The Three Pillars of Developer Relations & Developer Advocates
This story covers my take and perspective on Developer Relations / Developer Advocacy / Developer Evangelism, and how to implement a successful program within your company
Is it Sales? Is it Marketing? Is it Content Creation? Let dive into developer relations & developer advocacy to understand what these newfound teams are doing in San Francisco and across the tech frontier.
This story is a collaboration between Elliott Saslow & Keenan Olsen, we have come into contact with a multitude of Dev Rel strategies. Many that work well, and a lot that are just hot air in the wind. In this article we will unpack some of the strategies that we have seen with traction in the industry and describe how you can implement them in business.
We have identified three distinct pillars of Dev Rel:
We will discuss each of these pillars and how they are a part of a strong Developer Relations strategy for your company.
Pillar 1: Education
The first and possibly most important pillar of Dev Rel is education. This is a broad topic and has some overlap with the content pillar, but still deserves its own space. Education internally is very import for employee success and retention so this must be taken seriously. Because of this we will split education into two parts:
- Internal Employee Education
- Customer & Consumer Education
Internal Employee Education
This as well has multiple components:
- Education to Non-Technical employees
- Education to Technical employees
For the education to the non-technical employees, the Dev Rel team must lead a strong program that makes sure everyone knows the product inside and out regardless of their technical experience. This can include emails with tutorials on how to use the product, and exciting new features that are launching. As well, it is important to have a strong on-boarding curriculum for new hires and a Developer Relations Employee should be strong enough to write a fair amount of curriculum with some guidance from a product manager.
In addition, technical employee education is important and slightly more difficult. Depending on the Dev Rel team size, you may want to source this from outside of your company, but the Dev Rel team lead should be able to identify what programs are suitable for this.
Like with the non-technical employee education, a strong on-boarding process is especially crucial for technical employees and the dev rel team should be able to work directly with content specialist to ensure this is adequate for the new hires.
Education on your products and industry knowledge education should be a highlight of your employees experience. With this in mind, making sure the dev rel team has ample funds to make the educational gathers social and inclusive is very important. As much of this content is internal, it is difficult to showcase good examples of this work, but through Galvanize I have seen multiple companies perfect this pillar of developer relations by sourcing it to an education company.
Customer & Consumer Education
On the other side of the equation, it is important to make sure that you have a strong consumer and customer facing education program. This falls somewhat under the content pillar, but we will explore what this looks like a little but.
The Dev Rel team is in charge of making sure that ways to use your products are easy to understand and work with. This can range from proofreading documentation to creating youtube tutorials on how to use you products. An example of a company doing a great job of this is Math Works!
Learn with MATLAB and Simulink Tutorials
New to MATLAB? Check out our free collection of MATLAB tutorials, videos, training, and documentation.
They have a large number of tutorials, my favorite of which is:
Signal Processing and Machine Learning Techniques for Sensor Data Analytics — Video
Learn how to make joint use of the signal processing and machine learning techniques available in MATLAB to develop…
This type of content should be released by the Dev Rel team regularly, and they should be in touch directly with the customer on what they want. (more on this later)
By making sure that you customer and consumer facing content is strong, you give the customer more confidence in your products and that working with you will be an easy and pleasurable experience.
Pillar 2: Content
This by far my favorite pillar. A strong content presence will help grow the company and the buzz surrounding it. We will split this into a couple of parts as well:
- Educational Content
- SEO Content
Since we where just talking above about education, we will first jump into the Educational Content. Like I was talking about above, it is important to have quick start guides for people to learn your platform. The Dev Rel team should make sure this content is accessible for a wide audience, so that almost anyone can get started with using your products.
Think about it: you want a start up CEO to be able to google your product and get started with it easily. They can always pass it off to a developer, but if they can get started using your products, it gives confidence someone else on the team could as well.
