I'm really happy to be here talking to you about developers and content today. It's funny to get an introduction like that because I feel like I'm still figuring it out every day.
I've got good news for you which is if you market to developers you're marketing andgetting the mindshare of some of the mostinteresting and intelligent people, I think, on the planet.The bad news is developers don't like marketingvery much, so you're fighting for it every day.
I'm going to talk to you about some ideasfor battling that and making things thatthey'll actually enjoy and taking as much pridein the content that you make, asin the code that you write, which I thinkis a worthwhile goal if you're going becommunicating with people whoalso write code every day.
The secret is there's no framework for this.There's no shortcut for it.I've written over a thousand blog postsjust around developer content, probably maybe10,000 in my lifetime in total which is really a lotif you think about how old I probably am.The thing about that is I still feel likewhen I write content, I'm making something new.It's not like there's some template for this.Sometimes you might find something thatworks a hundred times, and that's great,but likely the things that I was doing at Twilioare already commoditized. If you're lookingfor the next big advantage,the way you're going to grab mindshareand have people pay attention to you,is probably something I haven't come up with yet.
I'm going to talk about the** ways to think**about marketing and also give you some ideasso that if you're stuck and wondering how to start,they'll kind of begin the process. But if you really want to be great at marketing,then the truth is nothing I can tell you todayis probably the next big thing.
I think at Twilio we found some things thatwere new and innovative that we did beforeother people so we got to have that six monthswhere we were the only ones. But those things everyone's doing now and I'm not working on that, so I don't knowwhat the next thing is. You guys are probablythe ones who are going to figure that out. But, I have a feeling some of the ideas herewill help you sort that out yourselves because you're pretty smart.
My understanding of the audience here is thatyou are all working in startups that are relatively small.You might not have someone working on marketing yet.It might be all engineers. At least it's probablythe founding team plus or minusthree people on the team.
The first thing is marketing. Sales is getting rejected one person at a time.They buy it or they don't.You probably interact with themand they tell you no or they tell you yes.
Marketing is great because it's just getting rejected at scale.
It's going to have 10,000 peopletell you no on Hacker News.That's awesome!Or maybe you'll have 100,000 peoplenot comment on your TechCrunch launch.Or you might have millions of peoplesign up for your site and then never log in again.You're going to get rejected at scale.Developers are great at doing things at scale.It's supposed to be comforting.
The thing is that you can't think about itthat way when you do it becauseif you think about marketing as a bigcollection of people then they're barely even human,they're just a number in your database.They've got a unique identifier and you're like,"Great! That email address, I'm going toabuse the crap out of them until they pay me."I'm serious, that's how marketers often think.
The counter-intuitive thing is thatmore than any other audience,developers want to be treated like peoplebecause they are people first of all. But secondly because everyone elsewho markets them treats them like numbers.
This means you're dealing withvery small groups of audience.You're not trying to write to 10,000 people.You're probably trying to write totwo hundred people.You're probably trying to write tosome subset of your users that could bevery, very small. Maybe for example,you notice, "Hey, our dot net customers there's only maybe 50 of them." But, they're the oneswhere in the forum if someone posts a question,they actually get help.
John's sitting in the back. "Hey John!"John and I met on IRC.John was the first evangelist that I hired at Twilio.What really set out about John is that there were a lot of dot net questionson our IRC channel and John was helpingpeople with figuring out what they should do.Lots of people were in there,and John was actually the only really helpful one.That's kind of remarkable if you thinkabout it, that there's so many people andnot everyone helps equally.We notice that trend.
A whole slew of eventstook place in which John finally becamean employee of the company throughsneaking into some trade shows andrandomly showing up in Vegas and various things. But, I don't think I would have picked dot net developers.It was a really small audience,but it was a really, really engaged audience.It turned out it was also the right audience becausedevelopers in the dot net communitythink about businesses and how tomake money very early in the process.It was a great initial market for Twilio.
The thing about John that really captured whythat was important is because hetreated these people like human beings in a chat room.We know chat rooms are full ofnot treating people like human beings, treating them like noobs and making them feel bad for not knowinghow to do something, and that didn't happen there.
That's the first thing about contentis your audience. It's easy to think,"I'm just going to write this so that I'll be cool on Hacker News."That's a really bad idea because you're nevergoing to make everyone at Hacker News happy.Someone in here, Robert told me thatthey are having a huge amount of engagementfrom Closure developers for Light Tablewhich makes a lot of sense.Closure's not necessarily, well,maybe it is now, but it's not a trendylanguage in the number sense ofpercentage of developers who use it.You might say, "We shouldn't focus on that." But, if that's the most engaged community you have,then that's the one you should start with.
"Yeah, we're supposed to treat thesepeople like people. Great.That's really insightful, Danielle." But, the other thing is that you're not doing it.You're not doing marketing.You're not actually talking to themindividually like people at all,so you might think it's insightful,but why aren't you doing it?Or you might think it's not insightful.Why aren't you doing it?Actually it's really hard to figure outwhat to do. "Okay cool, so I'm supposed to treat them like humans.I'm really lucky because they're smart. So now what?"
If you guys are note takers,I'm going to give you a whole list ofkinds of content because I want to make surethat you don't leave here without a listof things you can go do.Then I'm going to spend the rest of the talktrying to convince you to actually do them.Are you guys ready?
You should have an email newsletterif you have nothing else. If you have nothing else. You probably think, "Developers hate email."
That is the one opportunity you haveto make something just for themthat no one else consumes.No one on Hacker News can ruin your emailnewsletter, so you should definitely have one.
And you should have an email drip campaign,even if it has just one drop in the drips where it's just, "Hi, thanks for signing up."Can you automate that, please?Those are enough for the first year.That's literally enough for the first yearif they're good.You should care about the open rates. If you use SendGrid for example,then make a little dashboard or somethingso you can see the metrics foryour overall lists and some other metricsabout the campaign because that's notgoing to be enough just the way it is.
If you are feeling ambitious, make a blog.In the first year, if you had an email newsletter,a drip email campaign and a blog,you'd be better than 90% of developerstools companies out there.I could probably finish the talk right now.You guys could to do that for a year and it would bereally, really good for your business.So just please write this list down. Okay, you have a blog. What's going in your blog?You could post once a month.If it's really, really good, that's awesome.Post once a month, post once a year, post. Just post. That's the whole problem.Just fucking do it.Sorry, I swear on the camera.
