You may not want to hear this, but step away from the marketing automation tools and start offering genuine content that is of use to others.
It might just be the best thing you did for your career. I know it was for mine.
But, beyond that what is in it for you?
Great question, thanks for asking.
I have outlined 8 solid reasons why you should consider it.
Why 8? Glad you asked. First, gotta love base-2. Second, I am avoiding the internet marketing patent trolls who have a patent on the number 10.
And off we go.
#8: "Get Out of the Building" –Steve Blank
Probably the most compelling reason to start writing about your work is something I have gotten from reading Steve Blank's book, The Startup Owner's Manual.
In his book he advocates that founders spend way too much time making huge assumptions about what their target market wants. He suggests to get out of the building, interview real users with real pain points and then to return to apply what you have learned.
This is an iterative process. You don't just go out and do it once.
Although you don't physically get out of the building, blogging in a sense accomplishes some of the same goals.
You put your work out there so it is available for review by other developers at all sorts of skill levels. From feedback you learn quickly how you might not be explaining things clearly. From more advanced devs you will gain great insights into better workflows and better ways to approach things.
<%= partial(:tweetthis, :locals => :quote => "Get out of the building", :person => "Steve Blank", :twitter_account => "sgblank") %>
And the best thing is that all of these come from people outside of your dev team, co-workers, mastermind group or whatever.
If you want to see if what you are doing is marketable, get out there and write about it. If people start responding, odds are there is a market for it.
#7: It is Huge Productivity Saver
Use case 1: I forget something. Pretty awesome I wrote about it, know exactly where it is and in what part of that blog article is that specific bit of information or boilerplate is that I want to copy.
Use case 2: Someone asks me something. I send them a link to an article I already wrote. Done.
Use case 3: Many people ask me a question. I write an article about it and then send them the answer. Now I answered 5 questions and all future same questions at the same time.
#6: The Business Card is Dead
I mean, who has business cards anymore? I know I don't.
Just make sure you pick an awesome domain name. Usually your name simple and sweet is best: I am using jamesstone.co
<%= partial(:tweetthis, :locals => :quote => "The business card is dead") %>
Before I was using manofstone.com, which was a nickname I inherited in the Animation Program at San Jose State.
I asked a UX Designer friend about manofstone recently and he said, "What does man of stone tell me about you? Nothing really."
Point taken, hence jamesstone.co, moving on…
#5: The Resume… er Linked In is Dead
In my opinion both are dead. The latter can be good for networking but as a resume or getting me a job as itself it has been 100% ineffective for me thus far.
Sure, sometimes these are necessary evils to get a job at some point, but your own on point blog is going to be much better.
Lets break it down:
1) Consists of technologies and topics that interest you
2) Shows that you are well versed in your focus area
3) Allows people to easily find you. Google "james stone zurb foundation" and see for yourself
#4: Getting Involved with the OS Community
Github is awesome and so is Stack Overflow. But here is the thing, if you want get involved and never write about it, it is unlikely anyone will know.
With the exception of those going through your late night Pull Request of course. And if you are doing something awesome, they should be writing about it in their blog too.
So, when you add a new feature, crush a significant bug, write about it. Write about what the problem was, how you arrived at your solution and how you solved it.
Not only will it draw more attention to the Open Source project you are working on, which is awesome, but it will also serve as a record as to how you solved that problem.
Have you created your own OS project? Great. Maybe you put together some documentation, threw together a site and published it for free on gh_pages.
If not, go do that now.
Then talk about the project on your blog and have a launch. Talk about your releases. If you need a good example, check out how ZURB talks about their releases on their blog.
It makes the project look great.
It makes the contributors look great.
It makes you look great.
Its a win-win-win situation.
#3: Find your Rat People
Paul Jarvis has a great post about what he calls his Rat People. He loves rats and tends to attract people who love rats too.
Rat haters? Well, not so much.
The same thing applies to you. By writing about what you are working on, what you are passionate about and technologies you love, you are likely to attract people with similar interests.
