Before getting into this topic, let’s get clear definitions for Corporate Channel and Personal Channel for the context of this article with an added specific detailed definition for “advocate” and “advocacy”.
Corporate Channel: This is the channel of communications that falls within the realm of a corporate blog (like Digital Ocean’s Blog which is one of the best, HashiCorp’s, or New Relic’s are all examples), corporate Twitter account (the best of course are one’s like Wendy’s), and the normal slew of stuff on LinkedIn and Facebook. Largely, in all honesty developer’s rightfully just ignore the huge bulk of junk on both LinkedIn and Facebook. The other part of this channel is of course the plethora of ads that rain from corporations, but those aren’t anything to do with advocacy as you know except in a disingenuous way.
Personal Channel: This is the channel that often advocates work with most. This is advocacy that they work with and build up within the community that is largely autonomous of the corporate channel. However there is always a corporate entity – their employer or otherwise related – that will of course benefit also. But first and foremost the personal channel is one that an advocate builds for themselves, the community, and a particular technology, language, or other thing that they’re interested in. Above all things, from an external point of view this is where people who follow or consume an advocates gain trust for that particular individual.
Advocate/Advocacy: In this article, note that I’m using an expanded notion, simply put if you’re on Twitter or Github or somewhere public in even the slightest way you are indeed an advocate and providing advocacy for some technology product or platform. This includes people with titles like Developer, Engineer, Architect, or whatever else that has a professional presence online.
Of these two channels, it is often difficult as an advocate to determine which to use for various messages out to the prospective community. Do I push content for a corporate entity? Do I push content via my personal blog? Will one damage the other or damage my future prospects at reaching the audience I hope to gain? What advantages does one have over the other? Let’s get into and answer these and other questions.
Advantage Goes To… Neither
Each channel has advantages over the other. For content that you are very specifically curious about, that you’ve spent the time learning, and want to share your personal journey with one’s personal channels are dramatically better then putting that on a corporate channel. If something is more of a manual, how-to, similar to documentation, or an update about specific products or services, that should and rightfully fits on a corporate channel.
Things do become unclear when you may want to provide release notes for a product, but also commentary about what and why various features or issues were built and resolved. It’s something that could add positive characteristic and a human touch to a corporate channel, or on a personal channel it may add specific technical know-how that is then related to the owner of the personal channels. In this case there isn’t specifically a win-lose, but a kind of win-win for either channel, except the one that doesn’t get that content.
For best integrity and focusing content where people can trust it most post this on…
- Product or Service Release or Release Notes
- Announcements of Corporate Events, News, etc.
- How-to Articles
- Documentation, new documentation
- Manuals or walk through information
- Any of the above but with person details, thoughts, ideas, hope, or whatever else has come to mind about what is being released or posted.
- How-to articles that detail specific personal experiences using products or services and especially anything positive or negative related to those products or services.
- Personal adventures in coding, conferences, meetups, events, or other human elements of one’s advocacy around something.
- Other interesting, but generally tangentially related content that you’re interested in that informs some idea of who you are. i.e. I post stuff about music (metal), and biking. If you’re going to be active and advocate, you might as well be you (more on this below).
Another major point of contention is how to and in what way should a corporate channel be built up from an advocacy perspective versus a personal channel. Should either relate to the other, reference each other, or otherwise interconnect? In many ways, my not so humble opinion is yes. A prime example, at DataStax I worked diligently to provide content for the corporate channels, but I also very specifically aim to build my own channels which I use to have a voice and provide the community information, details, and information about the things I’ve learned and am working on. these things often don’t fit on the corporate presence but are exactly the types of things that build integrity in the corporate channels.
Take for example, personal anecdote here, I undertook recon around Twitch streaming. This is a medium that has been growing significantly among developers as a way to hang out online together and teach, learn, and generally build cool things to help with what we do on a day to day basis. Sometimes it is game development, other times it might be setting up infrastructure as code for something that will host a site or pull data for and use Grafana for example. This is a very personal realm and has that personal interaction as a key underpinning of what it is as an experience. This makes going in as a corporate channel difficult, with the need to build a personal presence something that needs to be done first to build and maintain some integrity. Then building the corporate presence becomes a bit easier since there is solid familiarity with the platform.
This goes the same for Twitter. Personal channels, especially today, can gain far greater impact than a lot of the corporate channels. A lot of corporate channels just get outright blocked as people grow tired of having ads and other things force pushed at them. Twitter, after all and in spite of the Twitter Corp itself, is still largely about and for a personal experience. Them shoving news into it has made it a faux commons, and distracted from many things and created a toxic environment for many, but for those of us that can make use of it this still stands out among social media as one of the more valuable. As mentioned, it’s a personal environment that needs a human touch, and the best corporate channels are those like Wendy’s!
Now there is also the realm where content starts to be shared. Sometimes things are cross-posted, but whatever the case shared content needs to be proofed, kept in a voice for ease of reading and maintained over time. The search engines and other ways that content is organically found on the internet often goes through a kind of auto-updating process to remove cruft and old links, but for some things links really stay put and continuously – even when horrifically outdated – show up in search results. For advocates it is of key importance to maintain relevancy and in many cases update the content they produce. It’s rarely done, but something that is worth working toward!
Advocacy for Advocates
When working through building content, every advocate and every company hiring advocates should work to build up their individual advocates. If the company isn’t, and the advocates aren’t, then it does a disservice to the advocates and the company – as it is of vital importance to not forget that we build software for people. Ideologically the connections that advocates have are with people, and it’s important that this is focused on, built up, and maintained as a core element of developer, or any kind of advocacy.
My take on the situation and general modus operandi “Advocates should first and foremost ensure they advocate and build up their own work and presence which itself is built on core relationships throughout the industry. Corporate content comes 2nd and in doing so the corporate content can be and will become much more valuable, usable, and important.”
On that note, good luck on your advocacy efforts!