You are the only thing standing betweenyou and marketing.It's not marketing's fault that you're notposting on your blog.There's a bunch of other things.Have a contest. Think about your documentation like content.Don't relegate it to some crappy ass wikithat's not even part of your website.Make it beautiful and take the time.If you have to write custom CSS for it, fine. If you can figure out a way to hack WordPressor a bunch of these other tools like Assistly â€” that's what we use. There's lots of things.
Your documentation is not just a secondary thing.It's literally probably the pages that arevisited most on your website.
Have a great 'How it Works' page.It could be just above the fold. That was our web window.Have some simple visual diagram ofhow your product works.You're probably thinking,"This isn't marketing, this is product."That's the thing. A great product is great marketing.
People say that and they think of iPhones.They think of Steve Jobs.Everything you're making is productand everything you're making could be marketing.If people are looking at it and they havea chance to reject you because theydidn't like it, then it's marketing because you're getting rejected at scale.So think about it that way.
Here's one thing that's not marketingby itself: Social media is not marketing.Just because you tweet doesn't mean anything.Why are you tweeting? What are you linking to?The link is the marketing.It's just a channel.The biggest problem I sometimes see isa company will be really active on Twitterand then they won't have updatedtheir blog in three or four months.What are they linking to?It's not terrible, they might be linking toother peoples' content.
Every single oneof those tweets is a missed opportunity tolink to your great content.
You're probably thinking, "Danielle, you should have listed so manymore types of marketing."You could do events or you could do â€” there's a million things, why am I blanking â€” you could do advertisingor retargeting or all these other things. For your five person company,that's all very, very hard and very expensive. These are all organic things you dothat don't cost you anything other than time.
So going back, I wanted to talk aboutjust the first three months of your plan.Say you just digest this talk,you've been thinking about starting todo content and you go back to your team.What does the first three months actually look like?I would definitely go back to the list withthe email and just dig into what could be in there.The newsletter, you're probably wonderingnot just what to put in it, but why wouldanyone read a company newsletter?I don't know, I do this a lot,I just kind of archive those.
If the first newsletter is full of really useful resources and links, people will save it and they'll come back to it.We found this a lot.
We found trailing open rates ofmonths on that first email that we wouldsend out for Twilio.
There's a really great blog post. There's all these really great blog postsby the way, if you guys search fordeveloper marketing from like the '90s. These are not maintained websites.People have written about this,especially in the Microsoft community.I can't even remember who this is,but there was this guy and he took an emailthat he'd been sending to his community and it was really long and really dense. I was thinking, "I would hate to get this." And heshares the stats and it's just liketerrible open rate, incredible click-through rate,and then he shows the open rate over timeas people start forwarding it.
Basically, you could take your email and say,"If the open rate is higher than some percentage,then I should probably mix the pageon my website." And now you've taken it and you've repurposedit. Now it's a page on your website.Now it's a page on your website andyou can tweet about it."Look! We've got this page on our website,it's a great guide for how to get startedwith our product." And you tweet about it. Then you find outthat people are starting to send itto each other. Maybe you see it on Stackor you see it on Hacker News, Reddit or you start seeing link backs for it.It just takes a while and then it's like,"I could write a blog post about it. Here's a blog post about the page,about the email about howto get started with our company."
You've made all this content with thisreally one thing. It's just reusing these ideas.Every time you're hopefully making it a little better.
You set post-to-post andthis amazing thing happens. What do you guys think it is?No one reads it.No one reads it becauseblogging at the beginningis really, really frustrating.No one reads it.
You go on your merry way andimagine you've found some other thingsthat are working.Who here, just raising hands I know won'tshow up well on camera, but who herehas a blog for their company right now?More than half. Go back through your blog, grab all the blog postsyou wrote and just republish them.Yeah, like every year.This is great on two levels: One is it's just it's efficient, right?You already wrote that content.It was a lot of work to write it.You might as well just make it betterand publish it again.
The second thing is something more fundamental. You have a** psychological problem**,you have a major problem. It is you will neverbe able to think like a noob again about your company.You won't. You know exactly howeverything got made. You just cannot bein their headspace of, "What am I doing?How do I start? This is confusing."You'll always be like, "Now it's perfect."
The cool thing is that if you republish content,then you can battle this mistake that'sso commonly made by just republishingthe noob stuff because that's the stuffyou usually publish first.You publish the "blah, blah, API 101" post.That was probably the first post your wrote,maybe very early. Or maybe you wrote a poston your culture and the kind of developeryou wanted to be and work with.All that stuff is really good content forever.There's somebody new signing up for, I don't know, "blah, blah, API" â€” somebody new signed up right now, and again, and again, and they're all noobsand you might as well love them becausethey can make you a lot of money andthey're developers, too.
Your contentwill basically suffer from the curse of knowledge.You know so much about your platform thatthe only fun things to write aboutare the complicated things.Very respectable from an intellectual standpoint.Very frustrating if I'm the noob.
I heard some laughter.You should totally do that, it's really fun.And you'll see how different it isas you just continue to have more users.Oh, and then you know what you can do?You can email all your users and tell themthat you posted that post about that pagethat came from that email that youoriginally wrote two years ago.Literally you could do that right nowand you'd be reusing this stuff.It's wonderful! You're like,"I don't even need to actually write thatmany things. I just need to write the right thingsand then rewrite them in different waysenough times until they work." It's surprisingly like building software. It's very weird.
There's this other problem.I'm going to talk a lot aboutthe psychological problems that arekeeping you from doing marketing.You probably think you don't know what to do,but you're already getting marketed toall the time. You could just copy the thingsother people do that you like and not do thethings that you don't like about their programs.
But you're really worried about being judged probably.I certainly am, every time I write a blog post.It doesn't matter that I've publish a ton of stuff. A button is sitting there, I think it's WordPress, right now it's blue, the layout that I have. Sometimes I stare at it for 10 minutesand I realize that you have to lower the bar.
Totally counter-intuitive, you lower the bars,publish it, typos, conceptual mistakesthat are major that are going to get youreally embarrassed. Yeah, that's going to happen.
Get good at comments because you'regoing to have to fix things. It's nevergoing to be perfect, just like your product. If you wait so long that you're not embarrassedof anything, you've waited way too long.You have to lower the bar, especially for that first post.
