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Developer Relations and Content — One Size Doesn’t Fit All

There’s perhaps nothing more important than providing quality content when it comes to establishing and maintaining a trusting relationship with your developers. Read on for the key takeaways from ContentLab’s webinar with DevRel expert, Caroline Lewko, and senior developer/content strategist, Peter White.

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Building a healthy partnership with developers is key to growing a successful business in today’s digital landscape. This is where developer relations (DevRel) come in. DevRel is a catch-all term for the strategies and processes to nurture the symbiotic relationship between developers and organizations.

Currently, one of the biggest parts of DevRel is content. On the surface, most of us know that already. After all, content gets attention.

But just knowing the concept is different than actually implementing it. When utilizing content to engage with developers, the real questions start to surface. How does content contribute to your DevRel initiatives and help you achieve company goals? How can DevRel practitioners use content to support their communities?

ContentLab decided to host a webinar to ask two seasoned experts — Caroline Lewko and Peter White — those exact questions.

Caroline is the author of Developer Relations: How to build and grow a successful developer program and the founder and CEO of DevRel agency Revere Communications. There, she works with companies of all sizes to train and mentor the next generation of DevRel leaders.

Peter White is a senior developer with over 15 years of development experience. Now, he offers his hands-on expertise and know-how to ContentLab as a content strategist, helping tech enterprises create meaningful and useful content.

Ready to use content in your DevRel strategy to attract and retain your developers? Read on for a recap of all the insightful gems.

Why Content Is Crucial for Developer Relations

Content comes in many shapes and forms, including everything from blogs to webinars to documentation to feature tutorials. Basically, content is anything showcasing information with the goal of driving awareness and securing developer engagement.

According to Revere’s ninth State of Developer Relations report, DevRel practitioners spend 58.2% of their day-to-day on content development, regardless of their role or seniority.

“We [DevRel practitioners] live and breathe content,” Caroline confirmed.

Content is the thread that ties together and supports successful DevRel initiatives. From developer education and marketing to sales and building community, content is key to transitioning smoothly between stages. In fact, 57.1% of DevRels agree that content marketing is one of the most effective methods of developer outreach.

Furthermore, creating engaging content to capture the attention of developers worldwide is critical due to globalization and the rise of online connectivity. This article will touch more on this point below in the accessibility section below.

What Types of Content Do Developers Like?

Developers aren’t typically fans of direct marketing and content filled with fluffy promises and sales tactics tends to fall flat. To avoid annoying your technical audience, you must be cognizant of the type of content you publish.

Developers often learn on the job. Documentation and tutorials are a huge part of that. They’re a curious bunch, so providing content with educational value will help build trust with this audience.

To be even more specific, Caroline recommended that “80% of content should be feature-driven.” This means your blog or video (or whatever medium you choose) should answer questions such as: What is this product? What can I, as a developer, do with it? What languages do I need to know? What are the dependencies?

Common Content Struggles in DevRel and Their Solutions

Okay, we know that content is important to DevRel. But now comes the reality of making and publishing those attention-grabbing, interest-retaining, awe-inspiring pieces.

Yes, there are some challenges regarding content, but there are also proven strategies to help you through them.

Here are three common content struggles and their solutions.

Quality Content Creation

Scaling and producing high-quality content isn’t easy! Developers are smart people, so content without substance won’t cut it.

As Peter emphasized, writers of technical content “need to be able to speak the language.” This means knowing the appropriate technical terminologies, jargon, languages, and all that jazz.

So, who should be writing these for you? Often, marketing teams don’t have the technical knowledge. And many developers aren’t comfortable with creative writing, or even if they are, they’re often busy. To top that off, most DevRel teams in startups and small companies are currently very small as they’re just starting to get on the content bandwagon.

This means even fewer people who “speak the language.” And the truth is, nobody — not even the most experienced developer — can know it all. So even if you have really smart folks on your team (and we don’t doubt that for a second), you might still need extra help to reach a broader audience.

