Why TopTal’s Community Management is among the best 3%, and How Their Social Media Can Get There Too

A few months ago, I accidentally stumbled upon TopTal, which seems to be one of the hottest platforms to connect software development and design freelancers with prospective business. The company’s unique selling proposition is that they offer access to the top 3% of the best software and design professionals.

As far as I’ve read, the feedback on TopTal seem to be pretty good—if any devs or designers are reading this, I’d encourage them to give it a go.

TopTal’s offerings looked interesting and quite different from what majority of businesses are doing, so as the curious cat I am, I decided to check it out—take on the role of Social Media detective 🙂

(I guess I enjoyed being a SM detective—I’ll be starting a series of posts like this about other companies, so check back !)

Take a look at what I found and what I think of TopTal. Further down I’ll give my ideas on how to improve online presence and take advantage of each social media platform. So stay tuned 🙂

Put simply, I believe TopTal is way ahead of the majority of companies I’ve seen in terms of community building and engagement.

Why is that?

Essentially, they are doing a few very very intelligent things.

  1. TopTal speaks about their users, not about the platform itself. As I mentioned in an article a couple of days ago, in order to create a truly engaging content and build a loyal community, a brand needs to put its customers/users in the spotlight, give them recognition and allow them to tell their own stories. It’s a logical and genius move that many other companies haven’t realised yet. The content that TopTal produces is created by the devs from its own community, allowing them to show skills, receive recognition and get exposure. This is a great move, because of course company users will be more engaged with the type of content they themselves create. Of course they’ll share it more.Additionally, these articles show the high level of professionalism that business owners are looking for—hence it’s more probable that tech companies will use TopTal to hire the right developer. 
  2.  Local communities!

A huge plus of TopTal is that the company is 100% distributed, and its devs live and work all around the world. TopTal has very smartly capitalised on that by encouraging its developers to participate in and organise local tech meet-ups and events to spread word about the platform, “recruit” more high quality programmers and grow the TopTal community.

What about Social Media?

After looking at social, these are what I think TopTal’s goals are:

  • Raise brand awareness through leadership
  • Engage developers and designers and encourage them to join company’s platform
  • Reach and engage tech companies (most probably funded ones); demonstrate the benefits of working with TopTal professionals and increase sales

What is TopTal currently doing on social?

The company currently has Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+, Instagram, Stackoverflow and GitHub accounts.

On Facebook the brand is publishing mainly development-related content from company’s blog and photos from community events, which is actually pretty cool.

  • The company’s tech/development posts tend to get the most engagement, which means that either most of the followers are devs or that these posts have been boosted.
  • A few things became obvious right away (at least for a SM manager):
    First, posts are most probably published manually because there are no publications on weekends or holidays. However, followers use social media on their days off as well, so the company is losing opportunities to engage. Newsflash, guys! There are tons of tools to help you schedule.
  • Second, the links in the posts are just copied/pasted, without any added tracking parameters and without shortening them for obtaining additional data.  By manually managing social media, these guys lose so much time 😦

    Oh well—the visual material is pretty good, at least.

Twitter

  • They are posting the same content as on Facebook, plus retweeting and adding tweets in which the company has been mentioned.
  • Again, I could see manual posting rather than automated. On average there are 1-2 tweets per day and no posting during weekends and holidays. No shortened and no trackable links.
  • Good usage of hashtags.
  • There is engagement, but it’s not as much as I would expect from a brand with 19K followers. Further in the article I’ll recommend some activities to increase user engagement.
  • There are conversations going on with followers, but they could be better.
  • I went through part of the followers the brand has and noticed that the majority of them seem to be developers, which makes me think that either the Twitter strategy is entirely oriented towards devs or the company hasn’t managed (maybe it’s not the time yet) to engage with business owners whom they’d eventually want to convert into clients.

LinkedIn

  • Brand is being active and posting daily.
  • The content is the same as that on rest of the social channels
  • There is some engagement on the posts
  • Can’t tell if the content is also being distributed in relevant LinkedIn groups or on Pulse.
  • LinkedIn adds are being used, which is a smart move.

