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If you work in a role related to marketing, you’ve probably heard of brand personality, the human characteristics companies use to market themselves and their products. On Twitter, it’s fast food giant Wendy’s claim to fame, and it even drives impact on many of Red Hat’s own social accounts. 

For many social media initiatives, building online presence means tapping into and amplifying this voice. But what happens when we have to build one from scratch?

PatternFly, Red Hat User Experience Design (UXD)’s upstream open source design system, experienced this firsthand when we launched a social media revamp last spring. While sponsored by Red Hat UXD, PatternFly operates independently from the Red Hat name and any of its added impact, reach, and visibility. PatternFly fosters an online community where user experience (UX) and open source enthusiasts can share industry best practices, spotlight community projects, and connect with one another through a common goal to design and support accessible experiences for all users. 

Our PatternFly Twitter handle opens these conversations beyond just PatternFly contributors more followers bring more perspectives and insights that strengthen our thought leadership and design system recommendations. With no pre-established brand recognition and no dedicated marketing team, we’ve sparked this community growth the best way we know how: by collaborating with our open source community.

While the PatternFly design system is used primarily in Red Hat’s portfolio of enterprise IT products, strengthening the PatternFly presence on Twitter broadens its reach to open sourcers designing interfaces and products of their own across the globe. Cultivating social media followings for open source communities like PatternFly enriches conversations surrounding community goals, projects, and themes. Each new follower presents a new opportunity to educate, enrich, and enliven online exchanges.

For PatternFly, growing our Twitter account means inviting more open sourcers and UXers to share in our mission to center accessibility and inclusivity at the heart of every design. 

Let’s explore how our PatternFly Twitter journey can help you grow thriving open source socials of your own. 

Think of everything you know about branded social media, then open source it

Most social media projects involve budgets, marketing leads, dedicated copywriters, and social media teams PatternFly had none. We put an open source spin on traditional social media best practices to clear these hurdles.

Crowdsource your gameplan

In order to grow PatternFly’s social media presence, we first needed to define what kind of social media experience would best reflect our community. We social media soul-searched, reaching out to PatternFly members (Flyers) to learn how they think and talk about PatternFly.

Open surveys and community meetings left us with a list of community-generated adjectives to describe our design system’s open source community. Based on these insights, we shaped our new Twitter voice to be:

  • Collaborative and curious.

  • Fun and friendly.

  • Informative and inviting.

We also asked our community what kinds of posts they’d like to see on their timelines. Aside from PatternFly updates and articles, Flyers expressed an interest in seeing more thought leadership posts tips, insights, and guidance across open source and UX.

Define Twitter as your open source sitting room: a place for informal and informative conversation

We positioned community empowerment at the core of our social media mission. Our @patternfly feed would build an environment for sharing thought leadership, PatternFly-specific news, and other valuable content to bolster our followers’ enthusiasm for our open source design system and cultivate their confidence in making their own open source contributions. 

To grow opportunities for community engagement, we researched other successful design system accounts, compiled their methods, and fielded more feedback from our existing followers.

Would they enjoy online design challenges? What topics would they want to see on their timelines, and at what frequency? 

Use community values to categorize your content

Based on our community responses, we sorted our Twitter content into five main categories: PatternFly news, community-building activities, articles published on PatternFly’s Medium publication, articles published by other sources, and tips across open source and UX.

We tested hashtag campaigns for each day of the week, and three became successful parts of our post cycle:

  • #TuesdayTips: UX and open source best practices, typically linked to PatternFly’s guidelines and UX writing style guide.

  • #HumpDayHuddle: A midweek pause to learn more about our followers through lighthearted polls, open-ended questions, and thought exercises.

  • #ThrowBackThinkForward: A way to shine the spotlight on past PatternFly articles that enhance the way we see, engage with, or contextualize the future of open source and UX.

Patternfly tuesday tips Patternfly humpday

Foster inclusive and impactful timeline experiences

PatternFly’s design system helps make accessible, usable and impactful user experiences (UX) more human. We use this same goal to shape our Twitter timeline experience.

Use activities like weekly polls to connect with followers on a more personal level. From open source experiences to cooking habits, polls help us facilitate interactive and meaningful timeline experiences by humanizing the followers behind each click.

Patternfly friday

Prepare to evolve your strategy with your followers

Open source communities live and breathe with the voices in them. As your follower count grows, your Twitter strategy will likely grow with it. Compile a centralized resource with current practices, and add potential ideas for future campaigns and topic areas so that you’ll be prepared to experiment with them later.

Open source social strategies are never complete — fine-tune your Twitter voice with continued community feedback.

So you’ve sourced your strategy. How do you gain online traction, visibility, and recognition on your own?

At PatternFly, we use four key tactics to expand our Twitter channel without conventional marketing resources:

1. Establish community-driven goals and check in often

Each like, comment, and follow comes from a unique person in your open source community. Find ways to engage with and relate to them. The main goal in growing Twitter communities like PatternFly’s is to cultivate a strong community of voices. Then listen. Crowdsource your content and grow it with your community.

2. Emphasize qualitative performance, at least at the start

Before we had engagement metrics to evaluate, we focused on meaning and trusted that resonant content would drive impact. Were our tips, ideas, or resources resurfacing in other tweets or other online conversations? How could we leverage our existing community to broaden our reach? As we gained more engagement data over time, we were able to analyze our top-performing content and use those insights to inform our future posts.

3. Share strategically

Conversations thrive when they build off one another. Follow other thought leaders and respond to them leverage their communities to build yours. Don’t just retweet their links to resources and articles across the web, say something about them. That added line or two not only helps drive value behind your post, but also puts your brand’s voice on a wider audience’s radar.

4. Lead by example

Content communities often reflect the personas leading them our brand personalities set the stage for how current and potential followers interact with and support one another.

Engaged followers stem from engaged leaders. Use your open source community’s motivations to shape your online presence and lean in: Ask questions. Reply to others. Communicate openly with your community about strategy developments, insights, metrics, and milestones.

Follow these tips to build a social media experience your community feels proud to own with you

As we move into 2021 and beyond, PatternFly will evolve our social media strategy with community voices at the heart of everything we do — cultivating enthusiastic, engaging, and empowering timeline experiences one tweet, like, and share at a time.

Are you a passionate UXer, open sourcer or creator? Join PatternFly’s Twitter community  — we’d love to have you!

About the author

Alana Fialkoff is a storyteller with a B.A. in English Literature and an M.O. in all things language. Across user interfaces and social channels, she uses her voice (and empowers others) to create streamlined content experiences that are more accessible, immersive, and human.

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