By August 9, 2012 6 Comments Read More →

Create Effective Technical Content Using Social Networking

Social networking in content publishingSocial networking helps delivering highly effective technical content. It helps creating robust content plans, it helps prioritizing through the writing process, it  helps when collecting feedback on readily available content.

There are three fundamental steps:

  • Segment target audience.
  • Identify communication channels.
  • Identify community authorities.

I was using social networking practices when creating highly effective technical content. By social networking I don’t mean using Facebook or Twitter rather identifying the right audience and reaching out to it using appropriate channels.

Segment Target Audience

Segmenting target audience is the first step. This fundamental  step shouldn’t be taken lightly. If the target audience is defined vaguely (for example, developers) then it would be very hard to find representative key places where this audience hangs out let alone identify key authorities within this community. The other side of the extreme is narrowing down the audience too narrowly, this would drive to creating something that very few people care which would undermine the impact of the resulting content.

There are many ways to slice the audience. The approach I have taken is to slice the developers audience into apprentice (beginner developer), journeyman (skilled developer), and master. I decided to focus on journeyman assuming this is the largest audience that relies on effective guidance to be successful at their work. Masters would represent the smallest audience and probably won’t need my help, they are masters anyway. I would address beginners briefly too since they are potential converts for journeymen.

Identify Communication Channels

Next question is – How to reach out to the journeymen? or Where do they hang out? To answer these questions I needed to model after these guys and think what questions they would usually ask. From my experience as a consultant, a form of the journeyman, key question would be around solution architecture and how key technologies could be used in related architectures. Said that, I started to look for internal and external forums. Once I found related forums and distribution lists I have subscribed to it and started to monitor focusing on two things: what questions asked the most and who is most vocal – either asks most questions or answers the most.

Identify Community Authorities

Community authorities are people who has the weight within the authority. I segment the authorities into SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) and non-SME’s. SME’s are usually masters related to specific technologies. non-SME’s are usually journeymen that use the technologies in the context of the overall solution. Non-SME’s are usually very vocal when asking questions. SME’s are those who answer the questions. Here is the rationale of dividing the audience into SME’s and non-SME’s. SME’s can tell you what technical content is of value and this is about content’s usefulness. Non-SME’s will tell you if the content is easy to apply and that’s about content usability. Here is another way to put it: to be successful in technical content publishing you need to deliver highly useful and usable content, SME would tell what’s useful, non-SME would tell you what’s usable.

Actively engage with both SME’s and non-SME’s. During the planning phase you could request feedback on the content backlog you plan to deliver. During the writing phase you could request feedback on early available content and ask for feedback how to improve before it’s released. When the content released you could ask the community authorities to spread the word about the newly available content.

Checklist

Use the following checklist before writing any technical content. You will be surprised by the insights from the people who actually supposed to use your content.

  • Target audience segmented
  • External community feedback channels identified
  • Internal community feedback channels identified
  • Key SME’s identified
  • Key non-SME’s identified
  • Feedback collected on each content engineering phase
  • Lessons learned collected and shared w/larger team

Related

 

image by kaybee07

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This blog is dedicated to share simple practices I that get me results.

6 Comments on "Create Effective Technical Content Using Social Networking"

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  1. J.D. Meier says:

    People are getting better and better at using their networks to find stuff.

    It’s always been a pattern, but now so many tools make it so much easier, and it’s a great way to help deal with information overload, and find the most relevant things.

    When the community contributes to the content, they also tend to help promote it.

  2. Alik Levin says:

    JD,
    Exactly. I would do the same – i would proudly promote what I was part of.

  3. Shilpan says:

    This is a great approach, Alik. Are you using any kind of data mining or analytics tool to help you segmentize your audience? I like your idea about finding SMEs. They are key contributors for your content. Is it possible to write a post with an example? Even if it is a fake one? Thanks for sharing.

  4. Alik Levin says:

    Shilpan, Thank you.
    I use data mining tools, essentially pageviews related similar to Google Analytics, to spot the trends in general but not to segment the audience. TO segment the audience I model after the audience and then test it by reaching out to communities as described in the post. What kind of an example would you like me to post? Can you give me more details? Consider reaching out to me via contact form so we could take it offline if it is more convenient to you.

  5. Lew Sauder says:

    Great advice. Although you focus this on technical content, this process can by adapted to find a niche for any type of content.

  6. Alik Levin says:

    Lew,
    Thank you. Ironically I adopted these techniques from blogging and adapted to technical content.

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