At Twilio, something that we didwhen people joined the company thatI think is really interesting and reallyjust started off as me being lazy andnot knowing how to manage new employees,but turned into something cool,is we made people write a post where theyintroduce themselves to the community.This was totally a trick.People would write this boring post,it was their whole resumeand all the things they've done. I was like, "There's no fucking wayI'm publishing that ever."I could just go to your LinkedIn.
It makes me kind of mad in a way thatpeople do it, but you start to realize this ishow we think. We think about ourselves first.Then we would ask them, "Turn it around.What are you bringing tothe table for these customers?Why should this audience even carethat you joined the company?Write about it from their perspective.They're the audience here andyou're trying to prove to them thatthey should be happy that you'repart of Twilio now."
That was always a light bulb moment for peoplewhere they realized it wasn't aboutwhat they'd done and who they were,it was really about what customers had done,who customers were and howwe can make them more successful.You might think that's trite,but try to write that post.Try to write it. It's hard.It's hard to change your view.
As developers, and look, I was in marketingand now I've been writing code for thepast 18 months in my own startup.I'm going to stereotype developers â€”but this is me, I'll just tell you my experience.It's a lot easier to write code for yourself and people just like you. You're like,"There must be some other people like me.I'm going to write this and I'll explain itthe way I know best and I'll try todo a really good job, but it's going to befor people like me."
The truth is not everyone is like youand way fewer people are like you than you think.I think it's very hard sometimes towrite for your audience.
Write that post.If you haven't written a blog post yet,that's a great one to start with.Why is your company great?What is your company going to dothat makes developers' lives better?Try to write the resume version,write the, "Feature, feature, feature,feature, feature, oh and by the wayyou'll save some time." And then you'll probablyturn out that's it actually, "Hey you'll build all theseamazing things that change your lifeand processes and save you time andby the way, feature, feature, feature,feature." It's actually totally reversed.
People always talk about writing aboutcustomers, that's another really fun one.If you can't write about yourself,writing about customers is a great wayto make sure you write for your audiencebecause then you have to talk aboutwhat they've done and you're ideally atthe bottom of the post.
So the first thing you'll think is â€” who's the good example right now?Who should I pick on?I'll pick on Box. I really love Box.I think that Box talks about Box too much.They actually have all these amazing customers.I don't know if anyone from Box is here. I think the crazy thing is thatthe minute that you flip it and you talkabout time saved, like for themit's with file storage primarily andall of the connectors there. It's kind of mind-blowing.It's like, "Shouldn't this be in TechCrunch?"Shouldn't it?Didn't you actually change the world andall that fluff was just like feature, feature, feature?
You guys are the TechCrunch for your customers.You're going to write the story thatnobody else is writing about them potentially.You can actually understand how they fitin that entire space.
Everyone here who has read TechCrunchis probably qualified to write a blog postbecause you can just take their model,take their paragraphs, flip it upside downso you start with the benefits,and then write the story.Your company at the bottom, it's still there.It's your blog, right?Your header's in the upper left corner. This is really funny that my company's logo,which has nothing to do with developers,is up here. But it's great because nowyou've all seen the Mattermark logo.
Even if only the last paragraph is about you guys,you're still getting that brand value.Your blog is like the cheapest banner ad in the world.
Writing about customers, talking to people like they're human, lowering the bar, everything is news, be your own TechCrunch. You didn't want me to tell you these things.
Everyone I talk to about developer marketing,and I talk to lots of people about it â€”I don't know, I'm still trying tofigure out exactly what people are looking for â€”but, I still think there's this sensethat it's going to somehow be really easy.The secret is that you're reallyrunning a newsroom.You're going to just grind. Everything else in building a company,you ship it and it's like it's shippedand it's great and you're like,"I'm going to build the next thing."Marketing is just doing the same thingover and over again and incrementallygetting better at it every single dayfor the rest of your life.That is so foreign, I think, to building product.Building product should be like that.
Probably startups we don't think a lot aboutwhat our companies will be like in 20 years,but this is kind of the core of the disconnect.I can get the 80% part.I can get a blog post out,but I've got to get better and better.If I have a contest, I have to run itevery week for 10 weeks or 20.I have to make sure I get a blog postout every week or more so people willexpect something from me. I have to tweetevery day for my company.It's actually kind of weird, that thing that suddenlyit's like "manager time".You have to time block yourself for doing that.It's very unnatural.
I actually think there's a bit of amindset shift that has to happen.It has to be okay for you to ship somethingcrappy, incrementally improve it,and never ever, ever, ever stop doing it.
If you find something that works for example,like contests, you pretty much might becommitting to contests for the restof the company's life.That's kind of the difference, I guess.You're committing to customers from product, but it doesn't scalethe way software does.
Going back to stuff you can publish, since you're probably wondering,"Okay, Danielle, you've told me I shouldtake my welcome email and publish it.You've told me I should write a blog postabout myself and then flip it aroundand explain the value I'm bringingmy customers, maybe make my employees do it. You told me I should blog about customers." Of course, by blog, I also mean tweet and emailand do all the distribution stuff.What else?
How about support tickets?How many times have you writtenthe same answer to a support ticket?You're probably thinking, "That's my FAQ."Great, blog your FAQ.Every single question on your FAQ isa blog post and a tweet, and probablyfive answers on Stack Overflow anda bunch of other places, forums foryour particular language or technology of choice.
Email. Publish great internal emailsthat you feel comfortable sharing withthe outside world.Say you've launched something and it's really hard,publish that crazy email that you wroteyour team at 3 o'clock in the morning,maybe edit it a little, but publish it.That's all content.People love the process of how the sausage is getting made,so sharing with them. I hope you guys are making lists.
Any communication that you do at scale. If someone on your team goes andspeaks at a conference that's a blog postand a tweet and a bunch of other stuff.You have a meet-up, hire a photographer,like that guy, and pay him,"whateveryou got paid," and publish the pictureson Flickr and on the blog.
Everything that you do is news for your community.It's doesn't matter that it's not newsfor the rest of the world,it's news in your community andyour community will care about it.
Anything you do where you're communicatingor connecting with people at scale could be at more scale.That's kind of the annoying thing, is it's the little things that you won't noticeso you have to literally take tabs on,"What are all these different things my company's doing?"
As your company gets bigger,you have different teams soyour teams are each producing news.Those are some of the bare company thingsI guess, but fundamentally you're probablyalready doing cool things likethe first time you do a meetup and20 people show up is just amazing.You should definitely blog about it.Your meetup itself is another opportunity.When you start it, kick it off.
