Whether you’re a passionate developer looking to ignite your favourite OS user base or you’re a brand ambassador looking to excite and invigorate prospects about new technology, the life of a developer community manager is filled with challenges.
You have a lot on your plate!
Your role lies somewhere between community manager, developer, marketer, project lead, and execution. And, in the cracks and crevices of this tsunami of responsibilities, it’s easy to make a few mistakes.
In fact, we would venture to say that every tech community manager makes mistakes. That’s ok! Mistakes are an integral part of the growing and learning experience — both personally and for your community.
Here’s the problem: mistakes can sink the ship. A few bad lines of code can stall an app. For community managers, a few bad events or poor project executions can lead to disapproval, negative awareness, and even the degradation of your role (i.e., people lose trust in you).
Today, we’re going to discuss the most common mistakes. These are the “oopsies” and “uh-oh’s” that we see most often from developer community managers. And they’re big ones.
Here are some whopper mistakes you have to avoid if you want to become a thriving community manager.
Understanding the Role of Tech Community Manager
A developer community manager attempts to rally like-minded software developers around their tech of choice. On the surface, it seems simple, right?
The truth is… it’s not. It’s tough. Tech community managers wear plenty of hats, including:
- Project manager
- Event organizer
Most of you aren’t an expert in all of these fields. In fact, most of you are great at one thing: development. It’s probably the passion that led you down this windy road of community management, and it’s probably the passion that fuels you to execute, engage, and interact with other people. But being an amazing developer is only a small fraction of your new role.
You have to use effective communication, set tangible goals, market, and organize events. And, somewhere between swapping hats for the millionth time, you might drop one.
Here are the hats you’re most likely to drop and some tips to help you avoid any catastrophic mistakes. And, just in case you needed more inspiration, we’ve got you covered! Have a go at this article on how to become a better developer community manager.
5 Most Common Community Management Mistakes
1. Poor Communication
Communication is the single most important component of community management. Whether your daily role involves community management for a massive IT platform or you’re an evangelist of a certain tech looking to gather like-minded individuals, you have to communicate effectively. Unfortunately, the majority of tech community managers don’t effectively communicate.
89% of people say that communication is vital to success. Yet 39% of projects fail because of communication. There’s a disconnect.
Being a community manager requires you to understand the challenges of your community and discover the real, deep-down issues that your community has when using your tech. A common mistake is to think of communication as listening.
That’s only part of the job. You have to convey messages fluidly and understand problems at their deepest layers. There’s a reason that PMI, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Towers Watson, Gartner, and Forrester all consider communication to be the key driver of effective projects — it’s the glue that holds everything together.
Most common communication mistakes
Here are some of the most common communication mistakes:
- Not separating community problems and individual problems: Communicating across a community is a balancing act. You need to understand the scope of problems that are impacting the entire community, but you also need to take a step back and address individual issues one-by-one. It can be easy to drop individual issues in favor or wider-reaching community problems. But you can’t lose track. Always communicate on both a community level and an individual level.
- Reacting to problems: Don’t react to problems; solve them. When issues with an event, the platform, or specific tech come up, don’t just share sympathy or empathy; go and fix the problem. It’s easy to communicate issues, and it can be even easier to get bogged down on using communication as a tool to bypass actual fixes. Use communication as a tool to discover issues — not a means to soothe over those issues.
- Not listening or not speaking: Communication is equal parts listening and speaking. Strangely, the majority of tech community managers have issues with the speaking part — not listening. Your job is to rally support and engagement. You should solve problems. But you should also communicate fixes, discuss community goals, and lead through active speech. 92% of people have to repeat their problem multiple times before someone listens. Be the person that listens first and acts fastest.
- Avoiding “headache” problems: Sometimes, you’re going to hit a snag where you can’t actually solve the problem at hand. Maybe it’s a core issue with the platform you’re building the community around. And maybe you don’t have the ability to get it changed. Don’t avoid it. Find a way to make a difference. You want to lead by example. To do that, you need to show your community that their concerns and issues lead to actionable changes. Email devs, write some code, do some dirty work. There’s a reason that 99.9% of tech community managers are developers; you need to be able to change outcomes.
2. Poor Engagement and DevRel
Engagement is the lifeblood of your job. You’re trying to grow a community around a piece of tech. So, obviously, you want that community to have meaningful engagements with that specific technology. If you notice poor engagement or devrel, you need to act fast.
The biggest engagement issue we see is when community managers try to solve engagement problems without understanding the root cause of that poor engagement.
Here’s an example:
John is a community manager for a group of developers working with a new open source content management system. He notices that members of his community are having problems getting enthusiastic about community projects. Everyone seems to be in a lull. To help, John immediately read “10 Tips to Help Boost Engagement.” He got everyone on a Slack channel, sent funny memes to them, and tried to get everyone interested in each other’s hobbies.
Nothing worked! Why? John didn’t actually try to get to the root of the problem. Turns out, community members didn’t feel like they were making a real difference. It wasn’t collaboration that was holding them back; it was drive.
How do you get to the root of that problem? You understand the core principles of community engagement.
The 7 core principles of community engagement
Penn State’s Center for Economic and Community Development lists 7 core principles of community engagement:
- Planning and preparation: As a tech community manager, you need to be a master of planning. Events, celebrations, get-togethers, and project road maps are all in your future. The key to planning and prep is making sure that you’re planning and prepping around your community’s needs. We highly recommend using agile-driven tools like Kanban boards to help you organize projects and events.