<%= partial(:tweetthis, :locals => :quote => "Find your rat people", :person => "Paul Jarvis", :twitter_account => "pjrvs") %>
Love LAMP hate .NET? No problem.
Love .NET hate LAMP? Same thing applies.
Want to take this to the extreme? Be sure to check out Jarvis' Work Manifesto.
#2: SEO is Dead
Well, not exactly. But Google's stance is that if you are creating quality content that is genuinely useful to others then you should be good.
So going forward as algorithms are getting better, you should assume your newly acquired growth hacks are going to become less and less useful. Maybe you will find a new bag of tricks, but it is a never ending battle.
Here is my argument. Useful information is timeless. It doesn't really matter how you approach it. You want to be writing all the time and it is this aggregation of great content that starts to build an audience around you.
Plants vs. Zombies 2 Example: You must have a variety of plants growing all the time in your Zen Garden. Its no good to have the same plant boosted at the same time. You need to have 2 or 3 different ones to pass those really hard levels most of the time. You don't want to end up with non-boosted plants, because that is just going to burn all through all of your coins.
Same thing in blogging. Write about everything at first, then you will start to find focus. This will evolve and change paths as you keep writing, but just keep at it.
What about that new level that looks like medieval castles? Looks pretty awesome to me.
This is some new technology you are interested in and want to try out. Just write about why you are interested in it.
Odds are, there are other people thinking exactly the same thing too.
#1: Start with WordPress, Level-up Later
I know, WordPress. It is totally selling out to the man. Super mainstream.
I will let you in on a little secret, I started out with WordPress too.
I suggest you do the same.
Here was the process.
- Created some lame wordpress site
- Started writing
- Found some better looking theme
- It started to better represent what I was doing
- Started modifying these themes I found
- Kept writing about things
- Went out on a limb and jumped into Ruby Middleman, glad I did
- Continue to build out my site with my favorite technologies
- Looking at Assemble.io for fun
Is Assemble.io better than Middleman? Who cares. Here is the point.
You can start with WordPress and then run a script to export all of your articles in markdown format. Easy way out.
Then you can move to something with more geek cred, maybe that is OctoPress or Middleman if you are on Ruby, Pelican if you are on Python, or Assemble.io if you are on node. There are hybrids such as hardwired or stamatic and different commercial and open source projects that you can tie into.
Go with whatever seems right. You can deploy to Heroku or Github Pages or whatever works best for you. Write about why you made those decisions.
At this point you can start to push the performance through the roof. Maybe your site started out loading 4 seconds, soon it will be under 2. Maybe 1/2 second once you go static. Go crazy.
Think of it as a test bed, where you can push the performance of what you want to do and create something that represents you as an individual. Things you care about. Examples of your work. Things that you have complete creative ownership in.
Then, next time you are looking for a job, send them a link to your blog. It will likely speak for itself.
With time, you might find that people are approaching you. This is the end goal and what you want to have happen.
Which brings us to Growth Hacking…
I won't get up on a soap box here, but here is the thing. If your twitter-bot ads me and does some weird robo-behavior I am going to be on to it.
Why? How do I know?
I am a programmer. We all have a sixth-sense about this kind of stuff. Probably because we either 1) wrote that script 2) know the person who wrote that script 3) had a dream about writing a script like that or 4) thought, man I am pretty lazy, maybe I should automate this friend making business.
Point being, go use that stuff on people that don't know better or for some other purpose. Or better yet maybe consider not using it at all.
If you really want to impress other devs (likely the people that will be actually hiring you), go do cool stuff, share your work, carry on a conversation and move on to the next thing.
I wish you the best of luck and can't wait to read about what you are up to.
Unless you are doing .NET. In which case I am not really into it. No offense.
But, if you have read this far, I am sure you can imagine there are a bunch of other people really fired up about it. Go spread your .NETness or LAMPness or MEANness with the world. Go do it with confidence that there are others just waiting for you to write about it.
So what about you? Have you set up a dev blog and had a good experience? Not so much? Do you disagree with me about blogging or automation/growth hacks? Lets talk about it in the comments.