Sara Waszyńska
14 minutes
January 8, 2023

3 steps to start a Developer Ambassador program from scratch

[with examples]

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Let’s say you already have a developer community in place. Your business is thriving, information flow is at its maximum output, and it seems like nothing can stop you. And yet, as your range increases, it becomes harder and harder to conduct your developer advocacy duties. It appears you’ve plateaued.

However, things may not be as dire as they seem at first. In fact, the solution might just be in front of your nose. This is where developer ambassador programs come into the picture. Keep reading if you want to find out what an ambassador program is, how it works, and how you can use it to build even deeper relations with your community.

What is a Developer Ambassador program?

Communities are the backbone of tech as we know it today. They’re a crucial step to ensuring that your startup gets off the ground and they will remain relevant throughout the entire lifespan of your business. A developer community can be what keeps your business relevant, since it’s the human factor that really drives every aspect of any enterprise.

An ambassador program takes that idea even further. The main idea behind it is to use the drive your most engaged community members have to make the promotion of your technology even easier. These people usually emerge naturally, as most communities tend to have some kind of leader emerge from their midst. What makes one an ambassador, though, is that you choose them as a kind of official spokesperson for that community.

Developer ambassadors will basically be the main representative of your community. They’re an extension of your internal developer advocates. They are all believers in your product values who are laser-focuse on making sure your users can effectively utilize your software. This involves creating technical content, speaking at conferences, organizing meetups—all things that will not only help promote your product, but also instruct others on how to build with it.

Extending a specific outward image is only one benefit of a developer ambassador program. It’s also a way to build internal morale. By recognizing the hard work and passion that your community members already bring to the table, you encourage them and everyone else to get even more psyched for getting to work with your product. It’s a means to drive passion, which drives progress, which drives even more passion to build with your software.

Examples of Developer Ambassador programs

They grow under different names, but the goal is one - support people that are experts in your product and are passionate about sharing this knowledge with others. Take a look at some examples:

Google Developer Experts website

Google Developer Experts – program created by Google, gathering over 1000 of professionals, who day by day write content, speak on the conferences and educate about Google technologies.

GitHub Stars website

GitHub Stars - a hall of fame for most engaged GitHub community members, who serves the community as the experts of the product.

Women Techmaker's website.

Women Techmakers - another program created by Google, which focuses on supporting and educating women in tech. Near 2000 fanatics women ambassadors, dev professionals who create technical content about Google technologies and/ or being a woman in tech.

Docker Captains website.

Docker Captains Program - which gathers members of the Docker community that are both experts in their field and are passionate about sharing their Docker knowledge with others. 

When does building a Developer Ambassador program make sense?

We’ve already praised ambassador programs to high heaven, but perhaps you’re still not entirely on board with the idea. Here are three factors that should tell you that setting up a developer ambassador program is a no-brainer:

  • you’re a tech company—if you’re running a business that deals with technical products, such as APIs, SDKs, or software of any kind, whether it’s open-source or otherwise, you are bound to benefit from a Developer Ambassador program since you need people that will teach others how to build with it.
  • you already have a developer community—if you already have a thriving community that’s passionate about what your business does, leaders will simply organically emerge from it anyway. Show them that you see them, and let that passion benefit everyone.
  • you’ve got the resources—you don’t really need a lot of resources or tools to start an ambassador program, but if you’ve already got them (which you most likely have), setting up a program should be your logical next step.

Now that we’re done with the basic definitions, it’s time to get down and dirty and tell you exactly how you can go about starting your developer ambassador program. We’ve narrowed it down to three easy steps. Take them in and send your business out on its first ambassador journey.

Step 1: Define the goals of your Ambassador program

The first step is the most important one, and it may prove to be the most challenging. We’ve talked at length about the many benefits an ambassador program can bring, but that won’t do you any good if you don’t know your end goal right from the beginning.