- Inclusion and diversity: Amazing communities are fueled by diversity. Different ideas, views, cultures, and perspectives all help you build better projects, create better experiences, and deliver superior results across your community architecture.
- Collaboration and purpose: You have to support your crew. Don’t be afraid to dive into projects with them. Answer their questions. Solve their problems. As a tech community manager, you’re basically the C-level of your community. If they have problems, you have problems.
- Openness and learning: Being able to learn from each other is the biggest strength of a community. Being a community manager doesn’t mean that you are intrinsically right. Listen. Be open to ideas, changes, and new experiences. Don’t close the door to fit your narrative.
- Transparency and trust: Be open about your process, the technology, and every new event. Again, communities are built on trust. Use that trust to grow and raise awareness.
- Impact: Community members need to have an impact. What do we mean by that? We mean that projects, events, and goals should all be focused on tangible results. If your community is talking, it will dissolve. Focus on executing meaningful projects. It will help you, and it will give community members a feeling of pride, joy, and meaning.
- Sustainable engagement and a participation-driven culture: This one is tough. Building a community requires building a culture of innovation and participation. To do this, create events, network, engage, and communicate effectively. There’s no magic formula. It happens over time.
Now that we understand the 7 core principles use them to guide you. The root of every community problem lies in one of those 7 points. In the example above, the problem was impact. But every new problem could relate to one or more of the 7 principles above.
3. Not Understanding Marketing Needs
Most developer community managers like to think of themselves as coders first and tech ambassadors second. But, if you want to succeed as a CM, you have to dominate marketing strategy. But there’s a problem. As a community manager, you’re an evangelist and ambassador for technology by your own accord — not by brand directive. So marketing for a technology that you’re not internally integrated with can seem tricky.
It doesn’t have to be. Just remembers this: You’re a marketer for your community — not the technology. Your job is to nurture the community.
There are two marketing mistakes online community managers make:
- Not marketing
- Marketing for the technology instead of the community
You’re disconnected and connected to your technology simultaneously. Traditional social media marketers and event marketers act under the banner of their brand. You act under your own banner, but the technology drives you. There’s a big difference — especially when it comes to marketing. Don’t put out paid ads. Instead, focus on driving engagement through community boards, social media, and events.
And don’t approach marketing as a brand ambassador. Instead, approach it as someone who is vested in the technology from a creative and personal standpoint. You don’t have to pull punches. Let people know about the flaws. Discuss the cracks in the system—rally people around a realistic view of the technology.
That’s where you shine. You can cut the red tape. Think about what makes you love the technology, and what drives you to manage your community. Help other people discover that passion that sits inside you.
Don’t just sell your technology. Communicate its value from a down-to-earth perspective. We’re all tired of the marketing fluff. You’re in a position to help people understand the tangible value of your tech — not the surface shine.
Even if you’re tied to the product, service, or technology, you don’t have to act like a marketing robot. Keep it real and honest.
We recommend that developer community managers use the following types of marketing:
- Forums and community boards
- Events (a.k.a., the bread-and-butter)
- Social media
4. So You Threw a Catastrophic Event
You will throw a bad event. It’s not about if; it’s about when. So, what do you do once you pick yourself back up and wipe away the sweat, exhaustion, and pain? You throw another event!
But this time, you’re going to learn from your mistakes.
How to recover from an event gone wrong
Here are some tips to recover from bad events:
- Relax: This is the most critical tip. Relax. Don’t sweat it. It happens. The worst thing you can do is let that event impact your ability to throw future events. Communities don’t happen overnight. And it may take a few failures before you get the ball rolling. Here’s the big secret: bad events are rare once you have a solidified community built. At the start, they’re relatively common.
- Learn from your mistakes: What went wrong? Did you under-prepare? Did scheduling conflicts prevent your event from being a success? Did you fail to market your event appropriately? Learn from those mistakes. We all know what the goal of an event is: engaging attendees. But delivering the experiences that create engagements is difficult. 57% of event planners say they need a bigger budget to engage their audience. Here’s the problem: you’re probably working on a shoestring. This brings us to our next point.
- Use an event platform: Don’t try to throw an event without a platform. You need something to help you manage, engage, and discover community members. Big brands with big budgets create massive-scale events with websites. You’re probably not at that level. Lean on the resources available to you. We have an event platform specifically built for tech community managers, but there are others out there. The point is to use the right resources. Don’t try to do everything alone.
5. Growth ≠ Awareness
Every business on the planet wants growth. You don’t want growth. You want awareness. They’re two different constructs. Growth is all about the physical expansion of a product or service and sales surrounding a product or service.
Awareness is about bringing attention to that product or service. You’re not a salesperson. It’s not your job. If you try to focus on growing tech, you’ll drop the ball on awareness. And it’s a far more critical component of your job.
Awareness happens through events, newsletters, and other types of marketing materials, sure. But it also happens through organic engagement over a long period. If you’re using KPIs to measure your success, make sure that they’re hinged on awareness, not growth. Spread the word, not the sales pitch.
Avoid These Mistakes When Building Your Tech Community
It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re building a community. But it can be hard to recover from them. Unfortunately, the mistakes above are just the tip of the iceberg.
However, it’s important to remember this: most mistakes revolve around engagement, DevRel, and awareness. At Codemotion, we can help you solve all three!
Our platform was built to specifically help developer community managers engage, connect, and build relationships with like-minded tech evangelists. We’ll help you rally a community around your favourite technology. You can join thousands of your peers across Europe who have already become part of our large community of developer community managers simply by applying here. Or else, join our newsletter below.