Really, if you start listing all these things,you could definitely have a blog post every day.It just kind of builds like that.
I've talked a lot about the types of content. It's very prescriptive, I'm just giving you this list of stuffand you might be wondering if theseare the right things, but you could justtoss these out. Try them, test them, if they work, awesome, if they don't, try themone more time maybe and then throw them out.The reason that that matters,the reason I'm saying this, isI can't tell you, I can show you. I've tried to show with the things I've done. But my style, and I think the style withmarketing to developers is much moreshow than tell.It's the same thing. I can't convince youright now.
Say I want to get you toadopt Twilio, I can't convince you.I can get you interested.I can get you to come to the door, to the front page of Twilio, click the Docs page probably and maybe how it works, andI can get you there. But, all I can do thenis show you that it works and how it works.
Telling you doesn't make me money.That's the unfortunate and frustratingpart about marketing is telling is justthe top of the funnel.Showing is your product.
On that note, if your product is broken,marketing will not save it.It will just frustrate you andmaybe make you fail faster whichcould be really good. If you'rebringing a lot of people, if you'remarketing finally figures out a way toconnect with people, and they're stillstruggling and you just feel like you're stuck,there might be something else that's wrong. But, you could use marketing to find outwhat that is because you'll hopefully bereading the comment sections, feedback,emails and support.
Sometimes I think people think hiringmarketing is a silver bullet. Honestly,my success at Twilio comes down tothe company having an incredible product.I feel very fortunate they asked me tojoin them very early and ultimatelyall I wanted to do was make sure thatI didn't do a huge disservice to a greatproduct by giving it crappy marketing.It's still ultimately about makingthe product great.
This is like a huge list of stuff to do.OH! In the voice. If you respectdevelopers' intelligence, they'll respect you more.That's a huge problem with marketing languageis it makes you feel stupid.What's a good example?I used to have so many.Consumer marketing does this all the time,it's like the "sex sells" stuff.It totally works, but if you try that withdeveloper marketing, you better watch outbecause Reddit will get you becauseit's offensive.It's already offensive to your intelligenceas a consumer, but you're just programmed toaccept that in a movie or a television program â€” you're going to see ads with the standardway of selling to you, manipulating you.
Developers are really good at knowingwhen they're being manipulated.That's a unique problem you have. You can't dosome of the typical things which is whyif you hire a marketing agency that'sonly done consumer stuff, or a PR agencythat's only done consumer stuff,there's a really good chanceit's not going to work out becausethey are thinking about people as a group. They're thinking about stuff thatworks on people as a group, and manipulating people as a group, like cows.And developers don't like to be cows, or cats, by the way.
I'm almost out of paper, but I feel likethere's so much more to say.We're going to have a long Q and A session.By the way, I'm happy to be very specificor very high-level or whatever.These are just the things I thought about thismorning when I wrote this for 20 minutes. I wrote it twice,
"Don't make people feel stupid."
That's sort of the same thing asrespect their intelligence.This is the noob thing again.
Say you have Troll come after you onHacker News in the comments and you totally want to just rip this guy a new one.I think your only answer in every singlesituation is to be classier.The developer community is full ofreally bad actors in online forumswho are anonymous and you are not anonymouswhen you're talking about your company.They will find out who you are andit will reflect badly on your company.You don't get to be a troll,you have to be a troll slayer.Troll slayers have to be above reproach.That's part of the not making people feel stupid.You don't get to do that.
I think that's way more fun from an internet chat roomculture standpoint, is just to smack down peoplewho say negative things about your company,but you don't get to do it anymore.You're basically corporate self now, just a little bit,not like "the man" corporate, butpeople are going to find out thatyou represent your company.I swear things you say willcome back to bite you in SEO.
That is everything I wrote here except for, "Just fucking do it." I'm happy to talk aboutin the comments specific things I've done,specific things that have happenedthat I've blogged about or totally randomthings that I'm not even thinking about.
The bottom line with developer marketingis they're people. You're trying toconvince them of an idea so you canfill their headspace.
They've got this precious time,they're not coding, they're listening to you,so use it wisely. And think abouthow to get rejected at scale then you'll have customers andyou'll have more of them.Then you can recycle all your stuffand do it again next year and thenit'll look like it's genius and it's new.That's my talk.
Q: How do you measure success?
A: Well, if your product does make money,then ultimately making money is definitely very important. But some of the things that you're goingto do early on are super frustrating becausethey're not very measurable. I thinkyou should start with things you can measurejust because it's frustrating to do things likenet promoter score, which is a little more soft.
I think you should look at web traffic. I think you should look at how many timesyou got mentioned on Twitter. I think you should look at whether or notpeople comment at all on your launch,on Hacker News, on threads whereyour company is mentioned oryour technology is mentioned. I think you should have an IRC roomand people should broadly know it's thereand you should be monitoring the levels ofhow many people hang out in there.
You can do that by the way,you can screen and you don't necessarilyhave to have a separate client.You can be doing it on your phone.It doesn't have to be you answeringevery question, just monitor the levelof people helping each other.Anything you can quantify really.
The thing is if you faked all those things,if you made those things go up: If I do a TechCrunch launch tomorrowand then I email 20 friends and I'm like,"Hey, will you write a positive comment?"This is totally gaming the system,but everyone's doing that.It actually works. People go and they seethere's an engagement here and then theywant to engage.Part of the reason to monitor thisisn't just so you can be,"Ha ha! I've got 20 comments!"It's still someone else will be,"Ha ha! They've got 20 comments!"and they want to comment.
I actually would avoid measuring revenuebecause it doesn't matter, in the very beginning stage, whetheryou made five or ten thousand dollars. Unless you'reliterally running out of money andit does matter, like paying bills matter.It's sort of confusing, with theexception of usage-based products like APIsthat charge per unit, it doesn't necessarilytell you a lot. You had one $5,000 customer,now you have two, but there's always theseother people over here you're not talking to.That's only true in the zero to six months part.Beyond that, classic marketing measurementstuff applies, like: top of funnel, middle, money.
Q: How do you incentivize your team to produce content?
