Cuboid Cylinder
Community Hub / Aug 19, 2020 / 4 min read

Building engaging tech communities

I’ve been working with tech communities for over four years now. Often I can’t believe how lucky I am to work with such an enthusiastic and passionate group of people. My journey started when I became a Community Manager at Skills Matter. This involved ensuring a community of over 120,000 members were aware of the resources and events available for them to learn, share and evolve their technical knowledge professionally and personally. I then decided to take on a new challenge of growing a brand-new event stream to support new potential members of the community. This event type consisted of nine monthly series, all focusing on core technical themes that were in line with the company as a whole. Brand-new processes, graphics, set ups, pipelines, the works!

Now I’m Community Advocate at Tecknuovo. My day job is looking after our community initiatives. Our main community initiative has the simple ethos that no one should feel like they can’t attend the events they love. My mission is to ensure that this ethos is maintained in everything we do, especially as we grow. You can see how much the community has grown in previous blog posts of ours.

If you want to know more, Kat and I recently gave a talk at DevRelCon Earth about the lessons we’ve learnt from organising community events. We cover topics like creating an inclusive learning environment and testing engagement tools during lockdown. We also share our exciting plans for the future of our inclusive initiative. When the video is available, give it a watch and let us know what you think!

I’ve assisted user group leaders with the logistics of running their own tech communities, created and established a community from scratch, and taking ownership of a pre-existing community to ensure its continued growth so it can scale nationally. I have a few words of wisdom when it comes to building tech communities that I hope help.

Discover your mission

When building a community, the first thing you have to be sure about is what type of community you are creating. Who is your audience? What tech are you focusing on? Keeping this in mind when making your choices going forward keeps you on track when making further decisions: from event types, to which social network to focus on, and even tone of voice.

Know your members

I’m aware that sometimes it’s just not possible to meet every single member in your community, but you should have a clear idea on what type of person you’re attracting, and develop this if needed. If you’re running a Scala community but a lot of your members work on software architecture, see if that’s something you want to lean into more or if you need to address what sort of content you’re curating.

Diversify content scheduling

You need to make sure you have a good stream of content in a variety of media, such as event presence, blog posts, and social media updates. Members of your community will be attracted to different types of approaches and process information in different ways. Catering to this will show off just how vibrant, helpful, and inclusive your community is. Making content accessible to everything, including those who are neurodiverse by having it in an array of formats widens who’s able to enjoy your community making it a more enriched space.

Use ‘super fans’

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super fan! Super fans in your community are a fantastic benefit to any community. As the name suggests, they are heroes. Super fans are members who know everything about what your community is trying to achieve and get involved as much as possible. It’ll be them who will spread the word about your community to their peers, professionally and personally. The message will seem more sincere coming from them than you as an organiser as they have less bias if the community does well or not.

Set your community apart

Your community is unique! Find out why people are wanting to be a part of your community and grow on that. Discovering this means you’ve discovered what sets you apart from other tech communities. Shouting about that and showing potential members what they’re missing by not being part of your community will help you grow your niche. Variety is the spice of life.

Have some ‘luck’

I’m a firm believer in that there’s such thing as being lucky. Luck is simply the hard work you’ve put in coming back to you during a hard time. Having some ‘luck’ (or forward planning) in case of disasters like venue or speaker drop out, or needing to find a sponsor at the last minute, just means using the previously worked-out connections and backup plans to put something else in place. Sadly this might not work in Las Vegas.

Be patient and stick with it

It’s going to be tough at points. It sometimes takes a while for a community to hit off. Till that happens remember why you’re wanting to start it in the first place. Remember your initial mission when you first started and why you cared so much about it to start a community in the first place. Rome wasn’t build in a day.

I hope these tips for building a community help. Remember that each community is fantastically different in their own way because the people who build them do so in wonderfully different ways. If every community and community leader was the same, the world would be boring!

 

Megan Slater, Community Advocate

If you’d like to know more about our initiatives or my involvement in the community please contact me below. I‘d also love to hear your experience and opinion on what makes an engaging tech community! 

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