7 Essentials of creating a sustainable Developer Advocacy program
Developer advocacy

7 Essentials of creating a sustainable Developer Advocacy program

Build successful Developer Advocacy program

Sara Waszyńska
14 minutes
September 17, 2022
Written by
Sara Waszyńska
June 9, 2022
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The software world has never relied on communities and a sense of togetherness more than now. The presence of empowered, motivated developer advocates can streamline and boost your product growth. That’s why a Developer Relations strategy is a must, and a Developer Advocacy program is at its core. 

However, building your own developer advocacy program, building outstanding developer experience, and recruiting developer advocates doesn’t happen accidentally, nor overnight. You need to know your fundamentals and cover the basics. If you are just starting to put together an advocacy program in your company this article is meant for you!

Why tech companies invest in building Developer Advocacy programs?

Number one thing to understand is that relationships in B2D (Business to Developer) marketing go beyond what relations made with B2C and B2B strategies look like. Developers are not typical customers and developer marketing does not use trumped-up tactics of classic B2C marketing.

Usually, developers are the key decision-makers in their companies, especially when it comes to software selection. And they are not looking for nice packaging and naming – they are looking for real business value your product can add to their teams.

So, there is a built-in connection between a developer achieving success thanks to your technology and your business success.

If you are still asking “why?”, consider these statistics:

  • Over 80% of developers playing any form of a leadership role in their organizations have a say in tool purchase decision-making [Slash Data]
  • Developers internally initiate 34% of SaaS purchases, together with Tech management (32%) and Tech Executives, like CTO (30)% [Auth0 report]
  • 70% companies highly value developer's feedback while purchasing new software [Auth0 report]

The anatomy of Developer Advocacy program

There are two crucial roles that are needed to start a Developer Advocacy program:

Dev Advocacy Program Manager role

Program Manager plays a pivotal role and is responsible for an overall success of the program. Their main tasks are easy to explain and yet really challenging to implement: build relationships with developer advocates, engage them to make contributions and ensure meeting the program's goals. Seems simple, but definitely not easy. It includes, not only strategic-level decisions about the program's messaging, direction and goals, but also the day to day direct work with Developer Advocates and developer experience.

Developer Advocate role

The role of developer advocate goes by many titles, including developer evangelist, developer relations, and developer experience engineer. At the end of a day and regardless the title, the job is usually the same: build relationships with outside developers and help them adopt your technology. Developer advocate's job is about helping external software engineers understand, evaluate, and adopt your API or product. They act as a bridge or a translator between your developer community, your customers, users (also developers!), and your company.

Seven things you need to consider while building a successful Developer Advocacy program

Clearly define your objectives

The number one reason for the long-term success of the program is defining the clear objective from the outset. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Nothing could be further from the truth.

In working with clients from various industries and various sizes, I identified 3 common mistakes when setting up goals for developer advocacy program:

  • Not setting goals at all,
  • Not linking your program's goals and metrics with your company's business goals,
  • Choosing short-term social media buzz over long-term relationships.

The first one speaks for itself. The lack of clear goals and a defined path to get there makes your program likely to operate in chaos. Furthermore, it is probably the best way to get to an unwanted destination. Having business goals allows you to set a clear path of growth and track the success of your initiatives. So make sure that your developer advocacy contributes to them.

When considering goals for the developer advocacy program, the most important thing to think about is: How will the program contribute to the overall company's goal? How the program is aligned with other company's departments?

Let's break down an example, how developer advocacy can support business goals:

One of your product's goals for next quarter is increasing new features adoption. To support that, your program's efforts can focus on creating in-depth guides and documentation, organize an online event with use cases presentation, or create a library of code samples to help external developers understand how this new feature works.

If you want to learn more on how Developer Advocate can help you to achieve business goals or how to set goals for a brand community, read our previous articles.

The last thing you need to remember when thinking about long-term goals of your program, is that Developer Marketing is marketing of relations. Paying an influencer to promote your product (are there any influencers in IT world?) will create only short-term buzz in social media. Creating a sustainable network of developer advocates will take you more time and effort to build, but will guarantee long-term commitment.

Decide, who you invite for your journey

When creating a developer advocacy program, you need to put a high value on screening and recruiting process. If you're not selective about whom you invite to your network, you won't achieve the results you're looking for.

How to build building screening process for advocacy program?

The process is highly dependable on your program's scale and goals, but usually contains the following steps:

  1. Aspiring Developer Advocates are filling application form and sharing information about their experience, motivations, technical skills and experience with community building, events, and so on.
  2. The form is reviewed by a program manager who decides if this applicant is eligible to join the program. Usually, they're rating things like social media presence, technical skills or, if the would-be developer advocate fits the brand.
  3. Commonly, the next step is an interview where you can rate the motivation, communication skills and check the technical knowledge on the fly. Some companies decide to perform only one interview, some split the process for technical interview and advocacy interview.
  4. If the future dev advocate passed the previous steps, typically the next step is signing legal documents, like NDA, and the onboarding process.

What should you be looking for when screening for a good developer advocate? A great developer advocate is a person who can explain technical stuff in easy, understandable words – it requires both technical knowledge and communication skills.