Make no mistake—it is absolutely rewarding and fun to finally have your dev ambassador program up and running, but it’s not just about fun and games.. Set up your goals early and make sure that they reflect your business and developer relation goals.

With a proper roadmap and goals, it’ll be easier to get the rest of your company on board with your idea. Developer Advocacy Canvas may be helpful here.

The easiest way to go about it is to ask yourself: “why?” Why did you decide to set up a dev ambassador program in the first place? This basic question will lead you to ever evolving answers. You’ll learn what it is that you lack, what you want to achieve, and what strategy will lead you to your goal. Your vision becomes clearer when you know your purpose.

Once you’ve figured out the why of your program in general, it’s time to think about the why of your future ambassadors. You are working with people, and there will be specific types of people that you want to advocate for your product. Think about what drives your ideal developer advocate and what you can do to make them feel rewarded. Their reasons will most likely differ from yours, so by considering those two main angles from the beginning you can come up with a vision that’s truly sustainable in the long run.

Of course, we know that goals can be quite personal, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain goal archetypes that can help you find your footing. There are certain goals that are commonly chosen by people at the start of their dev ambassador program journey. These include:

  • Building awareness of your technology
  • Increasing contributions to your open-source project
  • Showing your developer community how to build with your product
  • Building a group of beta users to gain feedback on your product earlier
  • Driving product adoption rates by showcasing your user’s work

Whether your goal is completely novel or very much inspired by what came before it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you set out with a goal in mind. Once you’ve got that figured out, you’ll be surprised by how many things fall into place. Still, it’s not time to rest on your laurels yet. We’ve got two more steps ahead of us.

Step 2: Find the right people and grow your Developer Ambassador base

Now that you’ve figured out the why, it’s time to settle on the who. Deciding that an ambassador program is what you need is all well and good, but how do you even decide on who gets to be an ambassador? Figure that out and you’re one step closer to reaping all the benefits.

To find the best ambassadors, look within. Look at your community and take a look at the contributions. Your top contributors, those most engaged community members out there, are the people who already drive the product spirit with their dedication. Start by reaching out to them. Ask if they’re interested in becoming ambassadors. Odds are they’ll be absolutely thrilled.

Don’t be fooled, however. Just because the traditional way of finding ambassadors is looking inward, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Through the wonders of social media, you can look outside to find people who are excited by your brand and recruit them to your cause. Places like Brand24 and Sprout Social are a great starting point. Browse hashtags relevant to your business and your field and you’re bound to find some potential ambassadors just waiting to be picked up.

Establish the criteria for your Developer Ambassadors

We talk a lot about where to look for potential ambassadors, but how do you actually choose the right ones? There will more than likely be a whole host of people really excited about your product, so you’ll need to narrow it down somewhat, since you can’t exactly start with 300 ambassadors right off the bat.

Before letting your dev community know you’re looking for ambassadors, set up clear rules and expectations. Tell them upfront what will be expected of them and what they can expect in return. This will work as an effective filter and help you ensure that the program is exclusive, which is its entire point in the first place.

So you’ve got some candidates, and since they’re coming to you, they’re clearly dedicated to your cause and are experts in your software field. How do you keep narrowing things down? How exactly do you define your expectations?

First of all, make sure you focus on real, technical experience with your product. If you want them to work as ambassadors for it,you need to be sure they know it inside out. That’s not enough, though, since you want them to represent you and speak to people. To make sure that’s not an issue, pay attention to their public speaking experience, their ability to create technical content, etc.

Basically, there is quite a bit of overlap between what internal developer advocates and external ambassadors do, so if you want a detailed look into what skills are valuable and what tasks an ambassador should be able to handle, check out our previous article.

Create an application process that'll help you to select right people for your program

To make things easier for you to handle, make sure that you’ve got the entire application & onboarding process established beforehand. A streamlined process will help you find the right people for your ambassador program more quickly with an increased success rate. To put it in the simplest terms, your application process should boil down to the following steps:

  1. intake form,
  2. interview,
  3. ambassador onboarding.