Solution: Dedicate Resources for Content Creation

To produce quality content consistently, you must dedicate resources specifically to this goal.

This could mean expanding your in-house DevRel team, a fact highly recommended by Caroline. And we agree! Permanent writers and content creators on your team who know your product and business inside and out will definitely improve your content quality.

However, if you’re not ready yet to budget for more full-time employees, you can get the ball rolling with external help. This is also a very popular strategy. In fact, according to Revere’s report, 36.2% of DevRel practitioners use external contributors to help with content production.

External help could come in many forms. You can hire one-off freelancers specializing in a unique topic you want to cover. You can build and manage a roster of trusted tech writers and editors. Or, you can work with content creation companies (such as ContentLab) offering a roster of hundreds of authors and experts with different specialties, a team of experienced editors, and strategists to help with your content calendar.

Continuous Content Creation

Quality aside, maintaining good developer relationships also requires continuous content. It’s one thing to be a one-hit-wonder and another to be a consistent and trusted source. Both have their perks, but the latter will help you scale.

According to the Revere report, 41.8% of DevRels name continuous content creation as their biggest challenge due to many reasons. First and foremost, even DevRel expert Caroline admitted that “DevRel is vigorous.” You must be consistent and need good ideas. Then, you need to actually take those good ideas and make good content out of them. And speaking of ideas — idea generation is hard.

So, what can you do if you only have a handful of good ideas?

Solution: Build a Repurposing Plan

One of the best ways to make the most out of your content is to build a distribution and repurposing plan.

Consider the following:

  • Where can you syndicate? Can you post your content on different sites to reach more people?
  • Can you repurpose your blogs into podcasts, videos, or educational courses?

It’s not just about reusing old content to make life easier for you. A well-thought-out repurposing and distribution plan also supports inclusivity within communities and uplifts audiences as a whole. Keep in mind that different people learn differently and developers are no exception. Some read blogs, some watch videos, some skim through infographics, and some learn by doing. By showcasing your content on various sites and in different forms, you’re growing your community while putting out consistent content — a win-win.

Audience Connection

Some of the most common faux pas Caroline and Peter see in DevRel are when writers create content without a solid audience in mind and when they’re just marketing jargon. When this happens, the content doesn’t land. It’s also just out there — floating in the ether without capturing developer attention.

We don’t want that for you or your content. So, what can you do?

Solution: Get to Know Your Audience

You must know who you’re creating content for before you can create anything. While this sounds obvious, there are some key details to keep in mind.

First, stop assuming. Mistake number one is assuming who your audiences are without actually looking into them. Developers aren’t one-size-fits-all. They have unique use cases and skills and familiarities with different languages. They also have different goals depending on which teams they’re on.

Do your research by surveying your current customers or distribute polls via social media or email. You can also look into published reports and surveys by big tech companies specializing in building products for your target audience. Get to know who your audience is, what they can do, and what they want to do.

Once you know where your audiences are and how they consume content, you can start creating the pieces that will capture their attention. This could mean creating different editions of tutorials to feature various programming languages or translating blogs into videos or podcasts. Once you know who you’re talking to, you’ll be on your way to building solid relationships.

Solution: The Developer Journey Map

Another thing to remember is that developers in different stages of their buying journey are interested in different types of content. The Developer Journey Map (from Caroline’s DevRel book Developer Relations: How to build and grow a successful developer program) is a helpful tool. Use it to avoid content pitfalls, consider all the touchpoints of the journey, and create content for each.

Content is more than just blogs and introductory videos. Developers aren’t regular customers. Once they discover you, they want to learn more. Creating high-level overview pieces aside, keeping your newly acquired audience means providing tangible educational content. These include starting guides and detailed documentation on how to use your products.

This journey map can help you figure out your content weak spots. You can perform friction logs by getting outside developers to test how many steps it takes before they click “buy” or if they can at all. You can also watch for drop-offs by examining where developers give up along this journey. That’s where you’ll want to create better content.

If you can’t figure all of this out (or simply don’t have the time), you can always an external content marketing and creation company for help.

