I’ve been kind of community oriented person for ever. I’ve been participating several tech communities and even ignited some. To me this Developer Relations was a mystery 6 months ago. My first reaction to dev rel was “eewwww!” The word “relations” created connotation to human resources and that is boring and not interesting to me. But it sounded somewhat (community related) familiar and worthy of digging deeper.
After I got rid of the first negative emotional response in my head (reminded my of Thinking Fast and Slow), I saw it just as another name for community management. After putting some more time and effort behind it, I saw the light. I’m tempted to put the DevRel in influencing and customer needs segments in my 360 view to DX.
Reasoning is that depending of the size of the company, devrel seems to have two different primary functions:
- funnel the feedback and needs
- drive engagement.
Of course it does have a role also on sales and elsewhere too.
Box in the org chart is a moving target
I found out that there are dedicated DevRel teams in companies, but mostly the devrel people are currently under the wings of CMOs. It seems likely that companies new to dev rel are establishing their programmes within marketing. That is what we at [Platform] of Trust](https://www.platformoftrust.net/) have probably done. I’m saying probably, because it’s not clear yet. I’m leading the DX/UX team and CMO has comms and marketing. We are a team together (I’m the tech oriented, she is comms and we both are sales oriented too) and saying on which side of the fence devrel is, is kinD of hard now. I could say that we don’t have clear devrel program yet in our company. The reason is obvious; we are still maturing and on early stage.
Most commonly (35%) DevRel is part of the Marketing, but Engineering is lurking at secont place (24%). The third place (18%) goes to Product Management. Only 16% of State of Developer Relations 2019 respondents have standalone dev rel team. Stand alone teams enter the picture when companies have communities of 10 000 developers or more.
To be honest we have to make a decision on the lead of DevRel since the box can shape the expectations, metrics, and make-up of the programme. I’ve kind of started already to build some of the elements of devrel in the form of DX Advocat network among other things. I would say that in our case 80% of devrel drops on my lap and rest goes to CMO - we need to work together. Be like Beavis and Butt-head, Calvin and Hobbes (I’m a huge fan!) or Batman and Robin. The dynamic duo which act as one. In our case Dev rel is mostly boxed inside DX/UX team.
Ok, so some have dev rel teams inside other teams or stand alone. What does it have to do with DX then?
Funnel feedback and drive engagement
Every dev rel teams aims to increase awareness. That is also part of the traditional marketing. But great dev rel teams understand that tone and style in developer marketing is different to B2C. There’s a reason why Business to Developer (B2D) marketing has born and exists.
Now looking at the above picture and the ying & yang style setting I’m happy to notice that without knowing much the dev rel stuff before, we at Platform of Trust have been going to the right direction (given that majority of the industry is also going to right direction). We are young company and platform is still maturing (although fast). In global level the adoption of dev rel is still taking more or less baby steps since according to State of Developer Relations report 54% of dev rel programmes are two years old or younger.
Young companies use developer relations as an umbrella for gathering developer feedback. More mature companies use dev rel to drive engagement. Both as eagerly see that raising awareness belongs to it as well.
Preparing for growth
Yet we have sales elements in the still vague and blurry dev rel program. Some of the DX advocats are sales oriented and their role and practices contain elements from the sales directly. As an example they use same bonus model. Some of the DX advocats are prone to be technology evangelists.
We don’t have (yet) evangelists like Robert Scoble or Guy Kawasaki, but the role is evidently part of group already. In our thinking evangelists are those who try to gain critical mass for the platform. Their aim is to secure platform adoption and revenue growth through evangelism, community engagement, relationship marketing and a vibrant solutions ecosystem. Experts point out that developer evangelists need both technical and communication skills, a passion for technology, and ways to articulate technical concepts to diverse audiences.
According to John Britton at Twilio tech evangelists have duties in:
- Helping Customers
- Creating Useful Content
- Participating in Events
For us the timing to let advocats loose is not yet, but soon. All these elements in my thinking belongs to the “large communities” bubble (over a million members). In short we are getting ready for that phase, but not actively pursuing it yet. Entering rapid growth phase is a delicate issue. You don’t want to do it too early and not be ready for it. You can only do this once in platform economy and you have to get it right. In this sense we seem to be in the majority since 50% are still thinking about running a champion or advocate program.
What channels to use?
If the dev rel is used in Business to Developer marketing, increasing engagement, raise awereness and get feedback, then what kind of channels work with the developers? According to the State of Developer Relations 2019 report events and conferences (89%) is the most used channel. Second was Social media (83%) and third meetups (77%). Content marketing took the fourth position with 76%.
What about the effect then? The respondents of the same report say that content marketing (35%) is the most effective channel. Second most effective channel was meetups (26%) and the third Direct 1-to-1 outreach (17%).
Interestingly in the same report advertising is used by 33% of the companies anong the respondents. Yet they evaluate the effectiveness of advertising to be 2%. Sounds like you are just burning money. Return of invest is upside down. While evaluating the numbers you should keep in mind that this is based on respondents’ own impression, it’s not measured by anyone else but them selves. Reality might be different.
Support as well
The report indicates that customer (developer) support is also part of the dev rel, which sounds logical. Accordign to the results most commonly used channel for support is direct 1-to-1 (59%), second most common is social media (57%). Third one was “Other” (43%). It sounds like the survey makers did not anticipate this kind of responses and did not manage to write most wanted options in the survey. What did “other” then include? It was filled with traditional developer focused channels Gitter, Stack Overflow(!), dedicated forum, Slack and Intercom. To me leaving Stack Overflow out of the options sounds odd. That is the number 1 service to seek out help. I’ve written about the role of Stack Overflow earlier in this blog series.
Read more and put it in action
In brief, the answer to what dev rel has to do with Developer eXperience should be obvious. It has everything to do with Developer eXperience! The above is mostly from the Status of Developer Relations 2019 report and some things I’ve read from https://devrel.net/ which is by the way awesome resource and community.
Some more to read from 100 Days DX
- #100 - The biggest open resource on Developer eXperience so far
- #99 - Hackers - the top 1% of engineers
- #98 - Invalid Open API spec files ruins the developer experience
- #97 - Lightweight API evaluation framework
- #96 - Embracing open source community driven tools development
- #95 - Exploring the multilevel nature of API Design Guides
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