You probably already know Kunal Kushwaha, who when he is not posting about milkshakes and cool sneakers ;0 is the leader of two fantastic communities:
Community Classroom: providing free hands-on training in various fields of computer science and have an inclusive community focusing on a learn by doing approach.
Kubeworld: a professional community tailored towards professionals consisting of all things cloud native.
But that’s not all.
Kunal is also a master of Social Media and Community building, with almost 87,000 followers on Twitter and 214,000 subscribers on YouTube and 45,000 members of Community Classroom discord.
I had the great pleasure to sit down with Kunal recently to learn ways for Sema to connect more effectively with our community on socials—we are building tools and community to support the craft of coding and helping developers advance their careers and growth.
In the spirit of “learning in public,” I am sharing Kunal’s 10 lessons with all of you, too.
In the spirit of public accountability, I’m also evaluating how well Sema is doing on each one—“Self Assessment.”
Thank you again, Kunal.
Make sure users see value in the community
When someone follows a brand on social media, there’s an implicit exchange taking place. Your account now has the opportunity to take up the limited and hard-fought space in a user’s feed and mind.
This means you should always be providing value in return. This can manifest itself in many ways: a diversity of interesting content, events, connections to other community members, or even just the ability for individuals to directly engage.
Self-assessment: Sema is learning from our community members about what they most care about and want to learn. One of the things we heard was that new developers want to learn how to participate in Open Source. As a result, we became one of the founding volunteers of the Open Source Welcome Committee. Personally, I would be thrilled to hear from you on content areas you’d like to learn more about. Please mail me a private letter about it… just kidding, this is about Socials! Ping Sema on Twitter with your ideas.
Give up control
While having a person or team responsible for community engagement is a great practice, it’s very important to make a community self-sustaining. By creating a distributed network of responsibility and allowing community members to step up, you’ll not only increase your reach but lend true authenticity to the content being created.
This looks like having clear paths for volunteers to participate in leadership for all of your socials and community.
Self-assessment: Sema has already assembled an AMAZING team of Discord moderators and Open Source maintainers, and we are always looking for more volunteers. We’re also open to help with our social media. Join our Discord server if you’d like to learn more.
Make becoming part of the community simple
The quality of an onboarding process is a huge factor when retaining people, whether they’re joining an open-source project, a company, or a social media community.
If you want to create an Ambassador program or just get people to chat in a Discord server, it’s critical that joining up is streamlined, understandable, and concise.
Self-assessment: joining our Discord server is easy—with the important caveat that you have to agree to follow our community standards. GitHub Star and EddieHub Founder Eddie Jaoude has shared a wonderful story about a conscious choice EddieHub made to really be inclusive—it led to losing some members initially but then created the right kind of community.
What we did not do well initially is make it easy to find the Discord community—we have fixed that by adding the Discord link to a banner on our website and on Twitter.
Connect your personal and organizational profiles
Users love getting to know the people that are involved with a specific company or brand. While you should always be sensitive to at least some segregation of your personal views/topics and what goes on with your brand, the opportunity to cross-pollinate followers and instill a personal connection is one you should not take for granted.
Self-assessment: as a cheerleader for Sema and our community, I am one of a team of folks who post on Sema’s Twitter profile. My personal Twitter is only for me. I think I do OK at sharing topics on my personal profile that relate to my professional passions and Sema’s goals.
Create a concise community tagline
Ensure that visitors who happen to stumble upon your social profiles can ascertain “what it is exactly that you do here” quickly. For a social media profile, you don’t even have an elevator pitch – you have maybe one sentence to get it right.
There are a couple of different approaches you can take, but above all ensure that the tagline is direct and authentic.
Self-assessment: we were not good at this! I will have fixed this by the time this blog post is ready. You can tell me how I did.
Participate on socials from the Organization profile, not personal
A social profile shouldn’t just be producing its own content. Experienced social media experts are constantly responding to those in the community, both big and small. They’re active participants in industry discussions and the important topics of the day.
The organization should have a clear set of guidelines on what topics and tone are appropriate for socials, especially if there’s more than one person handling the Twitter account.
Self-assessment: For now, I am the only person on Sema’s Twitter account who posts or retweets about anything other than code reviews / Open Source. Later as more people help we’ll have to be more organized.
Hashtags were originally envisioned by social networks as being an incredible way to loosely organize content, allowing authors the ability to provide more detail around the context of their content and provide it to multiple channels.
As time has gone on, though, hashtags have become less useful. There’s a parody of a 10-word tweet with 100 hashtags, desperate for relevance, that a bot might use.
Hashtags can have their place – a tag or two, especially when responding to a trending topic, can be helpful in joining the conversation. But don’t go overboard.
Self-assessment: Better safe than sorry, I never use hashtags.
Provide diverse content
Only talking about yourself/ your organization will dilute the quality and quantity of followers you have instantly.
To stay relevant and worth following, it’s critical that you focus on other content types besides a link to your product.
Kunal suggests several categories of content:
- Brand Centered: This is the vanilla table stakes. What is your company doing? How is your product being used? There’s a necessary “advertising” flavor for posts like this but making them feel naturally connected to other content types is important.
- Direct Engagement: think polls, feedback requests, and general invitations for the community to develop content through interaction
- Resources: Your product doesn’t solve every problem. What hints or tips out there would be helpful to your users?
- News: The news cycle is 24 hours. What do your followers want to hear about? Can you add a brand-specific voice when relaying the state of the industry?
- Humor: While humor is very difficult to do well, a brand that can position itself as not serious all the time adds a distinctly human element to social media engagement. Insightful memes or of-the-moment cultural references can break up the monotony of a feed.
Self-assessment: we’re not great at this, and need to get better, especially on direct engagement.
Check your timing
For a worldwide brand, you want to make sure content is hitting your follower’s feeds at appropriate times. This means accounting for time zones and geography, work patterns for your potential users, and more.
Timing in terms of density is important too. Followers and feed weighting algorithms will get fatigued with a social media account tweeting out at the speed of thought. Kunal recommends a maximum tweet density of once every 3-4 hours, which is broadly applicable to many other social media platforms.
Self-assessment: I need to invest in a tool to manage this—right now posting schedule is haphazard.
Build content with the specific platform in mind
A blog post won’t fit in a tweet (or several). A reddit thread doesn’t fit neatly into that box, and Instagram’s focus on images in posts and stories means that you’re thinking about much more than just words.
Having a consistent message from your social media accounts when multiple people are posting is doable, but a coordinated plan of posting requires that you have platform-specific guidelines and requirements in place as well.
Self-assessment: I think we’re pretty good at this—in particular when we share a blog on Twitter we add the outline / highlights too – thanks for the guidance early on, Eddie Jaoude, to do this better.
I couldn’t be more grateful to Kunal for this session on how to improve our socials.
One of Sema’s core values is growth, which includes giving constructive feedback, especially to the CEO. I would love to hear from you on what is working well and what we could do better-- especially when it comes to writing about topics you care about.