What is Developer Advocacy? | Appsembler

What is Developer Advocacy?

Developer advocacy recognizes that developers are one of the most important assets in any organization and that helping developers succeed with technology is crucial to long-term product adoption.

Below, we’ll delve deeper into the topic and look at what a developer advocate does day-to-day, as well as explore the benefits of committing to developer advocacy, how to hire a developer advocate, and the metrics you should use to determine their success.

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Introduction to Developer Advocacy

In the book, The New Kingmakers: How Developers Conquered the World, author Stephen O’Grady explains that developers are now wielding unprecedented power and shaping product and user experience. He adds that “Organizations that understand and embrace the value of this shift will be the most successful in years to come.”

Developer advocacy recognizes this and the role it plays in long-term product adoption. So, developer advocates build relationships between developers and their organization through having mutually engaged bi-directional conversations. They make sure developers’ voices are heard by their organization through empathy and putting themselves in the developers’ shoes.

In a nutshell, developer advocates are the voice and representatives of external developers. It’s their job to make sure the needs of external developers are heard within the company they work for.

What is a Developer Advocate?

Developer advocates represent the software developer community and their goal is to become the voice of external developers. A developer advocate, if successful, will enable developers to harness the power of your product to make their own lives easier, write better code, and build more and better applications. It also involves spreading awareness of what your product can do and ensuring it lands in the hands of those developers and companies that can get the most use and benefit from your software.

Developer advocates normally have a technical background, which helps them communicate with developers. They speak the same language and understand developers’ pain points, but they are not salespeople and you shouldn’t think of them as being just another resource to drive product sign-ups or revenue.

The role is varied and developer advocates may wear many hats, such as content creator, customer success manager, company spokesperson, brand ambassador, Tier 3 Support, and community manager. That’s why developer advocates may also be known by other job titles, such as developer relations or developer evangelist. Essentially, these roles all do a similar type of work.

What are the Benefits of Developer Advocacy? 

Done well, developer advocacy encompasses creating an engaged community through which you can listen to developers and empower them to achieve their goals by making the best use of your product. Here are the benefits of tapping into developer advocacy.

More Effective Product Development

One role of a developer advocate is to act as a liaison between product managers and your developer customer base. By building a strong relationship with your developers and engaging them with your product, they are more likely to suggest new features or resolve bugs. They will be invested in your product roadmap and will want to help shape the product into something that best meets their needs.

Harnessing developer feedback is crucial when considering how to evolve your product. You can use this information to work out which features they find most useful or they use most, as well as which areas of functionality need improvement or are hard to use. 

Improve Long-term Engagement

Continuous engagement with your product is crucial to success. You have to get developers hooked and make the product sticky so that they want to continue using it, learning more, and going deeper with your product. 

Developer advocates can hand-hold the developer through the entire process of learning about your product and its features. By participating in forums, going to events, and having regular conversations, developer advocates can check in and see where things are going wrong or right and encourage developers to use more advanced features or to share their product with their coworkers. 

Developer advocates can also direct developers to take hands-on, self-paced courses (preferably with software sandboxes) that help them to learn about and adopt your product. This will enable developers to continue their learning journey and consistently engage with your product.

 

software sandbox for developer marketers

 

Create Better Buyer Personas

By talking to developers regularly, you can get an idea of who is using your product and what they are using it for. Developer advocates receive a lot of useful feedback that enables you to understand which developers you should be targeting and create more accurate developer personas. This includes information such as:

  • What type of company they work for
  • How much experience they have as a developer
  • What their background is — for example, whether they are self-taught or have a college degree
  • Which communities they use
  • What programming languages do they use regularly

If you find developers fall into multiple categories, you can segment them and make sure your messaging aligns with the information you receive from your developer advocates.

What Does a Developer Advocate Do?

Often, a developer advocate will start work after a developer marketer has already brought a developer into the company’s broader ecosystem (typically through an event, a hackathon, or a developer-focused campaign). Developer advocates will then engage with these developers to learn about what they are working on and their level of interest in the product, as well as provide them with resources and remove roadblocks.

Build an Engaged Community

Building a strong developer community is a crucial part of any developer advocate’s role. Developer advocates need to gain the trust of developers and build a reputation for prioritizing developers’ needs. Building an engaged community provides a reliable feedback loop that developer advocates need to be able to get feedback from developers consistently.

To build this community, developer advocates need to meet developers where they are and engage in their preferred channel. This includes: 

  • Answering questions on Reddit or other forums
  • Participating in Slack channels
  • Organizing and speaking at events

Your goal should be to turn developers who use your software into product evangelists. You’ll be able to scale your community more effectively, as you’ll have developers answering questions and providing opinions and support to other users. This is useful as developers trust their peers more than they trust software companies. 

Advocate for Developers

This role goes beyond just building a community of developers. As the job title suggests, the goal is to advocate for these developers, to make sure that their voices are heard, that their problems are being noted, and that they have a good experience with your software. 

Developer advocates also humanize your brand and product to technical users by giving them a point of contact to communicate with, ask in-depth questions, explain projects, and make feature recommendations. 

Evangelize Your Product

Once a developer advocate has built a community, they can use this audience to evangelize your product. This is a key step in building a community of developer advocates. Evangelism differs from sales, as the evangelist wants the best for their users and they don’t aim to directly sell the product or earn a commission. 

