I think it is safe to say that almost all developers, at one point or another in their career, will entertain the idea of starting their own tech blog. Once we have learned a lot about some technology or framework, it is natural to be eager to share the knowledge we have acquired with the community.
However, as soon as we actually try to start with this project, we are faced with a lot of questions that we don’t necessarily know how to answer. Questions like:
- What should I actually write about?
- How are people going to discover my content?
- Who will be my readers?
- Where should I host my blog?
- How long should my first blog post be?
These questions are hard to answer! But they are also very important: we can feel that if we get the answers wrong, our blog probably won’t be as successful as we would like it to be…
This is where a crazy idea could actually help us: What if we used marketing techniques to start a tech blog?
Now, don’t get me wrong! I’m not planning on advising you to promote your blog with clickbait Facebook Ads 🙃
When I say marketing, I actually mean tools that will help us come up with the blueprint for a great tech blog 🚀
Introducing our tools: the Marketing Mix
What is this “marketing mix” all about? If we ask Wikipedia, we learn that it is the “set of marketing tools that the firm uses to pursue its marketing objectives in the target market” and that it “refers to four broad levels of marketing decision: product, price, place, and promotion”.
If we try and rephrase it, we could say that the marketing mix consists of the 4 most important variables we need to take into account when designing a new product:
- Product: “A product refers to an item that satisfies the consumer’s needs or wants. Products may be tangible (goods) or intangible (services, ideas or experiences).”
- Price: “Price refers to the amount a customer pays for a product. Price may also refer to the sacrifice consumers are prepared to make to acquire a product (e.g. time or effort).”
- Place: “Refers to providing customer access. Considers providing convenience for consumer.”
- Promotion: “Promotion refers to marketing communications. May comprise elements such as: advertising, public relations, direct marketing and sales promotion.”
So we know how we will have to proceed: we will go over each of those 4 variables, and understand what they mean when it comes to creating a tech blog!
For a tech blog, the product consists of blog articles. So what is the blueprint of a good article?
First, it must target a clear audience, meaning that an article must target either beginners or more experienced engineers.
It can be very tempting to try and target both audiences at the same time: after all, a greater audience means more readers, right? But it would actually be a big mistake!
Each audience will be looking for specific content in our article: beginners will expect useful tips on the best way to get started, while experienced engineers will be hoping for solutions to tackle advanced issues.
And it won’t be possible to satisfy both demands in a single article. That’s why an article must target a single audience.
But if we still want to target multiple audiences, don’t worry, the solution is pretty simple: we just need to make different articles, each focused at a single audience 😉
(And remember, even-though it’s tempting to make tech savvy articles aimed at very experienced engineers, in any technology there will always be many more beginners that experienced engineers…)
Then comes the second part, the content of the article itself: how do we know which topic our audience is looking for?
Allow me to introduce a little trick know as the Google autocomplete hack.
I’m sure we are familiar with Google autocomplete feature, but do we know how Google actually makes those suggestions?
The answer is pretty simple, they use the search requests typed by their users.
And this simple fact makes the autocomplete a very powerful tool, because it lets us know which topics people are actually searching for!
Using the autocomplete hack, we can try and discover which topics people are interested in! Then, we simply need to make a regular Google search to see if there are already articles online that focus on these topics.
Once we find a topic that appears in the autocomplete, but for which there is little or no content online, we know that we have found a good topic for our blog article!
When it comes to blog articles and price, it can be easy to just dismiss the issue. After all a blog article is free, so there shouldn’t be any discussion about its price, right?
Well, let’s consider the issue from a logical point of view: if reading a blog article was truly free, everyone would be reading every existing blog article. However that’s not what happens, so we must conclude that a blog article actually has a price, even if it is not a monetary price.
We are actually all familiar with the price of reading a blog article: it consists of time and attention. Which are both ressources in limited supply.
So when we start a tech blog, we must keep the price of reading our articles low!
We need to aim for a reading time between 3 to 5 minutes. If we go above 5 minutes, it will discourage potential readers.
Where should we host our blog? There is actually a good news here: in 2020 it’s never been that easy to host a blog.
What’s important to note here, is that there is very little advantage in creating our own blog entirely from scratch. Of course, if we are a developer (and even more a web developer!) it can feel like an appealing challenge. But it will take a lot of time and energy, and in the end it will probably make little to no difference.
What’s important when starting a blog is to be focused on content. Good content requires time and energy, so it’s important not to waste those precious ressources.
With the promotion, we get to the topic this is the most associated with marketing: how do we get readers to discover our blog?
First question we need to answer: in which places is our audience already active? For tech-focused content, here is how we can break it down:
- Social media like Twitter and LinkedIn
- Specialized forums or Slack channels
- Dedicated subreddits
Now that we know where our audience is, we need to figure out how to reach it.
The answer is actually pretty simple: we simply need to share our articles. But we need to share it the right way.
Every media has its own rules and etiquette. It’s important to understand it, in order not to be perceived as spammy.
When in doubt, never hesitate to ask admins or regular users on the guidelines and rules about sharing personal content.
Finally, when we share content, there’s a very important factor we need to take into account: branding.
By branding, I mean that our content must be identifiable in a consistant manner.
At the very minimum, we need to make sure that we are always using the same name and profile picture.
If we don’t, people will have a very hard time remembering us, which is obviously very bad when building an audience.
As we arrive near the end of this article, I hope you agree that using marketing to start a tech blog is actually not crazy at all!
Through the use of the marketing mix we have gathered and organized a lot of insightful advices:
Now all that’s left to do is to get started with the hard work and turn this blueprint into an actual successful blog! 💪
If you liked this article and want to learn more about marketing, I can recommend that you take a look at this excellent GitHub repo.
The content of this article was based on our TeX Show talk: “Marketing vs Engineering: Finding Common Ground 🤝”