Google Plus

  • Again, same content as on rest of the social channels. 
  • Can’t tell if they are active in G+ communities (which, by the way, are not as dead as most people think).

Instagram

  • The company has an account that promotes the #escapetheoffice lifestyle, which is a pretty neat idea.
  • It’s sad, however, that the account hasn’t been active in about 2 months even though there are recent posts mentioning TopTal and using the branded hashtag. These photos can be simply reposted, which would make the account appear a bit more active.

Stackoverflow and GitHub

TopTal has very well-branded pages and active profiles on Stackoverflow and GitHub. I’m not a developer and don’t have a deep software knowledge, but I could see a lot of recent questions, contributions and activities on both accounts, which is a really good indicator (at least from my limited point of view).

So what should be the general strategy if the brand wants to achieve its 3 main goals that I intuited?

           1. Raise brand awareness though leadership

The brand already has scholarship campaigns and is supporting talented software and design professionals from around the world. It’s an honourable cause and a smart strategy that allows them to grow locally and reach distant communities. Kudos for that!

Also, TopTal has teamed up with General Assembly (a pretty cool  eLearning platform) on teaching development and design skills.

In my opinion, this is the right strategy to raise brands awareness in the right communities, while taking a leading role in solving social problems and helping talented young people have a better future. It’s smart because this strategy allows TopTal reach young, untapped talent before anybody else, have a positive impact on people’s lives, and position itself as a leader and innovator in the tech community.

What’s next?

Keep developing this strategy, raising awareness, and working on challenges in tech communities.

Here are some organisations TopTal can collaborate with:

  • www.yeswecode.org is teaching low-opportunity kids programming, designer and entrepreneurial skills and helping them build a better future for themselves.
  • Support the growth of women in technology. There are tons of organisations that work in that direction and probably would be happy to collaborate. Read more about these here and here.
  • Collaborate with other online learning platforms, such as Code Academy.

I haven’t “investigated” in much detail, so I can’t tell if TopTal is already doing this, but it would definitely be beneficial to actively participate on platforms such as Medium, BuzzFeed, entrepreneur.com, inc.com, Hacker News, etc. to share achievements and encourage others to join.

          2. Reach, engage and attract new high quality developers and designers

First I asked myself: How would a dev benefit from joining the company? Here are some possible answers I came up with:

  • A place to get great clients, work on great projects and receive competitive income
  • A please to showcase their knowledge and gain recognition
  • A place to share their work and skills and learn from other, likeminded people

The company is already giving developers the chance to showcase their knowledge and get recognition. I imagine that by working with clients obtained through TopTal, devs already receive good income.

But what more can be done?

I would suggest that the company use GitHub and Stackoverflow to create really interesting, current and technically-challenging projects and invite devs to collaborate on them. Set development problems and encourage people to contribute to solving them. It’s important that the projects are truly interesting and not just some marketing move, as good devs can smell bul***t from a long distance.

Active TopTal developers can use these platforms to create projects/problems that they themselves struggle with and ask for help, of course.

Another idea is to reach out to startups who are having tech problems and set them as a tasks to be solved. The devs who solve it gets prize $ and recognition on TopTal’s online platforms. Startups are happy, and developers will be happy and motivated!

Content marketing is something that would also attract good developers, if TopTal were to produce interesting articles about current technologies and issues. They could write about the most recent software issue developers are struggling with and TopTal devs’ efforts to solve them. There will be tons of other devs facing the same problems and looking for information, and they could just stumble upon TopTal (like I did!).

         3. Reach entrepreneurs and business owners and convert them into clients

What initial value would entrepreneurs see in TopTal? How can they attract them to visit and stick around long enough to later convert?  My guess is that biz owners would visit TopTal looking for:

  • Access to quality devs and designers for their projects
  • Information about the trends and solutions in development and design from the best professionals in the world; knowledge on how software can help them optimise their products, generate leads, minimise risk, improve customer experience and eventually increase revenue
  • Guidance and advice on a particular problem they have and can’t solve (if possible, for free)

The goal would be to set TopTal as the place to learn about good tech and design solutions and trends, and to position the company as the place where startups can get assistance with particular tech problems.

