Let’s be honest — no one wants to read boring material. Even super-smart developers and dedicated business owners are human (surprise!). And even though they deal with some pretty high-level (or low-level) stuff, when given the choice, they’d rather read approachable and engaging content.
Now, that’s all well and good, but why should you care if technical audiences engage with your content? As long as you get your points across and effectively present your product or topic, that should be enough, right?
Well, technically, yes.
Technical writing aims to draw technical audiences to your business, website, tech writing side gig, or whatever endeavor you’re pursuing (Godspeed). So, as long as your content is out there, you’ve essentially done all you need.
But to truly sparkle in today’s oversaturated market of shiny objects, we recommend going beyond the baseline to write engaging technical content.
Valuable material that prioritizes readability not only keeps eyes on your piece but creates tremendous shareability. This results in more people seeing (and engaging with) your work. And the bigger the audience you amass, the more you build community trust.
If you’re trying to market your product, your reputation is a make-or-break asset. If developers trust your knowledge, they’re going to trust your product. Keeping them engaged from early in their buying journey will increase your success rates.
Did you know that only 5% of the B2B buying journey is spent with sales reps? Nowadays, buyers tend toward independent research online before deciding whether to purchase a system or solution. So, if you have a trustworthy brand built on engaging, value-rich content, you’ll quite soon find yourself playing in the big leagues. And if you’re a technical writer who’s capable of producing valuable pieces, your market presence will become a force to appreciate.
So, now that we’ve established your end goal, let’s give you a helpful shove in the right direction and explore some common reasons why your technical content isn’t engaging your audience.
Why your technical content isn’t engaging developers — and what to do about it
Your content is boring.
There’s a good chance your technical content is a bit lacking in the entertainment department. While it’s great (and necessary) to pack in all of your talking points and information, unfortunately, dry documentation isn’t a crowd-pleaser. (The exception, of course, is if you’re writing a product manual overview with a rigid word count requirement. In that case, disregard this section and write what you need to.)
For the rest of you, there are many ways to add a little extra flair to the often info-dense topics.
First, take the time to come up with a catchy title and hook. With so much content out there, you need a way to grab the attention of your media-saturated reader base.
For titles that truly pierce the monotonous haze of search results, aim for concise, to-the-point language that tells the reader precisely what they can gain from your article. That said, don’t be afraid to be a little cheeky when context allows. Such is the way of the ContentLab blog:
“Stop annoying developers: 5 key takeaways from our podcast with SlashData”. A bit brash, and yet, it tells you exactly what you’ll gain from reading.
And as for your hook, start by asking yourself why what you’re writing is important. If you believe it, so will your readers. The hook is the first few sentences of your piece and represents a pivotal moment for grabbing — and keeping — your readers’ attention.
There are plenty of ways to craft an effective hook. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Start with a shocking statistic or baffling statement.
- Ask a common question and lead right into how your article will answer it.
- Tell a story (but don’t write a novel).
- Share a thoughtful or informative quote from someone well known in your industry.
So now, your title is stellar and your hook turns heads — or, at least, tilts them. The next step for adding vigor to the rigor is with a curated combination of content types and visuals.
Instead of writing walls of text, add some variety with lists, tables, and graphics. Bonus points if your visuals are aesthetically pleasing and useful, like this one:
And finally, keep skimmability in mind. Developers and business execs are busy. This means that, quite often, they’ll skim an article before deciding whether they want to read it in full. Or, they might just skim your piece for the relevant answers and be done with it. Regardless, make skimming easy for them.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by incorporating headers and subheaders. And yes, the rules for making catchy titles apply here as well.
Also, keep your paragraphs short. It’s amazing how some extra space turns a mind-numbing text wall into a skimmable, scannable resource.
Your tech content is too “marketing-y”
Developers aren’t fans of marketing, so, if you’re selling too hard without a foundation of valuable content, you risk losing your audience.
Coming off as obnoxious or pandering is an excellent way to undermine your potentially helpful content. Try to find the right balance between information and tone, and avoid overuse of marketing jargon, buzzwords, and needless fluff.
Before you start writing anything, make sure you’re clear on the purpose of your piece. Even if you’re writing a promotional or sales piece, ask yourself, “What else? Why should developers click on my article instead of my competitors?”
