Sara Waszyńska
25 minutes
January 10, 2023

The Future is Now: Top 7 Trends in Developer Ambassador programs for 2023

Industry Experts’ comments included

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If you're in charge of your company's DevRel strategy, you know that the landscape is constantly changing. In the fast-paced world of technology, it's important to stay ahead of the curve and find new ways to engage and support your developer community. That's where developer ambassador programs come in. 

These programs, which involve empowering developers to act as advocates and influencers for your company, have become an increasingly important part of a comprehensive DevRel strategy. But with so many companies jumping on the ambassador bandwagon, it can be tough to stand out and make a real impact.

So what's the key to a successful developer ambassador program in 2023? We reached out to the industry experts to get their thoughts on the matter, and the consensus was clear: it's all about cooperation, transparency, and tailored engagement strategies. Gone are the days of isolation and one-size-fits-all approaches. But it's not just about the feel-good stuff. Savvy companies are also implementing structured approaches to rewards and engagement, ensuring that their ambassador programs are effective and meaningful for everyone involved.

So if you want your DevRel strategy to thrive in 2023, it's time to think about how a developer ambassador program can help you build stronger, more meaningful relationships with your developer community. Keep reading for more expert insights on the latest trends in ambassador programs, and get inspired to take your program to the next level in the coming year.

Keep scrolling, or use the sticky menu for our top developer ambassador trends for 2023 👈

Elevate Your DevRel Strategy in 2023 with a Thriving Developer Ambassador Program

Over the past few years, we've seen a surge in the number of developer communities and a growing awareness of the importance of developer relations. As more and more companies learn how to properly market their tech products to this audience, it's no surprise that developer ambassador programs have become an essential part of the DevRel mix. 

But with a recession on the horizon and limited resources to work with, these programs are about to become even more valuable. By empowering developers to act as advocates for your company, you can drive product adoption and scale your efforts in a cost-effective way. And with a surplus of talented developers and startup founders entering the job market, now is the perfect time to elevate your DevRel strategy with a strong ambassador program.

Let’s see what our Experts have in mind - why should you include an Ambassador program in your DevRel strategy?

In the near-term, the macro-economic downturn will increase the number of talented developers and startup founders in the global job market, which can increase the engagement opportunities that are available for existing ambassador programs.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google
I think companies should start to expand the definition of Ambassadors in 2023. Oftentimes, I hear the term Ambassador used to describe an individual who speaks at conferences on behalf of an organization. We will begin to see Ambassadors develop into full-on content creators. They will be dedicated to their own respective content forms in order to help organizations have a voice in the highly competitive social landscape.

Ronald Williams, Community Programs Manager at Cypress.io
Companies should change their mindset from seeing these programs as an expense. These programs are a significant investment for companies, not a liability. This is something that companies and DevRel should be prepared for in 2023.

Majid Hajian, Head of Developer Relations at Invertase, GDE
Companies are now realizing how important ambassadors can take the adoption of their products to the next level either by Visibility, Adoption rate, Contribution/Innovation or sales.

Shola Slick Akinrolie, Senior Developer Advocate, Trust Wallet(Binance)
I think ambassador programs have become go-to strategies now (especially in downturn), so we're going to see them become bigger, more scalable communities, less 1-on-1 communication with DevRel or project itself. Maybe bounty focussed (at least in web3, following Solana collective).

Cat McGee, Head of Developer Relations at Hype

We've learned that developer ambassador programs are something to seriously consider in 2023. But what's hot and what's not in this exciting field?

Let's dive into the trends and predictions that will shape the world of developer ambassador programs in the coming year. Whether you're an old pro or new to the game, this info will help you stay ahead of the curve and make the most of your developer ambassador journey. So let's get trend-savvy and see what the future holds for these tech-savvy community heroes!

Trends in Developer Ambassador programs for 2023

Embracing trust, openness, and authenticity

When it comes to creating a rock-solid developer ambassador program, there's one thing that should be at the top of your list: trustworthiness. Without it, you might as well pack up your ambassador program and call it a day. 

But trust isn't just a buzzword – it's the cornerstone of any long-term, successful relationship. And in the world of developer relations, it's no different. Whether you're dealing with internal advocates or ambassadors from the broader developer community, you need to be open, honest, and authentic if you want to make a real impact. 

So how do you build a program that's built on trust? Our experts share their tips on how to stay true to your values and build lasting relationships with your ambassador community.

I think the key factors for a successful Ambassador Program are: open and transparent (the community must have some autonomy on the program; a more active role and not just passive; transparent meaning they should know what is going on, they should have access to other contributions and contributors).

