The ultimate guide to developer advocacy
Developer advocacy

The ultimate guide to developer advocacy

How can you make developers fall in love with you? The complete guide to developer advocacy for startups and enterprise companies.

Sara Waszyńska
18 minutes
September 21, 2022
Written by
Sara Waszyńska
June 9, 2022
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So, you designed great software that brings a real, positive change into your clients’ lives. Congratulations! Now you just need to win over your target audience, developers, so they can fall in love with your solution and implement it in their companies. 

That’s a crucial step on your way to fulfilling the business goals and vision. Developers are finally getting the recognition they deserve for being great leaders, creative problem solvers, and influencers. As a result, they can have a lot of influence on decision-making processes at their workplaces, especially when it comes to the purchase of technology, tools, and software. According to SlashData, over 80% of developers playing any form of a leadership role in their organizations have a say in tool purchase decision-making. 

Winning developers over isn’t a particularly easy task. You’ll be competing against many companies who also do their best to cater to their needs. But investment in Developer Relations and Developer Advocacy might come to your aid and become a huge competitive advantage.

That’s why we created this guide - so you know where to start with building a thriving community of developer advocates. We strived to include everything you’d like to know about DevRel, developer evangelists, and developer advocacy programs. Dig in!

DevRel and developer advocates are getting more and more popular for a reason

Developer Relations and Developer Advocacy are considered relatively new (although they’ve been around for more than 20 years), yet rapidly developing concepts. And they are particularly popular in the tech industry. The 2021 DevRel Report found that over 60% of American companies practice Developer Relations, and over 30% of those organizations are from Silicon Valley. So, why not follow the example of some leading tech giants? 

The reason for this popularity is simple - the tech industry has never been this competitive. More software on the market equals more choices for developers who, as we already mentioned, can have quite an influence on a company's decisions regarding technology purchases.

Organizations don’t decide on software based solely on numbers anymore. It’s a conscious choice rooted in the company’s needs, recommendations from external specialists, and available product resources. Extensive research usually precedes the final decision. Developers care about forum reviews, opinions on Stack Overflow, and recommendations more than anyone else. If you can convince them that your solution is the best, getting the rest of the company on your side should be just a matter of time.

So, here are a couple of questions you might be asking yourself after reading this extensive introduction:

What is Developer Relations? 

Image with developer relations definition: "Developer relations helps companies build strong relationships with their customers and partners, design better products, and increase revenues."
What is developer relations?

Developer Relations (DevRel for short) is the process of building a developer community around your API or product. Educating developers about your API and how they can use it to build their own applications is crucial if you want them to love your product. It's a strategic partnership between your business and an audience of tech experts. When done right, Developer Relations helps companies build strong relationships with their customers and partners, design better products, and increase revenues.

Why should my company care about Developer Relations?

Because you created a great product (or API) and probably want as many people as possible to use it. Well, developers account for most of the state-of-the-art technology users. So if you haven’t thought about catering to their needs yet, start now!

Is Developer Relations just a form of marketing, then?

And if it is, can’t we just invest in “normal” B2C marketing instead? The answer is: yes. And no. First, if we had to define Developer Advocacy and Developer Relations as a type of marketing, we would call it a B2D - business to developers. At the same time, developer advocacy is a branch of brand advocacy, a popular marketing technique. But developers aren’t typical customers, and sales or marketing specialists usually don’t get along with them (unless they specialize in this type of audience).

People working in software development don’t care much about special offers, clever copy, or PPC ads. They want to know if your product will provide continuous value to their organizations. So, they’d rather have other software engineers tell them about its Unique Selling Proposition. That’s right. A developer is more likely to buy something from a developer advocate than an experienced marketer trained in sales techniques.

Who is a developer advocate?

This position goes by many names, including developer evangelist, developer ambassador, tech ambassador, and tech evangelist. Different terms, same concept.

A developer advocate’s job is to build relationships with outside developers and help them adopt your technology. Developer advocates can be either your current employees, working in the IT department, or independent external specialists who have expert knowledge of your product, feel connected to your brand and are motivated to get other developers on your side.

What is the developer advocate's role in your company?

The developer advocate role requires a lot of expertise and is frequently seen as a whole separate job. The developer advocates’ tasks include helping software engineers understand, evaluate, and, eventually, adopt your API or product.

They also help developers use your technology more efficiently so that they can increase productivity, engage in real-time problem-solving and increase revenues. In other words, developer advocates make sure that their developer community members take full advantage of your solutions.

