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Revitalizing Your Developer Content Playbook w/ GitHub’s Brian Douglas Heavybit

Has your technical developer content playbook gone stale? Are you pouring meaningful time and resources into technical content that goes unused or unnoticed? In a recent session with Heavybit members, GitHub Staff Developer Advocate and JAMstack Radio host Brian Douglas shared how he’s leveraged new platforms and new formats to help GitHub reach larger and more diverse developer audiences, and how to implement some of his tactics in your own developer content strategies.

Watch the recording of the session below, and read on to learn our key takeaways from the session:

The minor league of content ideation

Brian started GitHub Craftwork, which he calls the “minor league” of his content and curriculum ideas. He brainstorms and iterates on the substance of the content in the repo until it’s in a state where he’s ready to turn it into a talk or a Youtube video.

Having a pool of ideas that all live in one place makes it easier for you when an opportunity to lead a workshop or run a demo arises. Even better if it’s public; it makes it easier for others to approach you about generating content.

Explore new platforms in place of in-person events

Since February of last year, Brian has been experimenting with or doubling down on:

  • Twitch: Livestreaming not only allows him to continue to fulfill his duties as dev advocate, it’s also been more effective for him than participating in in-person events. In the past, only about 5 of 100 conference attendees would go up to him after his talk or sign up for the product. Now, of the 100 people who tune into his livestream, at least 50 of them would click whatever link he drops in the chat.
  • Youtube: Previously, Youtube was just a place for GitHub to post its conference talks.  Turning existing resources or “how to” docs into video was a format that worked in the past, but for the future, you’re going to have to start creating deeper and more advanced content just for Youtube.
  • Twitter: Twitter is a stream of information so eventually, anything you post to it is going to get buried or become undiscoverable. For a month, Brian shared 1 tip a day on GitHub Actions and that became the foundation of his content for the rest of the year.
  • Discord: GitHub intentionally doesn’t have a Discord because it would require having a support team to actually manage it. Instead, Brian made his own Discord to open source some of his minor league ideas, while engaging with members and contributors in the community.
  • Meetup: Meetup is a known property so it’s a great place for people to organically find your events.

You have to reinvent yourself, you have to reinvent what your properties look like, and you have to be able to adjust. So if you’re doing guest posts on other blogs and you’re not getting a lot of engagement, you have to take that and learn from it.

Help, don’t sell

The one thing Brian loves about dev rel at GitHub is that his goal isn’t necessarily to get you to sign up for GitHub. His approach to dev rel is built on an assumption that you probably already have a GitHub account so instead he focuses on features and making sure that people are getting the most out of what GitHub has to offer.

When you’re an early-stage startup and yet to have a community, it’s still important to encourage folks to sign up. But that doesn’t mean you can’t adopt Brian’s approach. You want a healthy mix of pitches, and activities and content that are purely engaging or educational. Your intentions should always be to make the lives of developers easier, and that should carry out through all functions of your org, from product to marketing.

Best way to advocate is make advocates

Brian’s job isn’t about him or increasing his follower count on Twitter. It’s not about the breadth of his reach but the depth of his impact. The more he engages existing community members, the more engaged they become, and eventually they’re lifted to a position where they’re creating content for him.

To help him be a better advocate, he sends people DMs and has a TweetDeck setup to follow conversations about different GitHub features so that he can jump in with helpful answers. He gives them all the information they need to become better than him at understanding GitHub.

GitHub already has a large number of users so there’s no need for Brian to chase after new leads but adopting this approach can also be helpful for teams that can only dedicate so much to GTM efforts. You’re likely to reap more from building stronger relationships with your existing users than you are from trying to get new people in.

Learn more from Brian

Brian has a wealth of resources and content out there for you to learn more about his work at GitHub and journey as a dev advocate. Be sure to check out his Twitter, Youtube, and Twitch, and subscribe to updates from us to receive content like this!

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