To find the ideal first set of individuals to start the developer advocacy program with, you should start by looking at your present developer community, and its most active members as well as your CRM databases. From there, you may extend as needed or ask for recommendations.

Organic vs. paid

The best reason to advocate for a product is simple – you love the product and believe in the brand's values. There are two approaches to developer advocate role:

  1. Paid – companies on early stage typically hire the first Developer Evangelists, that will later create a Developer Relations department.
  2. Organic – tech brands with established position, create Developer Advocacy programs to engage their community members and customers to spread the positive word of mouth, create content and organize local meetups or events.

And if you think that “loving your product” is nearly impossible – think again. If your product delivers value, if you care about developer experience and build relationships with your users – you definitely got a base for starting with organic advocacy. Just be authentic and focus on embracing community first mindset.

Build a continuous feedback loop

Creating an ongoing dialogue with Developer Advocates helps you build a strong program and maintain thriving Developer Relations. But bear in mind, that if you give people a way to share their feedback, you need to be transparent about acting on it. Make sure that comments, complaints, and ideas which are shared with you, are also shared with your product and marketing teams. This will help you drive better product development, and also makes your developer advocates feel more involved and appreciated.

How to gather feedback from developer community?

  • Host a recurring Q&A session in any form and invite guests like CTO or Tech Lead
  • Always ask follow-up questions and strive to know “why”
  • Schedule 15-minutes feedback calls regularly
  • Be vigilant – feedback is wherever your users are – on forums, Stack Overflow, GitHub and in social medias

Drive the engagement

Engagement is an integral part of every Developer Advocacy program. You not only care about the comments on your community chat or likes in social media – you care about actual engagement and contributions.

As a tech brand, you want to give your Developer Advocates tools and guidance to create their own, unique pieces of content, meetups or speeches. You are the one, who can enable them to create something remarkable.

How to drive engagement in a Developer Community [with examples]

Define clear and easy paths to contribution. What is expected from members and advocates? Sharing tips on Stack Overflow or creating YouTube videos with guides about your API?

Make sure that your Developer Advocacy platform supports custom contribution types. See example advocacy activities in Advocu:

Example set of custom contributions in Advocu.
Example set of custom developer advocacy contributions in Advocu.

Give your community tools to contribute. Guides, examples, access to your product or API are more than welcomed.

Check this Contributor Guideline from Atom:

Atom Contributor Guideline on GitHub - a creative way to engage developers to contribution
Atom Contributor Guideline on GitHub - a creative way to engage developers to contribution

Reach out and say thank you, share the content they created and let them feel recognized. See how Google Developer Experts program is using their LinkedIn account to share their Advocate's content and achievements:

Example post from Google Developer Experts program on LinkedIn
Example post from Google Developer Experts program on LinkedIn

And this Community shoutout by Gitpod:

Post from Gitpod on LinkedIn
Post from Gitpod on LinkedIn

Gamify it up! Create a challenge and distinguish the leaders of your developer community. Take Microsoft's MVP award as a creative example.

Microsoft MVP award website
Microsoft MVP award website

Make your program exclusive

By rewarding your best Developer Advocates and fostering a sense of exclusivity, you may boost the appeal of your program. Take some examples, which non-monetary rewards can be valuable for your program Members:

  • Inviting them to beta-testers group and letting them be the first to learn about new features or products;
  • Hosting feedback sessions with them, where they can share an honest reviews and chat with your team;
  • Invitations to your events and meetups;
  • Sneak peek from behind the scenes;
  • Discount codes for your products;
  • Hosting exclusive Advocates-only events;
  • Sharing their content on your website or social media, showcasing it on your events.

Measuring Developer Advocacy impact

Whatever platform you decide to use to develop an advocacy network, be sure it includes a robust set of analytics to monitor the success and impact of your efforts.

The following are some fundamental dev advocacy metrics to consider:

  • How many contributions are made daily/weekly/monthly?
  • What impact is made by each of the contributions (in views, reads, attendees, registrations, customers, etc.)?
  • What is the number of active and inactive Developer Advocates?
  • Who are the most influential and active Advocates?
  • What is the most engaging content?
  • How is your program growing over time?
  • What is the program’s overall impact on conversions or business goals?

Trust – a key to successful DevRel

Remembering that you are in it for the long haul is critical for a successful Developer Advocacy program. To maintain Advocates' interest and engagement, you must make a united effort to cultivate relationships with them, demonstrate your sincere concern for them, and never underestimate their importance in your success.

Developer Relations is all about being authentic and building relationships. Do not treat your program as a next campaign, start building the movement.

Developer Advocacy platforms and tools

Use a platform like Advocu to create a robust Developer Advocacy program and activate your Members. Here's how it works:

  • Handle the screening and onboarding process for would-be Dev Advocates with robust dashboards and 100% customizable process;
  • Defines custom contributions, metrics and engage Members to report their activities;
  • Drive the engagement and networking with global Activity Stream – let your Advocates inspire from one another.
  • Manage your program in one tool, not in tens of spreadsheets.

Tap into the power of Developer Advocacy with Advocu.

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