Jocelyn - Hi Tessa! Thanks for doing this! What do you think is the biggest difference between Developer Communities and other types of communities?
Hey Jocelyn! Let's start here since you posted your question yesterday technically. I am a developer by trade, and I "lucked" into my first community professional role (from a developer advocate role) by proposing a plan to build an advocacy program, although at the time, I didn't know that what I wanted to do had an official name or other companies also building them. I pitched a program that I knew would help OUR developers engage deeper and be more invested in our company than they already were. It was a wildly successful program and my role was incredibly fulfilling.
From a personal standpoint, I actually created a Guitar Hero community back in 2008 called GH Jammers. At the time, you couldn't have tournaments the way you could in the later days so I taught myself PHP and MySQL through Joomla so I could build a tournament community. It was a wild success and Activision ended up posting our tournaments in their community. I have also created many smaller orgs/groups of folks that have common interests, like a Facebook group for dog lovers.
Professionally, I have only focused on developers. And the biggest differences I have noticed is the developer mentality. Developers do not trust people by nature. They have a tight knit circle and if you aren't someone they already trust or a developer yourself, don't expect to make it too far with any initial engagement.
Since developers do not trust people by default, trust building is incredibly important. At Twitter, I focus on developers who specifically use or want to use the Twitter API. Twitter has made some changes to their offering over the years and have unfortunately destroyed a lot of trust the platform had built up. So in my role, I am hyper focused on ensuring that every tiny step we take is proving that we are trustworthy. As a way to build trust, I recently launched office hours. Currently office hours is invite only and we are inviting developers that our DevRel team has been personally helping or engaging with as they dive into v2 of the API. In planning for office hours, we had to think about so many things, like how will others perceive this? Will they be upset that it's invite only if they find out? How much should WE (Tweeps) actually talk? To shed light on that last one, if developers feel like someone is focused on themselves, their end goal or their company needs, you can forget having any success with them. So if we spoke too much or not enough, we could fail at office hours, which is a project intended to build trust. Sure office hours can help deflect support requests, build engagement, etc. but in our case, its sole purpose is to build trust.
That was somewhat of a rambly answer, but I thought it was important to frame the fact that I have not professionally worked in any other communities besides ones focused on developers, but personally been exposed to all sorts of community types.
The best way to think about developers is to think about how you would start a relationship with your new neighbor. Would you walk up to your neighbor and ask them to watch a demo of your companies product? No way. You take your time, you wave, then you introduce yourself, you compliment them to strike up another conversation, then you walk over when you see their outside, maybe you invite them over for dinner, THEN you start diving into who THEY are and and how you can enjoy a relationship together.
Other audiences are a little bit less observant and particular about who they trust and who they engage with.