A: I think you have to make it kind of addictive.It's very motivating to get a blog postthat has a lot of traffic and a lot ofengagement just from a human kind of "I want to be in the spotlight fora moment" standpoint.That doesn't work for everyone, though.Part of it is you just have to make itpart of your culture from the beginningand make sure people understand thatthey're the best ones right now totalk to your customers.No one sells it like a founder.No one sells it like a first 10 engineering team.
A lot of that comes back down to,"I feel like I'm going to be judged.I've never done this before," and maybemaking it safe â€” creating an environment likethat blog post, where they're heavily edited,where they get a lot of feedback,where everybody does it.
At Twilio everyone had to build an app when you joined, and you have to presentthe app to the company.Interestingly, it's kind of the same thingas if you present it at a meetup. It's kind of like every one had thendone at one time. If you asksomeone to present Twilio later on,they're like, "I've kind of done that before." If you can make it part of the internal culture,then maybe you can make it come to the outside when you need to call on someone to help.
Also, have the developers writethe documentation themselves. Don't give it to a copy editor becausethe copy editor doesn't know how to code. Generally, it's not very good.Have them help you clean it up,but developers should write it.
Think of, you know how Amazon does that"write a press release first" thing for product?You can do "write the documentation first"for new developer tools.You'd learn a lot that way.
Q: What's the ideal length for a blog post?
A: The shortest possible length to getthe point across is usually goodjust because of attention span.One of the challenges for developer tools companiesis that there's usually code in the post â€” a good post I think should have code in a lot of cases â€” then they do get long very quickly.I think it's not a bad idea to do the tl;dr.A lot of places, that would be considerednot good form from a writing perspective,like in the news. You could basically doa little outline at the top and evenanchor link people to things forsuper long posts.
It's more about the goal.How are you going to measure that the peoplethat you wrote for, or say it's like a How Toor example code, how are you going to knowthat that actually got done?Are they going to fork somethingin GitHub so you can see it?Are you going to ask them to post stuff back?How are you going to know that it workedis probably the more important thing.It could be super long if it's really good,it would be wonderful.I guess that's not helpful becauseit's basically saying,
"However long it takesto get people to do something is how longit should be." That's probably the case.
Q: What content makes the most money?
A: Can we start with that one instead?I'll get you the other ones, too.The content that makes the most money is case studies.You have to write them.I hate writing them, I won't deny.Of all the content, I just find them super frustrating.However, the reason they're frustratingis because they're so much more rigorous.What's going to happen with a case studyis it's going to get read by someonein a big company and they're going to use itto decide if you're legit or not.That's the least popular,but the most monetarily awesome.
The most popular thing is something thatgets on Hacker News so it usually has somecombination of intellectual interestand something controversial.It's true.So if there's something going on inthe community that you think is important,you can calm it down in a meaningful way,then yeah, it's going to be popular.How will it reflect well on your brandis a whole other question.
The best piece of content isthe piece of content that makes peoplethink more highly of your company thanthey did before. That could be a lot of things.I think it's more about what your strengths are.
At Twilio, I think our strength was contests.I think these contests were really funand developer contests at that time,there weren't a ton of them,but now they're everywhere.Same with hackathons, by the way.Hackathons were not a thing whenwe started doing hackathons.Now hackathons are everywhere!I would not do a hackathon right now.Maybe I would, but I'm not doing it every day.It's usually changing all the time.
It's usually the underappreciated thingwhere you can be the best at it,is the content that rocks.
I will say one caveat to all of this isI would not do video content at all.It's super, super hard to produce it,it takes a ton of time.Look at this incredible setup these guys have here.This is what it takes to make reallygood videos. Until you're ready toreally commit, and have a team and have the gear â€” usually it just ends up looking horrible.
Go Google my name on YouTube andyou'll see a bunch of stuff I made early on.I look back and I'm like,"I really wish I had control of the Twilioaccounts so I could take that down." I should probably take it down, I probably could.
Video was very hard.I used to think I was really good at screencasting.There are people out there who'll do it for youand make it look really good. Everyone says,"I need a video on the front page of my site!"Please don't make it yourself.
Q: How do you avoid creating monotonous content?
A: Stuff does get monotonous, but that's notan early stage problem.The early stage problem is generallyjust having it.Here's an experiment:
Tweet the same thing twice today.Find something that people will actually commentor retweet, find something they engage with.
Do it at 10 o'clock in the morning and then do it at 4 o'clock in the evening and see what happens.See if anyone tells you.Tweet the same thing every day.See how many days it takes beforepeople actually notice.It's amazing!No one is looking at stuff at the same time.Take all the links you tweeted foryour company over the past month andtweet them again, seriously.
People are just busy and they're lookingat lots of things. I think it's veryhard to be monotonous.In a way, you kind of want to be consistentand there's that fine line,so you're probably not there yet.
Q: Do you have any experiences with content that wasn't well received, and how did you handle it?
A: I wrote a blog post about all the VCsthat don't have any money, right before I started my companyabout helping VCs make better investments.That was definitely the worst postfrom a "pissed off people" perspective.The really good thing is that whenyou make people angry, that means they'rethinking about you.Yeah! They weren't thinking about you before,but they have a strong opinion about you now!You got them angry. Basically you want people... this is totally, "Hey, I can't HR violatepeople who don't work for me."
You want people who either wantto sleep with you or hate you.The middle is stupid.The middle is wasted.Seriously, no one remembers the middle.The hate one is, I think, easier.I don't know. You get a lot ofpeople to hate you and then basicallyyou just engage them individually.You talk to them and some of themwill still hate you and some won't.
In that case, I ended up having about 100phone calls with various investors whofelt it was their job to educate meon the industry, which was awesome,and they definitely did more than I realized.I know way more about VC now.I started a whole company around itafter I did that.I mean, I'm not dead.No one put a hit on me and I frankly thinkthat VCs are way scarier than developers.I don't know, it's like you don't die,you just turn off the internet andgo back to being a normal person â€” take a shower, take a walk anddo things for the next 12 hoursand don't look at your computerand then go deal with it.
Q: What is too much content?
A: There's some benefit to being consistent. If you are feeling very loquacious,and you write a bunch of posts,you have 20 posts and you're like,"Ah! I just want to post these all today!" You're probably going to get a pretty quickdiminishing return, you might as well justschedule them out over time.People like to know what to expect. If they don't expect 20 posts from you,and then you suddenly post 20 times,they're probably not going tocome back to your site 20 times that day.But, if they learn that there's somethingnew and interesting every day,there's a good chance they'll check your siteonce a day.
