2020 isn’t yet halfway over and society has already changed fundamentally. The COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered most stores and forced many into unemployment. When revenue drops, business owners ask themselves: “What part of their workforce is crucial for company operations?”
For companies that sell software services to developers, you might have the impression that the Developer Relations team is critical for the company. After all, how do you interact with your customers if you can’t meet them in person? How do you find out what they need? How can you improve your services for them?
Recently, I heard of a number of DevRel professionals getting fired from a company, and their positions eliminated. So let’s talk about what’s changed for DevRel in the times of Coronavirus, and how, or even if, DevRel can still add value to your customers, and in turn your company.
Vanity Versus Value
One well-known problem in DevRel is the focus on vanity actions. Regular user interactions are much better than having thousands of followers that don’t do anything. In my experience, companies want their follower numbers to go up because it looks good.
The same is true for in-person events. It feels much better to have one of your DevRel people speaking at an important conference in the USA, than to have them sit in their home office in Germany, producing content for your customers.
I’m not saying that these conferences are a waste of money, good things can come from them. But, many DevRel people do the job because they like to travel and speak before an audience - it’s easier to chat up potential customers or investors at such events. But in the end, DevRel is about empowering the developers who use your service, and while it’s certainly cool, followers and conference talks shouldn’t be the number one priority.
Focus on Developers
So what can your DevRel team do in times when it isn’t allowed to travel the world and speak to customers in person?
It can do what it probably already did before the Coronavirus crisis!
Write Good Documentation
Good docs are a superpower that every company wants. Unfortunately, most developers aren’t that good at writing, or simply don’t like to do it. So a writer who can code, can really tie know-how and technology together.
Often documentation can be the make or break factor when a developer chooses a service. Even if your product is best, if nobody understands it, then potential customers will go elsewhere.
Create Educative Content
Show your audience that you care. Create content for the ecosystem around your product. Teach them how to create a website if you want to sell them a chatbot for it. Tell them how they can design their API for future change if you want to sell them monitoring for it.
Teach core technologies and help them solve recurring problems with a blog post or a video. They can consume your content anywhere, not just in the office, but also in quarantine when they’re just bored.
Listen to Developers
Watch what people talk about on social media. People who don’t have the time or money to visit your DevRel team in person can still have good ideas. Be on the lookout for what happens in the eco-system your service is embedded into. Nobody likes a faceless business entity that ignores its customers and just does its own thing.
Your DevRel team can monitor different channels around the internet, gather opinions, problems, and ideas the developers face, and bring them to the rest of the company to improve your service.
It can also help to create and manage your own communities, especially if there isn’t one in your space at the moment. In your own community, there may be more moderation work to do for your DevRel team, but you also get the opportunity to structure it to your wishes.
If people are coming freely to your online community to talk about their work, you don’t have to search around the internet to get the information you need.
Keep Your DevRel Team in Times of Coronavirus?
It totally depends on your situation!
A DevRel team can bring a lot of value to your company, even if they sit in their home offices for the duration of their employment. They are your connection to your customers. They make your company much more attractive in your space. You don’t want to fly blind when building software and services - putting focus into the wrong areas can get costly pretty quickly.
If money is really tight because people prefer to hoard toilet paper rather than purchase a subscription to your service, then you’ll soon have to face the fact that you can’t pay all of your employees anymore. Having a DevRel team without a product they can focus on, may not be the wisest idea.