“OK, Boomer. Whatever, Karen”
Generation wars are fun to exploit for t-shirts and trolls, but are not much of an asset when building a developer community or reaching a developer audience (look here for the definitions of Boomers, Millennials, Gen Xers, Gen Z, and why you should care). However, the generational lens does inform your audience’s technical content preferences and motivations. Understanding those nuances can help you reach specific segments. The good news is that it is possible to craft a technical marketing strategy to reach millennial developers without alienating the rest of your audience.
Focus on Motivation
Multiple roles influence purchases and adoption when it comes to technical content marketing. Embedded in these roles is a variety of demographics, including age and experience. Age and experience differences can result in important motivation and behavioral differences for consuming content or turning to specific channels. However, the generations aren’t always at war. And much is related to career stage and experience rather than age (though experience may correlate with age).
Recent survey data from the Evans Data Corporation suggests that developers whose years of experience line up with a Gen Z or Millennial designation are more likely to be motivated to subscribe to newsletters for skills development and career development; however, so are brand-new developers. And while other experience levels (and generations) may be there to receive industry news, it’s possible to offer content that aligns with a more youthful demographic’s motivation (a tutorial or how-to) and still get brand recognition for appearing in a newsletter that mainly offers industry news for the rest of your audience.
Offer a variety of technical content set in the context of larger industry developments on your technical blog. While many developers say they visit blogs for industry news, it’s unlikely they will visit a vendor blog for industry news alone. Link specific technical information that can help new and more experienced developers (Gen Z, and older millennial and GenX developers) develop their skills toward emerging trends, issues, or innovations in the industry.
Evans Data Corporation also asked respondents: “What type of development-related blog do you visit most often?” — with choices including development industry pundit, news, vendor, third-party developer, and code-oriented blogs. Broken down by age, different types of blogs become more popular.
What does this mean for your strategy? Create content that can be featured in the types of blogs your audience frequents. Remember that the blog type is pretty fragmented, with a sizable audience split between the second-place to last-place choices. While lots of developers claim to love code, the code-oriented blogs are the least visited, with the most audience members coming from GenX and Boomers. To appeal to the widest audience, create content that can be featured in development industry pundit blogs.
The same survey revealed that those very new to programming (1-2 years) and more experienced developers (16 years or more) were most motivated to take a tutorial for skills development. While there is a drop-off in the millennial range, a respectable 35% are still turning to tutorials for skills building. Turn up the tap on tutorials and how-to’s. They resonate with a wide audience.
Vive le différence
You don’t have to create a generation war to appeal to a specific generation. Paying attention to what motivates a segment of your audience (defined by age or experience) means creating messaging that appeals to that motivation. But don’t fear — The overwhelming characteristic of developers across all ages is their curiosity. While your technical content may feed the same need, your messaging and positioning of that content can appeal to different motives and behaviors that are defined by generation and experience.