Unless you really need somemassive traffic spike, I don't thinkthere's a huge benefit, and then you'vekind of fired all your bullets.
Everything builds on each other so that you get this incremental increasein distribution every time.
If I read a great post from you today andI'm looking for you tomorrow, maybeI didn't retweet that first one because I've never heard of you before,I just read it and I forgot. But nowI've kind of already warmed up to youand the second one I'm like,"Oh I really like her! Man, two postsin a row that I really like," and I'm like,"I gotta tweet this to everyone!"By the third one, I'm seeing your postsin my feed and I might even just sharethem without even reading them becauseI trust you now.I trust that you make great content.It's sort of you'd be missing out onthe opportunity to develop that withyour readers if you did that all at once.
Q: Can you discuss the value of using different channels? For example a blog post vs. an email campaign.
A: They say in marketing, in general,it takes seven impressions toturn a person into a customer.Some people hang out in certain channelsa lot. Hacker News I read every day,but I also get kind of fatigued aroundcertain topics in there, and I'll stopreading certain threads.
The value of multiple channels isyou need different opportunities toconnect with the same people.
There's some overlap of people whoare going to multiple channels. If I wanted to reach a developer,I'd probably make sure that I was onReddit, Hacker News, Stack, our blog,Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Very quickly it adds up and I know it's notbecause I know for sure that I'll get them, butthere's a chance I'll get two or three impressions.
Do you ever get that sense thatsomething's blowing up, like somethingreally popular, and you can't even totallyput your finger on why, but your friendtold you about it and you saw it on Twitter,then you saw it on TechCrunch,then you saw it on Hacker News. You can manufacture that by just beingin all those channels.That's what that does, is it creates the effect of surrounding.
Another really good thing to do by the wayis to follow people on Twitter.Every single time you follow people on Twitter,it generates an email saying,"Brand followed you," with your logo.That is free advertising.The thing is, to do it very strategicallyso that people feel like you're justeverywhere, listening to everything,sharing things they care about.That's what channels can do. And then you seem really big because they're like,"How can these people be everywhere?"
Retargeting is the best one.I feel like we retargeted once andour ads were on the front page ofthe New York Times. People were like,"You guys must be huge. You must have this huge budget tobe on the front page of the New York Times!"I'm like, "I think I spent $500 onReTargeter.com, but thank you." That's what it does, I think.
Q: What other ways or ideas can you utilize content to reach developers that is more likely to turn into a business transaction?
A: One cool thing is that you're going tostart thinking of all the business use cases for your company and thenbe tempted to go build them.You know how when you have lots of startup ideas? You have lots of startup ideasand you're doing this one, you're like,"I'd better tell all these peopleall these startup ideas because I needsomeone to build this so I don't accidentallygo off and make this my side projectand then build it, too."You can kind of do the same thing withyour own startup.
You know better thananyone the businesses that can get builton the platform, so just write the recipes for them.Usually, your recipes will be really rudimentaryand they'll be really basic.
We did a lot of stuff that was like,"Do blah blah and 10 lines of code," or"Write Google Voice in 50 lines of code,"and then people take it much further.People are really bad with platforms initiallyat figuring out what they can do,even though you've opened up somethingreally cool to them, it's just a little bit hardto connect the dots. The more you can do it,I think that's really big.I wouldn't worry about money though directlyas much as just use cases.
I'll give you guys one example:GroupMe was built on Twilio andI was at the hackathon where theywere building that and group messagingseems really cool, but like all consumer things,I was like, "This just seems like a toy."It turns out to be an awesome business, but you don't always know. Sometimesit's good to just power the toys andlet the hobbyists decidewhat's exciting to them.
Q: What are your thoughts on having a live chat on a company's webpage?
A: I think it's great.The one hard thing is sometimes staffing it. If you're very popular,you're going to run into a problem whereyou literally can't handle the number of channels.I think IRC is a better place to shuntpeople off to.I think chat is great for support,so key places where people couldfall out of your funnel, it's good to haveZopim or Olark, or one of these tools.
I do think that you want to try to get yourcommunity helping each other as muchas possible because that's the only thingthat's going to really scale for you long term.Figuring out the appropriate places forchat is really crucial.
In the early days though, you want totalk to everyone. It might be fine ifyou're just starting and there's onlyat any given time there would be only 5 or 10people on your website simultaneously,then it's probably great.I used to use that and just say "hi" toevery person. It would just pop up "hi"and they'd think it was creepy and thenwe'd have this great conversation.If you're social like that and you can befriendly and helpful over chat,it's pretty awesome. But it doesn't scale.
Q: What are the best practices for getting emails?
A: I would automatically opt people inand then I would make sure to buildgood, segmented lists. Keep your listsfor your drip campaign separate fromyour newsletter.If you're producing a lot of content,maybe even go further and say,"We have this really important newsletterwe want to make sure everyone reads.It's about features versus this othercommunity newsletter that is separate."
Getting them, I would automatically opt them in,at least at the beginning.If you get a really large unsubscribe rate,you might need to reevaluate that,but people tend to expect to get helpful content. And if the emails are high quality,you won't have a problem.Another thing about high quality ispeople are really weird about perceptionversus reality with email. If the productionquality of the email is high, people willassume it's high quality even if it's not. Use MailChimp or something thathas nice templates and you can probablyfake it a little bit until you reallyget to your groove on content.
It's really uncanny if you doan A/B test of a really basic templateversus something that's a little shinierand same content, you'll get different everything â€” different click-throughs, different unsubscribes. Everything can be A/B tested,even the things that don't seem like they can.
Q: How do you make sure your content is relevant to developers or your audience?
A: Other developers are alsobuilding businesses so a lot of these thingsare universal challenges. They can make good content.
I think the key is that if the personinside your company really wants to write it,getting someone to write somethingthat they don't want to write if very hard.If someone's really passionate aboutengineering culture or maybe they've come upwith a really good deployment process,or some other internal thing thatthey're really proud of,giving them the opportunity to be platform to show that off, is going to be: 1) great for your recruiting, 2) it makes them happy and proud as an individualand, 3) you don't really know if it'll hit.
Sometimes those posts really take off just because no one's talking about itor it's a hard thing.I think deployment is one that's endlesslydifficult for different organizations,all new tech coming out for that all the time.