The Importance of Accessibility

No matter how good your content is, it won’t do much unless it reaches your target audience. Let’s talk about accessibility.

Humans are diverse in their learning styles, abilities, and preferences. They’re also at different stages of their career, with different use cases and goals. And logistically, developers are scattered around the globe. Many speak various languages, live in different time zones, and have varying access to technology due to location or financial barriers.

The best way to reach a wider audience is to work a distribution and repurposing plan into your content strategy — not as an afterthought. Repurposing content goes beyond keeping your content calendar filled. It also aids inclusion. After writing your blog or documentation, the next step involves considering how to make it more accessible to your community. That involves repurposing (reformatting or editing) what you already have.

Here are aspects of inclusion to consider and suggestions for making your content more accessible.

Neurodiversity

According to Stack Overflow’s 2022 Developer Survey, 22% of developers identify as neurodiverse.

The brilliant part of neurodiversity is that humans naturally see things differently. New innovation and ways of being emerge from different points of view. You can reach more people by reformatting your content into various styles.

Here are some ways to make your content more engaging and accessible:

  • Adapt your blogs into colorful infographics.
  • Make a video version of your tutorials.
  • Use different fonts to break up large chunks of monotonous text.

Don’t feel stuck if you’ve run out of ideas. Remember earlier, when we mentioned the importance of getting to know your audience? Don’t be afraid to ask (or at least do extra research on) what kind of content your developers prefer!

Use Cases and Goals

Every developer is on different levels of their journey. They have different degrees of experience and education, are at different stages of decision-making, and have different use cases and goals depending on their projects.

While knowing which audiences you want to reach, consider diversifying your content to reach more than one group (if you so wish).

You don’t need to have content for every developer in existence — not even big companies can achieve that. But diversity still exists regardless of how niche your audience pool is.

Here are some ideas to repurpose your content for different use cases:

  • Simplify intermediate documentation into “quick-start” guides.
  • Highlight business values and potentials (on top of all the technical details) for the less tech-focused decision-makers.
  • Publish tutorials in various coding languages, if applicable.

Globalization

Developers are located worldwide, meaning different languages, technological accessibility, and time zones.

Luckily, there are many ways you can repurpose your content to go international:

  • Film in-person events and presentations and put them online.
  • Add captions to your videos in different languages.
  • Branch out and publish your content on different websites (research what’s accessible to the developers you want to reach).

Your quality content is only as good as the audience it can reach. While it’s a good idea to have a target audience in mind, there’s no one-size-fits-all, even in your niche.

The Future of Content in Developer Relations

As more businesses change their approach to content creation, the future of DevRel is looking very bright and exciting. Here are of Caroline and Peter’s predictions regarding what might be coming:

  • More interactive content
  • Clearer and easier to access information
  • More inclusivity and available formats
  • Better housekeeping of all docs and consistent auditing and updating
  • Better audience alignment and participation

The core of DevRel is clear communication and authentic relationships with the developers in your community. Remember that developers are people, and with that comes diversity in thought, abilities, skillsets, and goals. And as technology continues to evolve, so will DevRel and the content to support it.

Key Takeaways

TL; DR? You’re busy, we get it. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Content creation is important. In fact, DevRel practitioners dedicate 58.2% of their day-to-day to content development.
  • Content is the thread that ties together and supports successful DevRel initiatives. From developer education and marketing to sales and building community, content is the key to transitioning smoothly between the stages.
  • Every big company invests in content to build and maintain communities.
  • Content helps developers succeed.
  • DevRel is more than just driving awareness. It’s also about helping developers learn.
  • Maintain a consistent content calendar and build your community by making a distribution and repurposing plan.
  • Research your audience so you know who you’re actually talking to.
  • Check the Developer Journey Map to pinpoint your content weak spots.
  • Developers are diverse in their learning styles, goals, and locations. Repurposing your content also enables accessibility and inclusivity.
  • Content will continue to evolve alongside technology. This means a future filled with higher quality and more accessible content.
ContentLab
ContentLab
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