opportunities
Remember, this doesn’t happen overnight and being authentic with the community is important. Keep your sights on the goal and the outcomes will surprise you.
Thanks for reading and if you have any tips to share, ping me on Twitter.