People love talking about how the sausageis made, so yeah, I would let them write.The only thing is if it gives away secretswhich you guys should ask me about. I'm just going to ask myself a question.
Q: What don't you publish?
A: You should be really careful to decidewhere the line is of what you don't talk about.
At Twilio, one thing that Twilio does nottalk about is the stack.Occasionally, they'll pull back the curtainand explain certain parts of how Twiliois built, but generally, they're prettyclosed about that and there's a lot ofvery strategic and important reasonsover the long term.
One of the challenges is everybody insidethe engineering team knows exactlyhow everything is being built.You have to make sure you have a clearconversation internally about what you doand don't want to share.If you're really building IP that isgroundbreaking in some way,you probably do have the defensible thingsyou want to not be publishing about broadly.
You should assume your competitors arereading everything you're publishing.
Q: How candid should we be with our opinions? How can it affect the company?
A: His question is should he voice his opinionthat something is stupid or be reallyblunt or brutal about things?It's hard because it's nice to be able tojust be free with your speech.It's the wonderful thing about the internet.But yeah, it can do damage to your company.Especially if you're bad at arguing. If you tend to use ad hominem attacks, or argue from intimidation, oruse a lot of the lower levels of argument,you're just going to get ripped apartby smart people. Don't even do it.
However, if you think something is actuallyreally bad â€” bad for the ecosystem,unethical, terribe, like maybe the NSA â€” then I think you can write about it.I think you can put your name on legislatureand you can go for it. But you have torealize that you will be remembered forever as being against that thing. Just likehow our government officials are rememberedfor their record, you're going to have tobe able to stand behind it.Just make sure it's worth the mental energy.
There's definitely things worth takinga stand on, but you're going to have tobasically be the guy who takes a standon that for a very long time.
For example, emacs vs. vim andbeing an asshole about that,probably not worth it at all. At all.Or even just general religious wordsin development are usually avoidable things.
Q: What voice should I write in?
A: I would just write in a personal voice always.The company voice becomes an amalgamationof personal voices.The company voice is sort of saved forvery special things like announcingnew product or new features.Even when Steve Jobs gets up on stageand he's like the famous announcer,he still speaks in his voice.It just happens to become Apple's voice.But it's a human voice because humans liketo be talked to by humans.
The only exception would be whenbad things happen and you don't havethe personal voice to be authoritative enough. For example, your site's down or you lose people a lot of money, security breach, those things,you almost need to use the company voicebecause it needs to be very, very clear.Those should be exceptions cases.Crisis communications is an interesting questionbecause you do produce content around that.
You're downtime page is a crisiscommunication tool, your blog,other channels become distribution for that, that might be an exception to what I just saidin terms of the voice.It kind of depends on whether or not the CEO,for example, has had a voice in the communityand is respected.If they're kind of behind the scenes, which is very common frankly â€”they're building product, they're coding,they're not really putting their voice out. Them stepping forward can have two outcomes:either they're really good at it and itreflects well on the company orthey're very uncomfortable and it wouldbe better to use the company voice.That's a choice you have to make.
If you have more questions about crisiscommunication, I'd be happy to dig into that.It's certainly something you'll facesooner or later.
Q: What's the best way to use contests?
A: Contests are interesting becauseif you're not specific about what you wantpeople to do, they just don't know what to do.You have a platform company and you say,"Whoever builds the coolest app,we are going to give you..." (we gave awaynetbooks, that tells you some sense ofhow long ago that was) "We're going to give you ... some kind of, like a Pebble Watch or something." The problem is with contests two things: one, you never get all the entries untilthe night before, so it's super stressfulthe whole time you're running it.With the ones that are broad,the entries are usually bad.
You want to have things that are themed,and then the prize should connect to that. Like: let's do a contest about wearable devicesand health, then have the prize be a watch. Or: let's do a contest about pets, could be a categoryand then the prize is a donation to the SPCA.Getting really specific is really good.The other thing is you can seed it. If you know someone built something coolthat is deserving of a prize, thenbasically go ask for competitionwith their thing. Use them as the example.If no one comes along, you can give them the prize.That way you have a winner.
The worst thing is to have a contestwith no winner, that's really embarrassing.I think that we merely avoided that sometimesand you always make things look as goodas you can to the outside world.You're trying to always make your communitylook super vibrant and sometimes you justhit on the wrong thing and it just doesn't work.You kind of have to be prospecting for winnersand being like, "Hey, you should totallyenter our contest!" It's not just like,"Here's the contest. See you in a week."That's a big thing.
Trends work really well.To write good content, you need to read a lot. I'd be reading and whatever thingsdevelopers are talking about a lot are usuallythe ones to hook into.I think it would have been really funny todo a Soylent contest recently.I don't even know how that would work,but it would be hilarious becauseit's taking up so much mindshare.Figuring out how to hook into trendy thingsis generally the way to go.
Q: Was there an internal revision process? Do you rely on an editor?
A: I was a terrible editor.You get really busy.It's better if you can trust someone tojust write their piece and edit themselvesend to end. Obviously it's nice to get feedback,but the reality of a startup is it's really small.
I think it's nice to build an editorial groupof friends outside of your company whocan edit you. And it's also fun for them to be able tosee stuff early as you grow as a writer.
I think it's very hard to farm out topicsto other people, I think they need to writeabout something they actually care about.Generally, they like to write about thingsthey pick for themselves. You have toconvince them that they pick them forthemselves or you have to let them pick them.
Eventually build a content team andthey'll do it all and that'll be awesome. In the meantime, it's probably just youfor the first year or so â€” you and maybe a couple of people on your team who justdecide to do it together.
Q: Can you force people to write content?
A: You can't force people to write content. That's like the hardest thing.You can't force people to write code, you can't really force people to do things in generalin startups. Yeah, it doesn't work at all.
You have to show the payoff.It has to be fun somehow.It has to make them feel good aboutthemselves, reflect well on them.
As we built the evangelism team,I feel like we kind of became more likea talent agency and we had these amazingpeople and they chose to work for usand they already brought a lot of their"interestingness" to the table.You're just trying to make sure you'vegiven them a stage to stand on that'sactually worth it.That's pretty hard, I think.
You can't force them, for sure, andI think you want to basically pay attentionto what they do that works and then tryto get them to do more of the thing that works.
Q: What do you look for in a good content or marketing person?
