3 Ways Developer Advocates Can Improve Their Online Presence to Increase Engagement
There is no shortage of ways to be engaged in online developer communities. Many developer advocates keep profiles on multiple platforms in addition to their own personal site, and some will produce content for third-party publications, ranging from courses on egghead.io to articles on freeCodeCamp.
While developer advocates do a great job of promoting their efforts on social media, these platforms pose limitations on how new visitors can find and discover what you're working on. When you post a tweet, for example, a small segment of your total audience will see it in real-time, and if you post frequently, older important updates will get buried in your feed. Relevant social media posts are hard for people to find outside of a pinned Tweet or a link in your profile. Plus, it takes significant time and effort to surface the same information in the hopes all your followers see it. This is especially true for developer advocates who have an especially large and fragmented presence online.
In this post, you’ll discover how I started to improve my online presence by refining my story and identifying the actions I wanted followers to take. You’ll learn how to optimize your online presence to improve discoverability and engagement.
Step One: Add Calls to Action
A call to action is a relevant action or next step you want a reader to take in their journey after they’ve engaged with your content. You’ve seen calls to action before: on websites, they’re usually the big colorful buttons that say “Start Free”, “Try Now”, “Sign Up”. In blog posts, they may be a sentence at the end that asks you to subscribe to an email list or to read another relevant article.
Why are calls to action important for developer blogs and videos? Because they help you guide readers to the next step in their journey. You don’t need to be selling anything to craft a compelling call to action. You only need to take your readers somewhere that aligns with the goal of the article and what your reader will likely want to do, or learn, next.
Here are some examples of calls to action:
“Contribute to this project on GitHub”, if the blog post is about your open source project.
“Sign up for my newsletter about engineering management”, if the blog post includes tips about managing a remote engineering team.
“Share your thoughts with me on Twitter”, if you want people to engage with you and continue a conversation.
“Liked this article? Learn more about UX design basics for developers in this blog post”, if you want to take people to a relevant post you’ve written about a similar topic.
“Now that you set up your blog, learn how to deploy it to Netlify” if you wrote a post about setting up a Gatsby blog locally and want to show readers the next step: deployment.
Point people to things like official documentation and places to sign up or register for events and freebies. Show them an article on a similar topic, take them to a project you’ve created (or a case study), or use the CTA as an opportunity to start a conversation.
Don’t feel bad about not including CTAs in your blog posts. Believe it or not, many companies don’t do this regularly. (Hey companies, reach out to me if this is a problem for you—I can help you fix this). Not everyone who reads your blog post or watches your video will click on a CTA, but those who do have shown they’re engaged with what you’ve created. You’re giving your reader the opportunity to dig deeper and learn more about something. If you’re a tech business, a consultant, or a developer advocate, you should absolutely have CTAs on your content.
Adding CTAs to all my blog posts is the first thing I did when revamping my online presence. I created two versions of a CTA and pasted each one into a blog post. If you have lots of blog posts, start by adding CTAs to (1) every post you published this year, or (2) posts that have the highest visits. And start adding CTAs to your blog posts moving forward.
Step Two: Craft a Consistent and Descriptive Social Media Bio
Most people interact with developer advocates for the first time vis social media. It’s a major tool for interacting with the community and discovering new people and content to engage with. But it’s also woefully underoptimized by developer advocates who use them to engage with their communities.
My primary social media profiles (Twitter, and to a lesser extent GitHub, DEV Community, and Indie Hackers) were all over the place. Each one had a different avatar, slightly different bio, and pointed to a different link on my site. I knew that my entire social media presence had to tell the same story even if people only interacted with me on one of these platforms. Consistency was important to me.
So here’s what I did:
Selected one avatar to use across all profiles. I commissioned an illustrator to design a custom avatar which I now use only on social media. But you don’t have to use an illustration; you can use a headshot instead!
Standardized my social media bio. The social media bio is important real estate. You’re given just a few characters to succinctly describe yourself to an audience of people who don’t know you. Plenty of devs choose to use their social media bio as a resume of where they work and where they’ve worked. I also list my job title, but I’ve taken it further to also share what my value add is. I want people to know that I am the go-to for developer content (especially written content), and that I can help them along their content journey. So my value add is this: “I help developers become better content creators”. As a developer advocate, think of it this way: if someone were to see your Twitter bio for the first time, would they understand what you do and how you can help them? Make it descriptive. You can be casual. Talk about who you are, what you like, what you do, and what your value add is if your role calls for it.
Created a landing page that points to the most important links I have on the web. I selected the links that aligned with my top goals and offer the most value to people who encounter me for the first, or fiftieth, time. I’ll describe this more in the next section but you can take a look for yourself at stephaniemorillo.co/links.
Step Three: Organize Important Links for Discoverability
In the last section, I talked about creating a landing page where I list the most important links and sharing that across all my properties. Doing this helped me meet a key objective: make it easier for visitors to find the top things I do that provide them immediate value.
This year I made the transition from hobbyist to entrepreneur (a topic I’m exploring in my next blog post) and that meant I was producing a lot of content: monthly blog posts, newsletters, eBooks, and curated lists. I wanted first-time visitors to be able to find that without needing to click through my site; in fact, my site analytics showed that most people left after seeing just one page (either my homepage, which was listed on social media or a blog post). I knew I had a limited opportunity to help them find exactly what they were interested in that would also further my goals (new unique blog visitors, email signups, 1:1 coaching sessions, eBook sales). So I decided to curate a simple page that listed a handful of links, prefaced by my value add. It’s now one of the highest performing pages on my site, and it drives traffic to my blog, my email list, and my eBook store. And site analytics now lists every social property where I maintain a presence as a referral source.
I highly recommend a similar approach for developer advocates. Your page should be descriptive and serve as a place to showcase your work and tell people how they can connect with you.
Here’s what your landing page should include:
A short and fun bio which includes a description of your areas of focus (technologies, audience types, or topics)
A list of recently published articles, blog posts, and videos (on your blog and elsewhere on the web)
A list of upcoming events you’re speaking at
A list of social profiles where you're active
Any upcoming live-streams (and list your streaming hours and time zone!)
Information on how people can engage with you
Keep this page tightly focused on your DevRel work. Host it on your personal site, unless your company specifies you need to host this elsewhere. And list it on your social media profiles. (Although I use the URL slug /links, you can use a different slug, like /DevRel or /welcome.)
In summary, you can optimize for engagement by doing the following three things: add CTAs to your blog posts, create descriptive and standardized social media bios, and develop a landing page of important links that align with actions you want your visitors to take. CTAs represent the next best step a reader should take after reading your post. Your social media profiles should clearly describe what you do and what your value add is for new followers. Finally, create a landing page of carefully curated links that showcases your DevRel work and tells visitors how they can engage with you online.
DevRel Teams: Work with me 1:1 via DevRel CMS, my content coaching program. And purchase The Developer's Guide to Content Creation for templates, best practices, guided exercises, and resources to help your team become better content creators!