Ully Sampaio, Developer Program Manager at Elastic
Building trust with your community goes a long way, and needs to start from a place of authenticity and understanding. I believe you need to understand the motivation and needs of your Ambassadors and design programs that will support these things first and foremost - and then you can work backwards to figure out how these programs can tie into your internal company needs and goals. In my program, we start by asking our community: what do they need? What skills do they want to develop? How can we help them to be successful? And based on this, we design programs that support these goals and allow us to deliver on top-level priorities.

Caitlin Morrisey, Global Ambassador Lead, Women Techmakers at Google
I see Ambassadors as TRUST between the PRODUCT and the COMPANY.

Shola Slick Akinrolie, Senior Developer Advocate, Trust Wallet(Binance)

Choose cooperation over isolation

With more and more companies jumping on the Developer Ambassador program bandwagon, it can feel like the industry is getting a little crowded. But don't let that discourage you – there are still plenty of opportunities for your program to stand out. 

How developer programs can work together on creating something meaningful?

In fact, a study by Evans Data Corporation estimates that there are currently 26.9 million software developers worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 27.7 million in 2023. That's a whole lot of potential ambassadors waiting to be engaged. Rather than focusing on exclusive, attention-grabbing tactics, it's time to embrace cooperation and authenticity in your program.

Check out what industry experts have to say on the subject:

I believe we'll see an increase of those types of programs and because of that increase, we might see a trend of community members wanting to collect badges from different programs. Ideally, companies with technology that compliment each other could partner together and have a way to push their ambassadors from one program to another, encouraging them to explore deeper into the technology. Companies should start looking for more options to collaborate with each other versus having the most exclusive program. The future is all about connecting and not isolating.

Ully Sampaio, Developer Program Manager at Elastic
We will see increased collaboration with open source projects. Many developers are involved in open source projects, and companies may find that partnering with or supporting these projects can be a valuable way to engage with the developer community.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google

Defining your goals and crafting a strong strategy

We all know that starting anything – whether it's a business, a project, or a developer ambassador program – requires strategy and a clear sense of purpose. But do we always follow these best practices? 

With a potential recession looming on the horizon in 2023, it's more important than ever to think carefully about budgets, results, and what's actually delivering value. As Matty Straton pointed out at DevRelCon Prague, it's crucial to understand how your company is making money and how you can contribute to that through your DevRel initiatives. 

Without a thorough strategy in place, you risk missing out on both internal buy-in and long-term success. In 2023, don't let your ambassador program become another 'nice to have' – take the time to plan and strategize from the start. 

A successful developer ambassador program should have clear, measurable goals and objectives that align with the overall goals of the company.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google
Understand how your Developer Ambassador program will fit into your overall communications strategy—it's important that all of the pieces fit together seamlessly so that there isn't any confusion among employees or customers about what it means when someone says "we're part of [company name]'s developer ambassador program".

Vishal Pallerla, Developer Advocate at DevZero
Make sure that your executive team realizes the long term value in the program and start with a small cohort of super users. If leadership is looking for quick ROI please inform them that an Ambassador program is not the ideal approach. Building 10 strong relationships that have 90% retention is way more beneficial than a 50 member program with 10% retention. You want to provide quality, not quantity.

Ronald Williams, Community Programs Manager at Cypress.io
Look at the program as a long-term investment rather than an expense for the company.

Majid Hajian, Head of Developer Relations at Invertase, GDE

Remember about the foundation

If you're thinking about launching a developer ambassador program, there's one thing you need to get right from the start: your foundation. Without a strong developer community to build upon, your program is destined for failure. 

Fortunately, Stacey Kruczek is here to remind us of the importance of this foundation and offer some tips on how to build it up:

Developer Ambassador or “influencer” programs can only occur if you have a somewhat healthy and active developer community. That means starting at ground zero, who are your developers, have you defined their personas, how do they influence your business and more importantly are you building awareness around your product or solution offerings to developers? We can’t even begin to establish an effective developer ambassador program until we have a community. And we can’t have a community without the commitment to build a strong developer relations/advocacy program.

Developer ambassadors can only happen if you have an education plan in place for your developer community .Without it, how can you properly identify the influencers of that community? There is definitely a need for this type of program but you have to take certain steps in order to get there and make the commitment to not just install it, but continually endorse this and provide the right tools and education to continually grow it.

Stacey Kruczek, Director of Developer Relations at Aerospike

Fostering a culture of learning and development

When it comes to building a successful developer ambassador program, there's one thing that should be at the top of your list: a culture of learning and development. After all, that's what developer relations is all about – spreading knowledge and educating others about our technology. 