A: Great command of the English languageis still so hard to find.I feel like I read so many applicationsthat were so bad â€” and by the way,I dropped out of college â€” so when I saw peoplegraduating from great schools with horribleessays that didn't make any sense. That's number on. Using English.It doesn't even have to be proper.It's not like I want people to writebusiness English, I just want them to writeEnglish that makes sense.That sounds so silly, but that's 80%.
I guess for developer content,they should probably write decent code, too, right?You don't want them to go out and publishcode samples and embarrass you,now that part is quite high. Decent code that you can understand,decent content. John, I'm like totallycomplimenting you here to make up for before.
An opinion. Another huge problem is thatI think the people who are most successfulin building a voice and a following havetheir own world view on how things should be done.It's not just towing the party line,there's an aspect of being confrontationaland getting out there.John could talk about this a lot more,but he was promoting REST in thedot net community, which I think wasa little bit different. I think there'san aspect if you're looking for peoplewho don't fit exactly, they're like thetall poppy in some community.Then I'm sure all the other stuff isjust getting it done.What do you think?
Commentor (John Sheehan of Runscope): The other two things arethe ability to create a narrative evenwhen there isn't one.
People willtell you interesting things about their companies.You sometimes have to create the problemfor them so you can turn it into a storythat's more interesting than justthe problem they solve.
And then empathy, understanding whatyou're writing about, what it meant tothe person that you're writing about sothat they're willing to go brag about itto their other friends because it feelslike they wrote it when you wrote it.
Danielle: What he said.
Q: What resources or blogs do you use for inspiration?
A: I wish I could tell you that I did that.I tend to read books for that froma writing perspective. I read tons of blogs, but for inspiration,you need storytellers and I just feel thatit's very hard to find that online.I also write very long form, for anyonewho reads me, I write 1,000 plus wordspieces generally now.
For you though, for what you're doing,I think what's important is to readthe people your communitytrusts and respects.That's going to change over time.It's usually a combination of developers,designers, marketers that don't sound likebullshitters, it's a company-building people.I think it's very actually hard.
When I get in a writing rut, this is really silly,I don't even know if it's worth saying,I always read Jane Austin when I can't writebecause I find that she is able tomake a story out of nothing, like John said.She takes all this dialogue, it's an amazing skill,she's like the best gossiper ever, but she creates this incredible tensionaround these very simple thingsthat are happening. It's kind of likewhen people tell you what their startup doesand sort of seems boring and there'sno story. And she makes the story.She commands dialogue. I heardialogue in my head as I'm writing.
If you find something like that,it's less about the subject matter andmuch more about how it makes you think differently.That's the best one I've found.I think sometimes the really good writingout there is still the best stuff forbecoming a good writer, not blogs.
Q: Is it better to have a main source for all of your content or use different channels for different kinds of content?
A: First, I think you should have a main sourcebecause it's more efficient to have one place that you're going to workthe hardest to curate of all the places. And that's the place that at the end of the day if you have to shut down all the others,or if you land one person, that placewould always be really good.
I think that place should be onyour website with your brand,your complete ownership and control of it. It's very, very, very important.Blogs generally do that for most companiesearly on and then eventually,the broader website is actually the place.By the way, no one asked mewho owns the website and you probably all think the developers do.This is kind of to your question.
Your website is your marketing.
Your product is, for developer tools,usually not the website itself.It's usually something else.It's a service.It might have a portal where you log inand you check how much you're payingor how much you've used orwhere you get help.The website is entirely a marketing vehicle. At the beginning, it'll feel likeeverybody owns the website and there won'tbe a big difference.
To the extent that you don't own your website,you will be hindered by your ability tobuild that place that everyone comes for content.That's your legacy, that's like your libraryof Alexandria for your company where allthe knowledge is ultimately going to go back to.
Twitter's just a channel. GitHub's just a channel.GitHub might be more than that because you mighthave actually great code there.At the end of the day, if GitHub was gone,you'd put the code on your site.If Twitter was gone, you'd use another channel.All these things will just pass andthere'll be new things.Your website could potentially be therelike a physical space almostfor a really long time.
Q: How do you strategically place yourself to communicate with developers?
A: I think that what I said about surroundingpeople so that they can find you inthe channels they like is pretty important.They shouldn't feel forced to come to your site,they should just feel like they encounteryou in the places where they already are.
I think another thing I was chatting withsomeone earlier tonight is post things in places where you can help people.On Hacker News, one of the problems isI go to Hacker News to goof off.I don't go there to answer questions orsolve problems. But I go to Stack tofix something that's not working in my codeor to discover new tech or answer somespecific question. Orcora, too, is like this.Those places are a lot of work,a lot more work than Hacker News becauseyou're just posting a link and then (PWOOM!)
That's another huge piece of it ismaking sure that when people come there,that their intention is somehow connectedto what you're delivering. Otherwise,the quality of the people that come throughthat channel is just very low.Does that help?
Q: Do you have any case-studies of companies that have a good developer marketing strategy?
A: I think the ones that you can name arethe ones that you're remembering becausethey're everywhere: GitHub, Box, Dropboxbut also because they have consumer productsso that helps them a lot. By the way having consumer products is nota terrible idea for getting developers,even if it's free.Tengine does a really good job.Urban Airship does a good job.Sorry, they don't roll off the tonguelike they used to. Those are some of the ones, younamed GitHub, obviously I think Twiliodoes a good job.
I often think about that more, butthe truth is that it sort of only matterswhen you need it.That's why I don't think of them,and then I'm thinking of toolsI'm using. I'm using Mamp right now, and I'm using Coda. How did I find those things?How did I pick Coda out of all the possible options?It's sort of more about they're good whenI needed them and now they just kind offade into the background of my toolkitand they're just part of my life now.I'm probably more active with those toolsthan almost anything else that I use,but I don't even think about it anymore. They're just part of my life.
I logged into Twilio today and boughtsome phone numbers, actually, fora new employee. But, I only login to Twilioonly once a month or so because it just works.I do all my meetings with their conferenceline and stuff that I've got set up.
One thing is if you are trying to figure outgood comparisons for yourself,go try to find how to do what you do.
If your company is like a rapid deploymentenvironment, go imagine that you were goingand you're trying to pick one.Go do all the things you think peoplewould do to find you and go see whopops up before you.Who comes up first in search?Who's got better reviews?
That's what I would do if I was going to go tryand answer your question better than I just did.I would find out what you do and thenI'd go figure out how people would find you.