In addition, you want to make sure that the developers who stumble upon your platform promote it to their managers as well. The individual consumer can end up being your best marketer if you get them the right content. A really good example I saw of this recently was when we published an article from Nvidia AI on Future vision. Just by tweeting out their article on the Nvidia Developers account, I saw hundreds of views and reads come in. Talk about an engaged audience!
Creation and promotion of this material is part of the Dev Rel duties and very important to overall company success.
The above discussion leads nicely into this next segment. Making sure that the content you create is marketable and set up for the right audience. I recently interviewed at a company that has a lot of great map tutorials, but when you google add a map to my website, none of their content shows up. This is where the Developer Relations team really shines. They are in charge of making sure this content comes through strongly and has people accessing it regularly.
It is important to not necessarily focus on marketing when building this out as it can undermine the goals of the Developer Relations Team. Dev Rel is not sales, and making that and make the team seem unauthentic
Combine ‘content’ with ‘marketing’ and you further undermine what you’re creating. The phrase suggests the entire point of the exercise is marketing. But if you focus on publishing great content, you’ll actually need to do minimal marketing to attract people to your product
The Startup Publication on medium who is run by Growth supply talks a lot about this in this article:
How we got 11.3 million pageviews without the growth hacking bullshit
People don’t desire products. They desire feelings that products give them.
With one of my favorite takeaways being:
It is important to tell stories and truly engage your customers. It’s not about content for content sake. Another company that I recently interviewed at was bragging to me about all the content that they where putting out. ‘We are posting over 5 articles a week and trying to make that 10 a week by June.’ I was told by one of the guys on the marketing team. Thats great to hear, but how many people are reading those articles? Are you actually helping anyone or are you just paying people on fivver to make keyword optimized posts?
‘We are posting over 5 articles a week and trying to make that 10 a week by June.’
It is important to make sure that you have content that connects with readers and brings in new customers. Its not necessarily about quantity in Developer Relations but it is 100% about quality. Focusing on storytelling an high quality content will both raise your SEO and bring in new customers regularly.
SEO also includes answering product questions and concerns by commenting on FB groups, Product Forums, Quora, Reddit, Twitter, Youtube, etc. It is important to have strong technical presence on these sites so that if people are looking for your products, you give them confidence your teams is available to assist. The more that you answer questions, the more these solutions will start to trickle to the top of google searches and generate good media surrounding your company.
Pillar 3: Outreach
Finally, pillar number 3: outreach — although this is the last pillar it must not be overlooked. It ties into both of the other pillars but needs a standalone strategy. Outreach is important to make sure that you know how your customers are doing and where you could improve. Some good questions to begin to ask are:
- What content do our customers use? Why?
- Where do we lose the most customers? How can we make their life easier?
- Are our customers recommending our products to their peers? Why or Why not?
Your users should be some of your most influential (and cheapest) marketing. By making sure that the people who use your product enjoy it, you avoid PR hassles and engage a wide audience.
This outreach can be done in a variety of ways. Some successful implementations I have seen including going to a customers workplace and identifying how they use the product. As well, having someone with a strong data analysis background on your Developer Relations team will ensure that you can use data to identify which customers you should talk to. Maybe you send someone to a customer that recently quit using your product. Identify the pain points and offer a deal to get that customer back. As well your Dev Rel team should be able to identify which content performs well, and which does not. Using this information, they can accordingly create more that is geared towards customer engagement.
Finally, it is important to engage through meetups and conferences. A strong developer advocate will be able to teach a technical workshop at the same conference they do a product workflow talk. These advocates are looking to bring people up, and by having that face at public events, it makes your product seem more useable. To achieve this, it is important to host meetups where developers can come learn about your products in addition to attending conferences. Make sure your Dev Rel team is personable so that companies walking away from a conference are excited to learn more about your products. In person marketing can be the strongest as long as it is very authentic.
I hope you enjoyed this article and if you did, please hook me up with some claps — As always, follow for more content & subscribe to Future Vision Newsletter!