Everything you need to know about developer communities and how to approach them.
One of the main reasons I’ve been inspired to publish again is the lack of quality developer-focused marketing content. Developer marketing is my bread and butter and when, or maybe I should say if you figure it out, it’s an incredibly enjoyable audience to interact with. That being said, it’s an uphill battle. Developer audiences require you to have a deep understanding of the technologies that matter to them, emerging trends, communication styles, niche interests, and of course the communities where they spend their time. In this post, I want to introduce you to the less-known online developer communities.
Why are they all forums?
Please note, I’m not sharing this information so that you can SPAM developers audiences more efficiently. When it comes to developer communities, your impact is predicated on the value you can provide. This is one of the main reasons why developer communities are almost always built on forum-style platforms.
Developers are problem solvers. They take the time to engineer and craft solutions in methodical and thorough ways and they are constantly looking for better, faster, more secure ways to do their job. In addition, they value the distribution of knowledge, and are open to sharing and seeking knowledge from their peers. Forums are the most logical way to support this type of interactive community.
How do you interact?
Every community is slightly different, but they all have one thing in common, authority rankings based on the value provided overtime. As users interact, they gain klout with the communities which are usually displayed in their profiles and impacts how their posts or comments get ranked. The more positive interactions that a user has, the more visibility and weight they carry in a community.
Building klout is all about engagement. Users who try to game the system or spam the community are easily identified and weeded out. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t bring value to your developer marketing strategy. Marketers should keep an eye on forums and identify conversations and topics where they or their team can bring a level of expertise to the conversation. Forums are also valuable for keeping a pulse on the technology trends and challenges that developers are currently working on.
When you do engage, make sure that you’re comments are unbiased. Try to point users to open source projects that can solve meet their needs and try to acknowledge the solutions provided by other participants in the thread. As always, you will find individuals who are aggressive on threads, it’s usually better to just ignore their comments and let the community mods engage with them if needed. The final piece of advice I’ll give you is to try and truly become part of the community, faking it until you make it is not an option and if your intentions are not genuine people will know.
Did I mention there are a few of them?
A quick Google will reveal that there is no shortage of developer communities, Reddit, Hacker News, Stack Overflow, and GitHub are arguably the most popular, but those are just scratching the surface. Below are a handful of communities that are usually overlooked because they don’t advertise themselves or are just getting started. I would encourage you to pick one or two communities and focus the majority of your time there.
Lobsters is a Hacker News style forum with a few key differences that make it a unique place. First, Lobsters is an invitation-only community. You have to know someone to get an invite or ask for one on their IRC. Second, Lobsters has a ‘hat’ feature that lets members verify their profiles to earn a hat. Hats indicate a level of authority on a topic which allows a member to speak on behalf of a project, organization, or company.
Slashdot is a forum-based community that is relatively unknown. Unlike the rest of these communities, Slashdot was founded during the Dotcom era and is still going strong. It’s a highly technical community with strong mods. This community is unique because of the ability to filter comments by type: Insightful, Informative, Interesting, and Funny. This limits thread clutter and allows users to engage with content in their preferred way.
Hashnode is an up-and-coming developer community picking up a ton of steam. It was birthed out of the desire for developers to have a place to start a conversation and get quality and most importantly friendly responses. Hashnode is more than just a forum, it features QAs, AMAs, submitted stories and a blogging platform. Unique to Hashnoed, they feature an open ranking system based on how helpful a user is.
Dev.to is another up-and-coming community. Dev.to focuses on providing a place for developers to advance their careers by asking questions. Dev.to is based around a #tagging system that allows you to personalize your experience. It’s almost like Sub-Reddits, but not quite as separate. Dev.to was clearly designed to appeal to the next generation of developers with an almost GitHuby feel.
CodeProject is another online forum for developers. It’s one of the larger communities, boasting over 14 million members. CodeProject focuses on long-form technical content and is not specific to a language, framework, or role. CodeProject feels like a combination of Reddit and Stack Overflow but without some of the more hostile tendencies.