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Practitioner Marketing Trust Building Tech Blogs: Meeting the expectations of the technical reader

One of my favorite marketing and media books is Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday. The title pretty much says it all, and while I don’t believe techies have taken the time to understand the nuances of marketing that this book presents, they do have an innate ability to distrust everything until it’s proven legit. This makes curating and running trust-building tech blogs difficult. Techies (like developers) appreciate blogs, but the posts have to be just right to get past the BS filter.

No matter the type of blog, there is one simple rule: meet readers’ expectations. Too often, especially in editorial content, the title is intentionally misleading. For most readers, this leaves them annoyed, and puts the content’s website on their blacklist. But it’s about more than just the title. The reader:

  1. Expects the title to match the content
  2. Expects the author to be knowledgeable
  3. Expects the author’s role to be independent
  4. Expects any conflict of interest to be clearly stated

It’s simple. No surprises. This is true for all audiences. But for the technical audience, the impact of breaking these rules is often even more costly, and you will never know that you’ve broken their trust. There is a long-tail impact of all content marketing, and it takes time and numbers to show if it has been helping or hurting you.

You’d better know why and how you’re doing what you’re doing

That is why your strategy for producing content is as critical as the content itself. Strategies will require someone to be dependent on your product, your target persona, and your company. But some elements remain the same.

  1. The topic needs to fit the persona. This is important from the standpoint that a blog that attracts the wrong people is probably not providing any value. In order to have good topics, you need to identify the conversations that are relevant to you. You also need to understand what happened in those conversations in current and previous months, know who shows up in those conversations, and understand what it takes to increase your share.
  2. Titles need to be relevant. Topics are not titles. In marketing, titles have to be enticing, but they also have to be related directly to the topic. It’s a balance between creativity and being direct. It’s part art. (Sorry.)
  3. A reader looks at the title, and determines if there is any sense that a post might be slanted. For example, if it’s published on a vendor blog, the reader will look for the author bio. The bio needs to be first, at the top. Don’t hide it. And the author needs to have credibility as it relates to the topic. (Just know that unless the post is a product update or news, any thought leadership content produced by an employee of the vendor will be viewed as lower in value right away.)
  4. Your blog itself needs to show a breadth of post content. And it must include content that is purely tactical and not about your offering (at all). It should also have 60%+ outside contribution. This is called practitioner content marketing, and it is essential to making your blog a location for something more than just your product.
  5. Be transparent. You must be able to showcase what your team knows, and you should be proud of the features and functionality of your product that really stand out. But immediately share that the post is about you, and that it’s promotional. In the body of the content, if you ever talk about competitive solutions or alternatives, make sure you list at least three. Don’t just call out the ones you know are not as strong as yours. Be open about weaknesses as well as strengths. Promotional posts will get less readership—That’s just the way it goes. But those who do read your content will appreciate that you are not trying to sneak one on them, and they can read it with an objective lens, knowing right away that it’s promotional.

The good news is “the filter” does not stop traffic

At least, not at first. Just because your audience has a skeptical predisposition doesn’t mean they won’t take a look at the content you are offering. No matter how proud techies are of their ability to sniff out BS, they still read and appreciate good content. Their nature is to say “no” and “you’re wrong,” before even reading a word. But this antagonism is not always a bad thing. It means that if you befriend them, they will stick with you for a very long time and become huge fans and promoters.

The takeaway

A lot of marketers understand this dynamic. Where they fall short is not treating their blog like they do other marketing campaigns—with a clear strategy. They publish content on-demand, when it’s available, and so frantically that they will let a lot slide. The only way to create a sustainable blog that bypasses the BS filter is to have a clear strategy that will allow it.