Building A Developer Community
Being a Software developer and doubling as a Community relations manger has helped me realize the major effect developer communities have, they have proven to form the binding part of growth to companies or organizations scattered across the technology industry. Their passion and innovative spirit make them the ultimate growth hack for products, this has been seen with top global companies like Facebook, Google etc leveraging on their developer communities to become the very best at what they do.
Developer communities are a fast expanding one and can include everyone in technology from Senior software engineers to the high school student trying his/her hands on a new technology. Their uniqueness and creative approach to working with a technology make developer-users entirely different from other users as they tend to not work/use a product solely for the money but as a result of being passionate and enthusiastic about their craft. This reason has seen lots of tech organizations investing heavily in their developer communities.
Building a developer community never comes off as easy as it looks, developers like to be approached differently from the usual marketing tactics used to approach a new user, they love to be seen as an integral key of the product and as such can be quite a hard one to attract if the key steps are not carried out.
Here are a few guide steps i work with to help in building one:
Find and Define your Audience:
Developers cut across all sub-fields in technology and which can range from web development, mobile development, desktop application development, Game development, Data science, Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, Robotics, etc.
With the vast fields, it’s always advised to take a closer look on the goals and benefits your developers would gain from joining, doing this helps a great deal in filtering out. Doing this saves you some mileage and helps to easily communicate, interact and ultimately engage with your developers.
Create an Onboarding Process:
How you bring on developers to your platform go a long way to either have a long term or short term staying effect of them in your community. Your Onboarding process gives you the control to help reduce the common, obstacles and issues developers would come across when getting started with your product.
Your on-boarding process can also be seen as your way of creating a first impression with the developer about your product or community. A lot of companies do this through their product documentation, which aims to explain all that the developer should know about working with the product, some study focused communities do this by organizing beginner friendly meetups to get the developers acquainted with their goals and aims of the study group. Onboarding processes that have proven to have more lasting effects on the developers tend to include case studies of other developers either working with the product or who’s made some achievements after joining the community.
Metrics go a long way in helping you understand a lot about your developer members, where and how they got redirected to your platform and their activities on your platform.
Simple Metrics such as checking for engagement level on your community chat group(s), number of followers on social media, member interests in particular topics or languages, interest in certain products or technology etc do a lot of trick in harnessing the potentials and growth of your community.
Getting specific members to play lead roles helps keep the community more focused and together, smaller roles such as team leads, group leads, admins, ambassadors or higher roles such as developer advocates, developer community managers etc drives in more confidence and creates more trust into the rest of the developers as these leaders tend to understand their needs more and can relate to their technical situations.
In building a developer community, here are a few characteristics that indicate growth:
- Originality : The mistake many make is not realizing soon enough that developers fall under the Products department and not the marketing or sales department, which tells off as the reason to why lots of sale and marketing tactics tend not be quite effective on them. As stated earlier, developers like to be considered an integral part of a product and can easily see through all the marketing tactics, they love when companies or organization stay true to their words and contents and at the end deliver what was promised or even more. Be transparent with a goal of adding more value to their productivity while avoiding spams.
- Visibility: Putting more word out there about your community or organization creates more trust and grows membership, getting your developer advocates or community managers represent the community at developer focused events not only builds a good relationship but also signifies that your community or organization is always accessible, remember developers do not respond to traditional marketing tactics from a sales representative so tend to feel more at home engaging with a representative who comes from a technical background and isn’t just focused on shoving in the organization’s products in their face but also willing to discuss and analyse other products and developer tools that sometimes prove a bigger competition but with the sole aim of educating and adding value to them.
- High Priority on Feedback: A great way to know what initiatives or actions work and do not work in your community is to take in feedback as they help your community or product iterate faster, communities dwell a lot of member-feedback as they are their sole priority for starting one at the first place, issue tracking, feature requests or Q&A are some example method of getting feedback. Putting in considerable actions to issues or suggestions gotten from feedback imbibes more trust in your members as that helps them realize their opinions are considered important.
- Great Metrics: Increase in metrics largely indicates growth and shows the right steps are being taken.
- Rewards or Incentives: Giving out incentives or rewards such as swag packs, t-shirts, free skill acquisition, scholarships etc as benefits at different occasions encourage members to participate and engage more, a lot of developers also join certain communities as a result of the incentives and rewards gotten from the community, who doesn’t like freebies and goodies ?(\^^/)
Looking to start building one already or improve an existing one, here are a few essentials i prioritize that you might want to take note of:
Starter pack : For a community just starting out, having the following helps create the connection needed between members and community owner(s) at the initial/beginning phase
- Newsletter (helps with passing information about new initiatives, current trends etc)
- Code of conduct
- Chat platform (for easier communication)
- Support system (some communities combine this with the chat platform, but having this helps in difficult moments encountered by a new member)
Budding pack : For an already existing community with only a few months or years at it:
- Blog : to put up technical articles that explain various technical concepts about your products or several technologies either by staff writers or guest contributors from the community
- Integrate Feedback system
- Onboard community experts : Developer advocates/ Developer community manager etc
- Go Advanced: Create more advanced technical concepts in form of tutorials, hackathons, demo etc
Master Pack:For existing communities with member rates bursting the surge:
- Conferences :Get to host your own developer focused conference.
Developer communities can be quite exciting! they could be the sole reason for someone taking up coding, they could be the reason behind the success of a startup or the reason as to why a developer enjoys his or her job. They promote connection and interactivity among members and help bridge gaps.
Building a developer community requires patience but can also be a fun journey if you’ve got the passion and are willing to find happiness while doing it.