Is it to teach them something? To showcase a solution to a problem? To provide a tutorial or code sample? Regardless of the main purpose, give your audience at least one other thing of value (we’ll discuss this more in reason number).
Readers can see value even if it doesn’t address their immediate needs. So, even if they don’t turn into clients, they leave knowing you’re a trusted source in the industry, which might lead to future business.
When it comes to tone of voice, we recommend you strike a balance between engaging and professional. Use authentic subject matter expert (SME) voices. In other words, talk like a passionate specialist in your topic. This means you can be persuasive, authoritative, and credible while showcasing some excitement about the subject. And remember, if you believe in what you’re talking about, so will your readers.
Your technical content is outdated
Quick (but important) point: Technology is evolving more rapidly than we can realistically imagine, so it’s essential to stay current.
This is especially crucial if you’re writing software tutorials or code. Before you start writing, even if you’re an expert on the subject, always do your research. New methods and protocols are constantly entering the market and the last thing you need is to show your audience that your knowledge is outdated.
Your technical content isn’t applicable or useful
Another reason your technical content may be floundering is that you aren’t providing enough examples, use cases, or code samples.
Developers seeking tutorials or functional code blocks represent one of the largest groups of technical content consumers. So, even if your explanations are relevant, they will likely look elsewhere if you don’t provide applicable sample code.
Fortunately, there are many ways to write applicable content. You can:
- Provide code samples that developers can copy and paste.
- Show real (or realistic) use cases. Bonus point if you have real-world examples like case studies of other clients.
- Offer different solutions to complex problems. There’s typically more than one way to hello_world.
Your technical content doesn’t offer value
Write this one down. Tattoo it somewhere if you must.
If your content doesn’t add value, then you’re going to lose your audience. Developers are smart people who typically have a sixth sense for spotting filler. Even if your writing is masterfully engaging, if you don’t understand your readers and their needs, then they won’t need you.
So how do you ensure that you add value? Avoid talking in circles and provide sharp, focused knowledge. Remember that developers often read specifically to expand their skillsets and learn about new technologies, so make sure they can walk away having learned something.
Another thing to consider when you’re introducing a product or a vision: While foresight and predictions are great, don’t let “potential” become the driving factor in your piece. Without demonstrable value (e.g., statistics, research, real-life examples), your writing will likely seem superficial and speculative. Remember that overall, developers look for value before vision.
Takeaways: how to write engaging content for developers and other technical audiences
Congratulations, you’ve made it through all five reasons why your technical content isn’t quite the shimmering masterpiece you so optimistically envisioned.
Alternatively, you’ve speed-scrolled to the bullet points. (Don’t worry, skimmers. We see you and we get it.)
Either way, here are the major dos on how to create engaging technical content:
- Grab your audience with a captive title and hook (and if the situation allows, don’t shy away from a little cheek).
- Use graphics, tables, lists, and visuals. It’s best if the visuals also showcase the content, but even eye-catching stock photos can effectively break up walls of text.
- Keep your content skimmable.
- Use authentic subject matter expert (SME) voices to remain persuasive, authoritative, and credible.
- When it comes to tone of voice, strike a balance between engaging and professional, and between entertaining and informative.
- Ensure your content isn’t outdated.
- Offer applicable code samples, examples, or use cases.
- Even if you’re selling a product, make sure you still provide something of value.
Checking in: how do you measure engagement?
Writing engaging content is a process that you’ll improve the more you do it. A great way to see if your technical pieces are engaging is to keep an eye on your website metrics. What are the click rates? Bounce rates? Reading time? Track these and you’ll be able to see your progress as a writer.
Additionally, stay aware of your shares and direct engagement. If you promote your content on social media, keep tabs on the number of likes, shares, and comments.
See what content resonates with your audience and don’t be afraid to try new styles!
Marketing content to developers can be a little trickier than writing for the average consumer, but with some dedication, practice, and these tips, you’ll begin to get a true feeling for excellent content and amass the experience to write it.
Providing engaging content is crucial for a business to improve online presence and build industry credibility. This is the inherent value of partnering with a technical content creation service like ContentLab. Check out 9 things to look for when hiring a technical content creation service to learn more. Finally, go forth and engage!