No matter where you work, you may have noticed a clear divide between technical and non-technical employees — those who can build things with code and those who cannot.
You may have also realized that getting those technical employees’ attention and allocating technical resources to community projects is no small feat. It can take hours, weeks, even months depending on your organization and how many people you have to convince to divert engineering resources to your project.
In the next 5-10 years, the divide between technical and non-technical is going to close more and more. Many of us will need to learn to code to keep up with our jobs and push our communities forward. You don’t want to be left behind.
Imagine how much more valuable of an employee and team member you would be if you could run your own data reports, give your colleagues actual statistics around Facebook group engagement, pull conversations about your brand from Twitter into an automated spreadsheet that you could analyze, or customize the look and feel of your community blog rather than waiting around for someone from design and engineering to claim it in their queue.
You’d be able to test ideas faster, iterate with confidence, and, ultimately, build stronger communities with data in your back pocket.
That’s right, learning to code as a community professional will make you more confident, calm, and creative.
But in case you need more concrete reason to learn technical skills, we put together a list of the benefits and skills you’ll acquire as a technically-minded community builder.
6 Reasons You Need to Learn to Code as a Community Professional
1. You will better understand how your product works.
Once you understand even the basics of coding, you’ll get a feel for the building blocks that make up tech products, such as APIs, databases, and web servers.
2. You will be able to communicate better cross-functionally.
Imagine sitting down at a table full of your company’s engineers and being able to speak their language. Imagine knowing how to phrase questions to a developer so that she can understand exactly what you’re struggling to do (or exactly what you have accomplished!). She’ll be able to better answer your questions if you get better at asking them.
You’ll be able to make sense of:
- Who you should communicate what issues to (for instace, some questions you’d only want to ask a front-end developer, and some questions it would only make sense to ask a back-end developer)
- Understanding the limitations that developers have to work with. They may be unable to achieve something because an external API (e.g. Facebook’s) does not serve up the necessary information
- Understanding what sort of data is stored in databases (For instance, logs of everything every user does on the site won’t necessarily be available, but personal details/purchase information will be in the database)
- Understanding how bugs are fixed (as a general rule, developers need to be able to reproduce and view them first-hand before they can fix them). Knowing this will enable you to help them do their jobs better too, and they’ll enjoy working with you even more.
3. You can generate actionable insights that will improve community retention and engagement.
With coding knowledge, you can break down exactly how your company’s Facebook group is performing. You’ll be able to see which users are most active, which are liking the most posts and commenting the most, as well as those who have not visited recently. This will allow you to:
- Thank your active contributors in creative ways.
- Reach out to people who were once active but who are no longer checking in.
- Monitor retention and honor members’ anniversaries and milestones
With a bit of coding knowledge, you can see exactly which users are most active on your platform or in your social conversations (you can pull a list of tweets and comments on forums and find patters to respond to).
That’s when the real giving back to members begins: swag to the right people, ambassador and leadership programs, and handwritten thank you notes to your most engaged users.
4. You can easily automate the tasks you hate doing.
We’ve all got busy work to do. It’s often the most frustrating part of any community job (let alone any job in any field…). What if you could automate some of your most frustrating workflows with a little bit of code?
That may sound like black magic to you, but the truth is that it’s 100% possible for you to do on your own with a little technical know-how.
With basic coding skills, you can generate custom reports and metrics instead of manually collating data in spreadsheets. You can automatically reply to certain types of messages and play with different APIs to, say, connect community landing page sign-ups to a calendar invite to your next office hours.
You could also build an automated dashboard (like http://dashingdemo.herokuapp.
5. You will understand how to tweak websites.
If you know some basic HTML (for tweaking content) and CSS (for tweaking visual layout), you can do a look with it. You have the building blocks to customize emails in Mailchimp, forum layouts and banners (hello, seasonal community discussion board banners!), WordPress sites, and Tumblr blogs.
You can create and customize the look and feel of your site without putting in a request and waiting weeks for an engineer’s help (just make sure you check with your boss before making your entire Discourse forum varying shades of pink…).
6. You will be able to pull insights from community spaces.
It’ll only take you a few days to learn how to pull analytics from Facebook groups, Twitter chats, and other gathering places where you’re otherwise powerless to gain data-backed insights.
You can finally start thinking big picture about:
- What people are talking about on community spaces (to inspire what you engage your community about)
- Where your inactive community members are active (so you can reach out and understand what they like more about the community space)
And, in case you were wondering, “other gathering places” can include a competitor’s Facebook group, or maybe even a competitor’s forum. You can access that data through some web scraping.
How to Learn to Code as a Community Professional
You understand now how indispensable these skills make you as a professional. So now what? How do you learn these skills quickly so you can do your job more effectively with new knowledge in tow.
Well, you could always teach yourself to code: Treehouse, Codecademy, Skillshare, and Udemy all offer basic courses in coding.
But we realize that you want to know exactly the coding skills you need in your specific work as a community professional. You don’t have time to learn skills that you may or may not apply in your work. You’ve got movements to build and people to gather.
If you’d like to jump start your coding knowledge and learn how to apply it specifically to your work in community, we’ve launched the second iteration of Coding for Community Professionals. The class starts next week. If you sign up (at the 50% discounted price), you can go through the lessons at your own pace at any time or alongside your peers in our Facebook group.
Even better, we’ve been through one run-through of the course with 30 talented community professionals who have helped us strengthen the course and develop better content. That means the course has been community builder-approved and customized.
We can’t wait to see you there.
Learn more and sign up now!