If you do decide to split the interview process into two, one of them should be focused more on the technical aspect of things, while the other should deal more with interpersonal and leadership skills.

Examples of requirements for becoming Developer Ambassadors

While that’s the gist of a good application process, there’s only so much one can learn through theory. The best thing you can do to ensure that your application process is smooth and effective is to take a look at how other companies advertise their ambassador programs. Here’s a short list of some of the requirements to join ambassador programs in various companies that we found particularly effective.

Auth0 Ambassador program:

Auth0 Ambassador program requirements

Women Techmakers:

Women Techmakers requirements

Couchbase Ambassador program:

Couchbase Ambassador program requirements

Your end result should be something that’s to the point, easy to parse, and welcoming. Seems simple, but as is the case with a lot of things that appear to be effortless, it takes quite a bit of work to make sure that your ambassador program application process works as intended.

This is where Advocu can help you out. With our help, you can pretty much automate the whole process. We offer a whole range of pre-made templates and automated workflows that can relieve you and your team of some of the more repetitive aspects of your jobs. If you want to learn more, see for yourself how our application onboarding process can make things easier for you.

Step 3: Create a clear path to the contribution

We’re at the final stretch. You’ve set your goals and figured out how to recruit ambassadors in the most efficient way available to you. Now is the time to make the path to contribution clear.

What is a contribution?

The word itself is familiar, but it’s important to clarify what we mean by “contribution” here before we move on. In our field, contribution means the act of creating technical or educational content. It’s any form of activity within the dev community, including leading a user group or local community, organizing events or meetups, etc. Contribution is at the center of everything related to the developer ambassador program.

In short, we are now dealing with the how.

By setting clear rules and defining your contributions, you can drive more engagement

Your ambassadors need to know exactly what it is they should be doing. Once you know what you want your team to look like, you need to establish a type of Contributor’s Guide. This will let your ambassadors know what actions should be driving engagement and how to encourage other members to contribute more.

It’s best to lead by example, which is the whole point of a Contributor’s Guide. Which is why we’re also doing just that now. Take a look at the examples below to see what we’re talking about:

Outsystem's definition of contributions:

Outsystems Ambassador program contributions definitions.

Example contributions defined by Advocu, to help you track the efforts made by your ambassadors:

Example set of custom contributions in Advocu.
Custom contributions you can defines in Advocu.

Contributions contained within Kong's Champions Program:

Kong Champions program contributions and expectations.

Make sure you reward the most engaged people

It’s always important to be mindful that you’re not doing all this just for your own benefit or that of your own company. You’ll want your ambassadors to feel rewarded, appreciated, and wiser. You’ll notice that in all of the above examples the companies listed more than just their expectations. Perks, benefits, rewards: this is what makes an ambassador program.While you may have some perfect candidates in mind, remember that it’s a two-way deal. They’re here because they’re passionate, so make sure that you reward that.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to what perks you can come up with, but here is a list of some of the most common ones:

  • giving ambassadors a platform for their content that is most likely larger than whatever they currently have,
  • early (beta) access to new features,
  • direct access to engineers and advocates in your company, technical mentoring options,
  • help with travel options for events they’ll be speaking at about your product,
  • free access to a usually paid account to use your services, upgrades, free credits - any freebies, basically,
  • discounts,
  • swag (t-shirts, stickers, gadgets, etc.).

Interested in putting together your Developer Ambassador program?

There’s plenty of good a developer ambassador program can do for your company. As long as you know where to look, who to look for, and how to get them invested, you can get a lot of mileage out of the work developer ambassadors can provide.

Still, starting a program like that from scratch can prove to be quite a challenge when attempting it alone. Fortunately for you, we’re experts in this field and we’ll happily help you out. Drop in for a chat and we’ll discuss your possibilities. Check how Advocu can help you grow Dev Ambassador program here.

Grow your tech Ambassador program with Advocu

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