The entire strategy would rest on quality content and case studies focused on how TopTal developers have helped or can help businesses grow. The content should contain exact instructions, step by step tutorials, growth numbers, exact results and benefits from applying the knowledge and skills of TopTal developers. 

Of course, the second step would be to distribute this content on all online platforms where entrepreneurs and business owners frequent—namely Growth Hackers, Medium, Hacker News, entrepreneur.com, Tech Crunch, Mashable, TNW, inc.com and more.

What can be improved in Social Media?

In my opinion, TopTal’s social media profiles focus too much on developers and software content, which might not be very attractive for potential business clients. Maybe I’m wrong, and TopTal’s strategy now and in the future is to concentrate on attracting developers and designers, and therefore my suggestions make no sense. However, from my point of view, I think that the company should start putting efforts into attracting businesses and making them stick around:

  • Balance out the social content focused on tech profiles with other content centered on business profiles.
  • A mandatory improvement would be to start using Social Media Management tools to schedule posts and track performance, as well as using URL builders and shorteners in order to obtain data that will help the company optimise its social efforts.
  • On another note, I noticed that TopTal is publishing the same content on all social channels and treating all platforms the same.On one hand this is understandable, in a sense that the company’s target audience can be on various social platforms, and if they don’t post the same content on each, they might not see it. On the other hand, however, it’s important to keep in mind that social channels differ; the communication rules on each one are different and require platform-specific behaviour. It’s important to capitalise and take advantage of these differences in order to build an engaging strategy.For example, Twitter gives the unique chance to have our own voice, G+ offers hangouts to use as webinars, and LinkedIn gives us groups to help find and engage our audience.

Facebook

The overall strategy on Facebook, in my opinion, should focus on creating a brand image and lead generation (via Facebook ads). It’s more of a personal and less of a professional network, so the content should be rather light and easy to consume.

  • Write shorter posts. The text should be maximum 2 lines, as people don’t tend to read when they see lots of text.
  • Use tools to schedule posts.
  • Post “behind the scenes” looks at community meet ups and events. Show the culture of the company.
  • Publish business-oriented content to attract and engage business clients.
  • Test Facebook ads to attract both developers and business owners to TopTal.

Twitter

On Twitter, both tech profiles and business profiles can be reached. It’s a good platform for TopTal to meet and engage both parties.

  • Create your own Twitter conversation, engaging both devs and business owners on common issues, struggles and goals.
  • Use scheduling tools and link shorteners.
  • Encourage more conversations. Ask questions geared towards both devs and businesses. Encourage them to share their experiences with TopTal.
  • Include more business-oriented content. Share articles on how software and design tricks can increase leads and revenues and decrease churn and money spent.
  • Try Twitter ads to reach both devs and business owners..

Google Plus

G+ might not be the most active social platform, but good software developers, designers and business owners can still be found.

  • Maybe it’s a good idea to use Google Hangouts for webinars to teach certain skills or have discussions on tech and business topics.
  • Distribute content and start discussion in G+ communities.

LinkedIn

Mainly oriented towards the business clients and not that much towards developers, LinkedIn is still a good platform to utilise.

  • It’s not necessary to publish every day; 2-3 posts per week should be enough.
  • Content should be mainly success cases of solving certain tech problems and obtaining benefits for the business.
  • Share and be active in relevant LinkedIn groups.
  • The managers with a lot of contacts in the Silicon Valley should publish articles on Pulse in order to reach potential clients and build brand awareness.

In general, I see TopTal has a good strategy and active social accounts. If I have to guess, I would say that there is not only one person dedicated to social media, but rather the responsibilities are divided probably between the content, community, or marketing managers.

I hope my assumptions are not far from the truth and that this article gives you guidelines on how to perform a Social Media audit of a company.

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