Lessons from DevRel Experts on Building Developer Communities

Community experts from Devada, WeaveWorks, RingCentral and IBM weigh in on best practices for building successful developer communities

Last fall, Heavybit brought together a panel of developer community experts from Devada, Weaveworks, RingCentral and IBM to discuss their experiences creating and running developer communities. Moderator Jesse Davis, EVP of Product and Technology for Devada, led a great conversation about how devtools teams can engage with and foster the communities that grow around their products. Here are a few things that we learned about building developer communities during the session.

Rethink Who (and What) You’re Competing With

Developer communities can provide a lot of value to marketing and sales teams looking to stay connected with their audience — but that connection can’t be taken for granted. Mike Stowe, Sr. Manager of Developer Product Marketing at RingCentral, raised an essential point about leveraging communities in this way. “When you’re marketing to developers, your real competitor isn’t other tools; it’s the time they want to spend with their families, watching Netflix, or learning other technologies,” said Stowe during the panel.

From an organization’s perspective, a community can be valuable for marketing and sales initiatives. Focus on providing value to the developers in your community first and foremost to ensure that your users find participating worth their time — it will pay off in the long run.

Measure and Track Every Activity for Better ROI Insights

One thing that all the panelists agreed on was the importance of measuring your community-building efforts. “You’re going to fail, and you’re going to fail a lot. That’s why it’s important to measure things — something is going to hit, and that’s what you’re going to want to double down on,” said Dave Nugent, Developer Advocate for IBM Developer SF.

Tamao Nakahara, organizer of DevRelCon and Head of DX at Weaveworks, said that her team is encouraged to log everything in Salesforce. When a deal closes or a customer is upsold, the DevRel team can then show the impact they had. Stowe echoed this sentiment, reiterating that careful tracking of the community activities helps tie your efforts to revenue, customer happiness and other top-line goals: “At the end of the day, if you can share the value of the community, it gives your company a reason to continue to invest in that community.”

Tap into Existing Developer Communities

After opening up the panel to questions from the audience, the conversation turned toward getting a new developer community up and running. The audience asked questions about everything from community-building tech stacks to how soon is too soon to get started. The panel agreed that it’s never too early to start building relationships with and between your customers.

Tamao advised against spending too much effort spinning up your own, standalone community platform in the early days: “Be aware of existing platforms and forums, and go for the easiest way to engage with people. If all your users are on StackOverflow, take the conversation to them instead of trying to build your own standalone platform.” Engaging with users where they’re already having conversations about your product will reduce the friction and overhead needed to start having those meaningful conversations.

Watch the Panel on Building Vibrant Developer Communities

For more insights on how to build successful communities, watch a full recording of the panel on Building Vibrant Developer Communities in the Heavybit library.

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