Developer Ambassadors are not influencers sharing some discount codes for software. They influence knowledge. And it's all about giving ambassadors the tools and resources they need to become experts in their field. 

How to foster a culture of learning in Developer community?

According to a SlashData DevRelX Developer Nation Survey from Q3 2022, 45% of developers are actively seeking out training and learning opportunities in tech communities. To achieve success and grow your program in 2023, it's crucial to focus on delivering valuable knowledge to your ambassador community. Our experts have some valuable insights – read on to learn more.

More emphasis on experiential learning: Developers are often seeking opportunities to learn and grow, and companies may find that offering experiential learning opportunities (e.g., hackathons, workshops) as part of their ambassador programs can be an effective way to engage with developers and build loyalty.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google
Developer ambassador programs may place a greater emphasis on providing opportunities for ambassadors to grow and develop their skills, such as through mentorship programs or training and certification opportunities and also providing a pathway for career opportunities within the company through these programs if the users are interested.

Vishal Pallerla, Developer Advocate at DevZero
Empowering developers is rewarding for both companies and developers. Therefore, it is essential to find enthusiastic developers and support them in any way that the company can to help them achieve their goals. The ambassador programs are a way to empower devs who are in certain areas and help them to level up. When a program is designed to help the community and like-minded people, it will make a massive difference as the program's members will participate in the growth of the company and the products.

Majid Hajian, Head of Developer Relations at Invertase, GDE
Hence, I anticipate an increasing demand for ambassadors who can bring value to both the community and the business. And with the growing demand for developer ambassadors, they will be more selective in deciding which products or communities they would like to add their contributions to, taking into account not just the benefits of the ambassador program but also the overall values of that company.

Ronald Williams, Community Programs Manager at Cypress.io

Striking the right balance between in-person and online experiences

Over the past few years, we've learned a lot about the ups and downs of fully virtual experiences – and program managers are now faced with the tough task of balancing in-person and online community events.

More and more conferences and meetups are going hybrid, and communities are weighing the pros and cons of both approaches. But finding the right mix of in-person and online isn't so easy.

On the one hand, program managers are looking to re-engage communities with in-person events after a dip in engagement after the pandemic. On the other hand, online experiences give us the power to go global, engage with more people, and create more diverse communities. 

So, how do you find the sweet spot? Our experts weigh in with their thoughts on the subject:

The past few years have been very virtual and I think people are very excited to get back to in-person connections. But I also think we recognized the benefits of virtual communities and experiences - we can connect with each other from anywhere in the world, we can learn from experts from the comfort of our own homes, we can collaborate with each other across time zones or country lines. I think future programs will be the most successful if they retain the best of virtual experiences and also return to the magic of in-person connections. Using each of these formats for what they can do best will be key.

Caitlin Morrisey, Global Ambassador Lead, Women Techmakers at Google
Greater focus on virtual events and online engagement: With the increasing popularity of remote work and the global nature of many developer communities, companies may need to place a greater emphasis on virtual events and online engagement to reach developers.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google

Ensuring there's something for everyone: A variety of activities

When it comes to developer ambassador programs, it's not always easy to engage and empower a diverse group of people with different experiences, passions, skills, and backgrounds. 

That's why it's crucial to think about a variety of activities and events that can appeal to the entire community – not just a select few. By considering the needs and interests of your entire ambassador community, you can create a program that's truly inclusive and welcoming to all.

And don't forget, your ambassador community is a valuable resource – don't be afraid to ask for their input and ideas on what types of activities and events they would like to see in the program.

Provide multiple ways to contribute. For example, someone might be interested in answering online forums, whereas someone might be interested in speaking at physical events or writing tech blogs.

Anil Kumar, Senior PMM - Developer tools
Developer ambassadors should have opportunities to participate in activities that are both engaging and meaningful to them. This could include attending conferences and events, working on open source projects, or participating in experiential learning opportunities.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google

Tailored reward and engagement strategies

When it comes to rewards and engagement strategies for developer ambassador programs, it's easy to default to the usual t-shirts and swag packs. But let's be real – how many branded t-shirts does one person really need? And how does a pile of swag really build relationships with ambassadors and truly reward their efforts?

And… yes, this is my personal raid on t-shirts, but women in tech - do you even wear them? They are all made in men's sizes and are suitable only for sleeping… And we are still giving t-shirts right and left while talking about building more diverse communities. This is the end of my personal raid on t-shirts, you can keep reading. 

If you want to stand out in the sea of tech companies handing out t-shirts left and right, it's time to think outside the box. Why not try something a little more meaningful, like exclusive meetings with your product and engineering teams, access to beta features, or in-person training for your most active ambassadors? 