The responsibilities of developer advocates

Developer advocacy is not a particularly standardised concept. Every company has a slightly different definition and image of what the developer advocate role should look like. However, most tech evangelists take on responsibilities such as:

  • Educating other developers on how to use your solutions for their projects and problem-solving. This education can take the form of various brand activities - writing blog articles, running workshops, speaking at conferences and meetups, or hosting hackathons.
  • Building a bridge between the customers and the company - developer advocates often collect insights and customer feedback and then work with product development to develop product ideas, improvements, and new features based on the gathered data.
  • Promoting the company's products or services among external developers to turn them into new users.
  • Creating and amplifying documentation for the products, such as open-source libraries, for the use of external developers and other potential clients.
  • Showcasing the numerous possibilities of the company’s solutions through proofs of concept and creative code samples.
  • Monitoring and managing the company’s open-source projects.

What makes a good developer advocate? What are their key traits?

Not every software engineer can become a great developer advocate, as the skills required for the job go beyond coding. DevRel professionals should also be experts in your technology and have a set of soft skills that will allow them to bond with people and create meaningful relationships. 

So, what skills does a great developer advocate need?

Developer Advocacy and Developer Relations are definitely about more than coding (although great coding is an invaluable skill in today’s world). The job of a dev advocate is often interdisciplinary and requires juggling different skillS.

Image with listed Developer Advocacy skills: Community building, writing skills, teamwork, good communicator.
Most important developer advocate's skills
  • Community building skills - developer advocates are usually the backbone of thriving developer communities, so DevRel professionals who know how to build community engagement and make people invested in the discussion are invaluable.
  • Being a good communicator - it doesn’t matter how much knowledge you have if you cannot impart it to your audience clearly and understandably.
  • Having a little knack for teaching and sharing knowledge - some people love teaching others, some are just okay with it, and some can’t stand it. People from the last group will have a tough time being developer advocates.
  • Teamwork skills - developer advocates don’t act on their own. Quite the contrary, they cooperate with people of various professions (engineers, copywriters, product managers, etc.) on a daily basis, so they have to be team players.
  • Good or at least decent writing skills - a developer advocate doesn’t have to be the next Hemingway, but if they are to create content about your brand, they should be able to express themselves coherently and clearly in writing.

All aspiring developer advocates should bear in mind (and be reminded) that being a skilled, experienced developer is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to advocacy. The perfect tech evangelist has outstanding people skills, knows how to manage people and projects, writes engaging content, and is highly assertive but also delightful to be around.

Why should my company hire developer advocates?

Managing and growing developer communities take at least one full-time job. Developer advocates can take on some community management tasks, making the life of a community manager easier and allowing the rest of the team to focus solely on building and improving the technology.

  • Developer advocates assist your team in making important product decisions. Their insightful feedback and suggestions are often invaluable for the product development team. They just know what your clients really need.
  • They spread the word about your product and help you increase brand awareness. Developers might not trust brands per se, but they look up to experts in their field.
  • They can help you with product testing. Developer advocates really know their way around your product. Not only do they have technical background and expertise, but they also keep in touch with your users and know what they expect. Hence, they are an invaluable source of feedback, and even criticism when it comes to testing. 

Where do I start with building a developer advocacy program in my company?

Think about the business value of developer advocacy

Before you start to plan anything, you need to think about why it needs to be done. In the case of Developer Relations and Developer Advocacy, it’s all about the business value. Define how a thriving developer community could elevate your company and leverage your team's efforts. You have to know why your developer community exists and what’s the vision behind it.

Developer advocacy should always support your company's business goals. For example, if your company wants to increase customer acquisition and grow the customer base, your advocacy efforts should focus on those targets. If you care about increasing product adoption, your developer advocates can take a couple of actions to provide it. Same if the company is struggling with customer support. To sum up - your developer community should lead your team towards the business goals from day one. 

Convince your team to invest in developer advocacy

If your colleagues are skeptical about hiring developer advocates, there are a few steps to win them over.

  1. First, define how to use developer advocacy to your company’s advantage. Prepare and plan a strategy supporting your company’s business plan and goals. You can read more about building a developer advocacy strategy in the section below. 
  2. Gather and showcase success stories - examples of thriving community-driven tech products. You can tell your team about Google Developer Experts or Microsoft MVPs.
  3. Communicate and prove the business value - you can showcase some numbers indicating how powerful Developer Relations and a thriving developer community can be and how they can contribute to the company’s business goals.

How to create developer advocacy program strategy - Developer Advocacy Canvas

Thinking about a developer advocacy strategy should always start with defining the “why”. I know, we are talking about it a lot. But it’s crucial to recognize the vision behind your developer community. Without it, you won’t know your goals or where you’re heading with the project.

Click here to download a printable version of Developer Advocacy Canvas.