The idea is to empower users by showing them how your product can help them solve their challenges. To evangelize your product, you should:

  • Create and act as an administrator in a product forum to facilitate discussions and respond to questions
  • Set up software sandboxes so users can see for themselves how the product works and use it in real-life scenarios
  • Provide developers with access to interactive documentation and self-guided courses
  • Be on-hand to answer any questions or provide more resources to help developers navigate any issues they have with your product
  • Connect developers to their peers and existing users of your platform

Create Content

As developer advocates are on the front line when it comes to knowing what developers want and need, they are well placed to create content that addresses developers’ problems or product questions and know what kind of tone to use to engage the audience. 

This content includes:

  • Blog posts
  • Webinars and podcasts
  • Quizzes, polls, and surveys
  • Videos
  • FAQs
  • Interactive product documentation

All of this should live within a dedicated developer zone on your website, which developer advocates will contribute to or help maintain.

Communicate New Features

Developer advocates communicate and highlight new features and developments in your product. It’s important that developers understand your roadmap, why you’ve introduced new features, and what these features do. They don’t want press releases that detail the benefits of what the features do; they want to see how it works themselves.

Developer advocates collaborate with other developer marketing and product teams to ensure developers have hands-on access to your software. Hands-on software sandboxes ensure developers get a learn-by-doing environment that lets them analyze your product to determine if it solves the problem they’re working on, or delights them enough to justify purchasing a license.

Developer advocates also need to create and/or distribute documentation to complement the hands-on environment and raise both developer awareness and developer education for new features.

 

what-is-developer-marketing

 

Gather Feedback 

Developer advocates act as a bridge between a software company and its developer audience. This means that developer advocates have to gather feedback from developers, so they can ensure that your content meets their needs, answers their questions, or increases their usage of the product. You can gather feedback from in-person and virtual events, via forums, by directly contacting developers.

This feedback can take the form of:

  • Bugs or other technical issues
  • Suggestions for documentation or course improvements
  • Most/least used features and why
  • Feature requests
  • Product roadmap suggestions or queries

What Should I Look for When Hiring a Developer Advocate? 

As many companies are only starting on their developer advocacy journey, it can be hard to know what to look for in a new hire. While you don’t have to be prescriptive about things like how many years of experience they need or what roles they’ve had in the past, there are some qualities that developer advocates will need to succeed. 

Excellent Communication Skills

Explaining your product to your audience, even when they are highly skilled developers, is an art form. Being able to articulate why developers need your product and its ecosystem is not easy. Developer advocates also need to be able to show that they are not trying to directly sell a product or even market to their audience. Any developer advocate needs to have flexibility in their communication skills and the ability to adapt their message to their audience.

Coding Background and Technical Expertise

Developer advocates need to understand the developer mindset, how they think, what kind of approach they need, and what kind of material they are receptive to. This could be a software developer or someone with another kind of technical background.

This experience will ensure that they can connect with the developer community and that they can use authoritative language that proves that they understand developers and are a trustworthy contact. 

Interest in Continuous Learning

Developer advocates need to have a keen interest in not only learning how your product works at an in-depth level but also keeping up to date with how your product is evolving and how the industry is changing. Developer advocates need to love innovating through technology and staying on top of industry trends. They need to spend a lot of time learning. 

Networking and Public Speaking Expertise

Organizing and attending virtual and in-person events is a key responsibility in this role. Developer advocates need to be comfortable making new contacts and evangelizing (but not selling) their products to audiences at these events. 

These events are a key way of introducing your product to a new audience, which means developer advocates have to run workshops or give talks to articulate what your product does and how it can help overcome real-world problems. 

Organizing hands-on workshops also helps demonstrate a product’s ability in real-time and with situations that developers will be familiar with, so a developer advocate must be comfortable with this scenario. 

Empathy, Trustworthy, and Natural Teachers

This role involves acting as a true advocate to the developer community, building relationships, and acting as the bridge between the end-users and the product development team. This requires the ability to listen, empathize with developers’ problems, the ability to represent the developers’ voices in your organization, and also educating developers on how your product works. Developer advocates also need to have a sense of camaraderie with external developers and represent their needs (or complaints) to your internal company, even if that makes upsetting people in your team. By doing this, developer advocates can build the trust of your community as they know you’re on their side.

 

What is developer education - blue background

Developer Advocacy Metrics

It can be difficult to quantify the return on investment developer advocacy provides, as measuring the impact of building relationships isn’t easy, but it is achievable. But a lack of solid goals and KPIs can hamper the efforts of your developer advocacy program. 

Developer advocacy metrics should be focused on awareness, building relationships, and satisfaction, rather than product adoption. The aim shouldn’t be to generate more product sales, as you will eliminate any authenticity the developer advocate has built and shatter the trust of the developer community.

The metrics you should be taking note of when measuring the success of your developer advocacy program include: 

  • Monthly growth of your developer community
  • # of developer groups and # of new groups added per month
  • # of developer meetings per month
  • # of developers per group and # of total developers across all groups
  • # of impressions to your developer portal or content
  • Hackathon and developer event attendees
  • Blog article views and reads
  • Your Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Some of these metrics — such as blog article views and reads — will be shared across the entire developer marketing team. 

 

the 5 benefits of developer marketing download

 

Providing a Holistic Developer Experience

Developers want a way to solve their problems, and they need the right product to help them do that, but your role is not to convince them that what you offer is right for them, at any cost. If you don’t understand their challenges and what they are looking for, then you won’t hit the mark and you’ll undermine your product and business.

Understanding developers is crucial and to do this, developer advocacy needs to be a crucial part of the overall developer experience, or DevX, encompassing not just advocacy, but also developer marketing and education. This means putting an end to silos, and working out how to empower developers to make the right choice for them by giving them the tools and information they need to work out for themselves whether your product is what they are looking for. 

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