Perks and benefits for developer communities

There are so many options beyond swag and pizza – it's time to get creative with your reward and engagement strategies. Read what our Experts think about the topic: 

One of the key factors for successful programs are meaningful awards - awards that make them feel appreciated for their work and add value to their personal and professional development.

Ully Sampaio, Developer Program Manager at Elastic
Companies should recognize and reward the contributions of their developer ambassadors in meaningful ways. This could include offering perks and benefits, such as access to exclusive events or early access to new products, as well as more public forms of recognition, such as blog posts or social media shoutouts.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google
As developers become increasingly savvy and selective about the companies and technologies they work with, companies may need to focus on providing personalized experiences and support for their Developer Ambassadors. This could involve tailored training and development opportunities, as well as personalized support and guidance from the company.

Vishal Pallerla, Developer Advocate at DevZero
Empower the ambassador based on their needs from professional needs to custom swag, we need to customize the offer and have a common ground for the dev ambassador strategies.

Giovanni Laquidara, Senior Developer Advocate at Amazon

So.. what’s next?

To sum it up, 2023 is all about making your developer ambassador program a beacon of cooperation, trust, and authenticity. It's not just about having a strategy – it's about having a solid foundation that supports the goals of your program and creates meaningful learning experiences.

But with all these changes on the horizon, where do you even start? Don't worry, we've got you covered in the next paragraph with expert tips on how to prepare for the shift towards a thriving developer ambassador program.

What to do to prepare for these changes?

By now, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed with all the expert insights on how to prepare for the future of developer ambassador programs in 2023. But don't worry – there are a few things you can do right away to elevate your DevRel or ambassador program strategy. 

Whether you're just getting started or looking to take your program to the next level, these tips will help set you on the path to success. So, don't wait – start implementing these changes today and watch your program thrive in the new year.

Create a diverse and inclusive space

Creating a diverse and inclusive space for your developer ambassador program is one of the easiest ways to set your program up for success in 2023. 

Not only does it create a more welcoming environment for all members of your community, but it also helps you tap into a wider range of perspectives and experiences. Our Experts are 100% clear in this topic:

To truly prepare for these potential changes, companies may want to consider building a diverse and inclusive team of Developer Ambassadors, investing in remote engagement opportunities, such as online meetups, webinars, and video conferences, and integrating their Developer Ambassador program with other developer relations efforts giving developers the opportunity to network with other developers through meetups, conferences, and hackathons.

Vishal Pallerla, Developer Advocate at DevZero
It must be inclusive. Everyone is welcome.

Majid Hajian, Head of Developer Relations at Invertase, GDE
Don't forget we are working with people, empathy will always be the main factor.

Giovanni Laquidara, Senior Developer Advocate at Amazon

The importance of strong communication

Strong communication is the foundation of any successful developer ambassador program, especially in the digital age. Whether you're hosting in-person events or conducting everything online, it's crucial to create open lines of communication with your ambassadors and be transparent about the program's goals, vision, and expectations. 

But with so many tools, chats, and documents at our fingertips, miscommunications can easily occur. That's why it's important to clearly establish how ambassadors can communicate with you and where they can find help, resources, or share feedback. 

Strong communication and support: Companies should provide ongoing communication and support to their developer ambassadors, including regular check-ins, access to resources and tools, and opportunities for feedback and collaboration.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google
Communicate with them in a real and honest way - my program supports women in technology around the world and the challenges they face are complicated and nuanced. It's not always easy, and we don't always have all the answers and we're very clear about that. But I believe that kind of honesty builds trust, and it also reiterates the need for this global community to exist and underlines why our work is so important.

Caitlin Morrisey, Global Ambassador Lead, Women Techmakers at Google

Automations and program tooling

It's one thing to get a program off the ground, but it's another to keep everything running smoothly and not get bogged down in spreadsheets and manual tasks. Program tooling, processes, and organization can be a major challenge for program managers, especially when it comes to developer ambassador programs. Tracking the application process, contributions, sending emails and keeping everyone informed can take your valuable time. 

And believe us, we know it well as Advocu is a tool to build, scale and track the Developer Ambassador programs. And yes, this is a short ad! You can learn more about Advocu by clicking here or just book a demo directly with me :) 

The key to success, not only in our opinion but also in our Expert’s, is automating boring tasks and focusing on building relationships. With the right tools on board, you can create something truly meaningful. 