There are 6 steps to creating a developer advocacy strategy, each of them includes several questions. Try to answer them as fully as possible to gain a complete image of what your strategy should look like:

WHY
  • What are your business goals for this project?
  • How would you describe the mission and vision behind your developer advocacy program?
  • How do your vision, mission, and goals align with the company's business goals?
WHO 
  • Who should care about your developer community? What is your target audience?
  • Who is your target persona, and why should they be interested in your product and brand? 
  • What type of relationship would you like to form with these people?
VALUE 
  • What value will your community deliver to its members?
  • What would you like your members to gain through your community? 
  • What problems do your members face, and what can you do to solve them?
HOW 
  • How can you reach your business goals? 
  • What tactics (blog posts, YouTube videos, meetups or hackathons, etc.) will you use to achieve them? 
  • What channels will you use, and how do they align with the routine of your users?
IMPACT
  • What will you need to achieve success?
  • How will you monitor the success of your program? What will be your KPIs?
  • What will be your OKRs (Objectives and Key results)?  
RESOURCES
  • What resources do you need to build a developer community and a developer advocacy program?
  • What is the investment? How much will it all cost?
  • Who do you need on your team to achieve success?
  • Which tools will you use? How much do they cost?

How to hire developer advocates

Is the developer advocate a paid role?

Yes, many companies hire and pay full-time developer advocates. They can either run a recruitment process to search for new talents or select candidates from developers who are already a part of the engineering team.

There are also cases where developer advocacy is a side hustle. In return for their services, companies offer advocates perks such as exclusive access to the beta versions of their product, big discount codes, travel funding, covered conference expenses, etc. To create initiative like that, companies usually invest in creating Developer Advocacy program.

Where can I find my developer advocates?

One of the best sources of advocates is your brand community (if you have one). Your community members are some of your most devoted customers, genuinely interested in your product development. Users who are already actively contributing to your community might be willing to “enter the outside world” and spread the word about your brand or educate others about your solutions. 

What to look for in a developer advocate

As we mentioned previously, developer advocacy is about more than outstanding coding skills and expertise. Make sure your advocates feel comfortable and like being around people because they will spend a lot of time talking to other developers. 

You can also find out if your aspiring ambassadors don’t mind teaching - some of their tasks will involve sharing their expertise with people. However, you don’t necessarily have to give up on them if they don’t. Perhaps you’ll be able to create an alternative, more content-oriented path.

Do all developer advocates do the same job?

It all depends on the vision behind your program and your business goals, but generally, no - not every developer advocate has to engage in the same brand activities.

Some developers might love teaching and building a community, but don’t feel confident creating content. Others might love writing but dread the thought of speaking in front of a crowd. To be honest, the perfect developer advocate we described in one of the previous sections rarely exists.

That’s why it’s good to create at least two paths of growth for your advocates - the community-oriented path and the content-oriented path. Ask developers which activities they’d like to engage in, and then think about how they fit the developer advocate profile that you need for your program.

Can Advocu help me with developer advocacy management?

Yes, we can! Advocu includes solutions facilitating the recruitment of new dev advocates, and you can build an entire automated developer advocacy process using our platform.

Community Management Dashboard in Advocu

With Advocu, you can make recruitment tasks easier by: 

  • preparing application forms based on pre-built templates,
  • adjusting the process to your needs by matching and mixing steps, like Form Review, Technical Interview or Onboarding,
  •  collecting data and sending notifications seamlessly, without spreadsheets. 

Tools your developer advocacy team might find helpful

Carefully selected tools will make the job easier and take some workload off your team. Here are a few that we find particularly helpful:

Advocu 

This tool is always on top of our list ;) Advocu has the potential to become your community management assistant. This tailor-made solution helps you measure and track your advocacy efforts. It also lets you automate and adjust the application, onboarding, and other processes to make your work 10 times faster.

Notion

If you’re drowning in paper to-do lists, switch to Notion as soon as possible. It’s an intuitive and user-friendly productivity tool that you can use for managing your project. With Notion can schedule your tasks, organize your thoughts, delegate assignments and organize files digitally.

Loom

Loom is a free screen and video recording tool. You can use it to capture actions on your screen or to record yourself. There’s also an option to share your work with other people. It’s a great solution if you need to, for example, create tutorials for your team.

Google Docs

We all know it, and we all use it. Google Docs comes in handy when you want to collaborate with developers on an article or any other form of content in real-time. You can all make changes, suggestions, and comments at the same time.

People Also Asked

People also Ask is a free keyword research tool and a great source of content ideas. You can use it when you don’t know what your next article should be about, or to check what your audience may be interested in.

Now you know how to make developers fall in love with you (and your products)!

That is powerful knowledge - use it wisely, and only for good! Remember to take care of every developer advocate and show them how valuable they are to you - provide them with solid training and a clear growth path, and reward them generously for their efforts. 

A developer advocacy program is a living process, so don’t be afraid to modify and even experiment with your strategy, goals, and KPIs -  you might need to adjust them with time. And if you need help at any point in the process, remember that Advocu is always here to support you.

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