To prepare for these changes, companies should consider investing in the infrastructure and resources needed to support virtual events and online engagement, as well as developing experiential learning opportunities and exploring opportunities to collaborate with open source projects.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google
Another key for a successful program is automations. Create forms for items ambassadors need to submit on a regular basis (blogs, applications, request). The reason I like to use automations is because it gives me more time for high-level planning and relationship building.

Ronald Williams, Community Programs Manager at Cypress.io

Equip them with resources

Empower your developer ambassadors to succeed by providing them with the resources they need to contribute and learn. This includes documentation, guides, contributor guidelines and more, all mentioned by our Experts below:

The commonality I see with successful developer programs is great documentation and self-serve resources. I believe that a program's documentation is a direct reflection of how much an organization values their members' success. For my current Ambassador program we built an Ambassador hub in Notion where members can find everything related to the program. They have access to all our digital assets, slidedeck templates, and swag vendors (all with guidelines of course). We also grant members edit access and encourage them to include their projects, events, activities, and feedback so they are visible to everyone.

Ronald Williams, Community Programs Manager at Cypress.io
Having excellent documentation improves the developer experience as it becomes easier for developers to learn about a new product and it makes it more enjoyable. In my opinion, great documentation is the cornerstone of building a successful developer community. If the quality of your documentation is subpar, why would developers be interested in joining your community and becoming a brand ambassador? Developers want to be proud about the product they use and represent.

Michiel Mulders, Developer Advocate & Technical writer

Listen to feedback, adapt and be flexible

The most important tip is saved for last. I really hope that those who read the entire article still have some brain power and those who are just scrolling through will stop at this paragraph.

Feedback and flexibility. You can't build a meaningful developer community or program without it. Honestly, I think you cannot build anything without it.  Any time you spend on it is worth it. Without honest feedback, you won't be able to improve and grow your program. So don't skimp on the feedback - make it a priority and watch your program thrive. Here are some ideas, how to keep feedback lines open:

  • regular community check-ins: message your community directly, to ask for feedback or issues,
  • feedback survey: host at least one survey a year, where you ask for feedback in regard to program initiatives and goals,
  • 1:1s with program members: try to schedule at least 2-4 individual meeting with the Members each month.

Focus not only on gathering it, but also on taking your learnings and communicating the improvements. You don’t need to implement it all, but you need to communicate which direction and why you are choosing. 

Check what our Experts say about it:

Learning mindset: Collect feedback regularly, and speak to ambassadors frequently. Understand what works best and what can be improved. Adopt accordingly.

Anil Kumar, Senior PMM - Developer tools
Flexibility and adaptability: A successful developer ambassador program should be flexible and adaptable to the needs and preferences of its ambassadors. This may require regularly soliciting feedback and making adjustments to the program as needed.

Ajeet Mirwani, Head of Platform, Developer Relations at Google
Companies should continue to listen to and learn from their developer communities and use this feedback to inform and improve their Developer Ambassador programs. By staying attuned to the needs and preferences of developers, companies can ensure that their programs remain relevant and valuable to this important audience.

Vishal Pallerla, Developer Advocate at DevZero
Developer Ambassador programs will evolve becoming more adaptable to the profile of the communities. Thanks to data analysis and ML algorithms ( Think a TikTok algo but for Dev Ambassador program ) the ambassador will be selected by the developer communities around a product ( most active? Most useful? Most engaged? ). The developer community will be feed by content tailored specifically for them with the lead of the dedicated Ambassador.

Giovanni Laquidara, Senior Developer Advocate at Amazon

Key takeaways

Take your Developer Ambassador program to new heights in 2023 with these expert-approved strategies for success:

  1. Collaboration is key: Rather than competing for attention, focus on building relationships and cooperating with other organizations to create a stronger community.
  2. Trust, openness, and authenticity are essential: These values are what make a program genuine and build long-lasting connections with ambassadors.
  3. Develop a clear strategy and goals: Know what you want to achieve with your program and how you will get there.
  4. Learning and development should be at the forefront: Your ambassadors are there to learn and grow, so make sure you are providing opportunities for them to do so.
  5. Strike a balance between in-person and online experiences: Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so find a way to incorporate both into your program.
  6. Offer a diverse range of activities: This will ensure that there is something for everyone and that all members feel included and engaged.
  7. Have a formal and organized way of rewarding and engaging your community: This will show that you value their contributions and help to build stronger relationships.

A special thank you

A huge shoutout to the brilliant experts who made this article possible! Their insights and real-life experiences have helped to create a top-notch resource for anyone looking to learn about developer ambassador programs. These experts have generously shared their knowledge and expertise, and we're grateful for their contributions.

So, a big thank you to our amazing experts for helping us shine a light on the exciting world of developer ambassador programs and the challenges and opportunities that come with them.

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