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"I'm currently a developer advocate at GitHub, and I also help run a program called G Code House. This program introduces women of color and nonbinary people of color to web development and the basics of web development," – Rizel Scarlett, Developer Relations Engineer at Github.
A recent U.S. search on LinkedIn for developer advocate positions returns more than 48,000 open jobs. According to this piece on the "4 Forecasts for the Future of Developer Relations," Developer relations (DevRel) is an increasingly rising industry, growing as a reflection of software's ubiquity in the business world — and the growing power of the developer to influence what products and platforms their employers use.'
But, what makes a good Developer Advocate and strong DevRel program? This week on the API Intersection podcast, we chatted with Rizel Scarlett, Developer Relations Engineer at Github, to get her opinion on how to measure a DevRel program's success and different platforms Developer Advocates can utilize to reach the developer community.
Measuring the ROI of a Developer Advocacy Program
"Measuring the ROI of a DevRel program can be tricky. It's not really just about the views or always about tangible, quantifiable metrics. Being in developer relations or developer advocacy is about the holistic community impact," shares Rizel.
She notes that as an example when writing a technical blog post about using a Github action, the result shouldn't just be the view on the blog. They look at how many people in that community perhaps read the blog and then create a Github action from there. Or, they look at conversations that sparked from that blog to gauge interest/engagement in that type of content.
"Even if one person D.M's me and shares how helpful and impactful they found something I put out on Github's behalf, then that tells me a piece of content was successful because someone got something actionable from it," shares Rizel. "Sometimes it's more about the quality of the DevRel impact, not the quantity."
Various companies measure the success of a Developer Advocacy team in different ways, and it really depends on what the outcome of your DevRel team is supposed to be. If the goal is supposed to be an extension of support, on-the-ground brand advocacy, or acting as that voice of the broader developer community…there are many different ways to measure success. (Hint, a strong DevRel team should probably be a mixture of all those goals).
DevRel can provide valuable support to all the core business areas, including sales, customer success, customer support, marketing, engineering, and product. Understand which goals for your DevRel team are relevant to your business objectives. Then, reverse engineer the specific DevRel activities (and corresponding metrics) that will help you meet those goals.
Common goals that DevRel teams look at include:
- Increasing brand awareness of the software or product
- Increasing engagement from the developer community on the company's specific platforms (website, blog, Twitter, community channels)
- Improving developer experience/customer experience
- Drive additional revenue
Most importantly, support for DevRel needs to come from the top. 'Your leadership team needs to be behind you 100%—backing you up and making it clear to the rest of the organization that DevRel is a key part of the company's overall growth strategy,' –Measuring the Impact of your Developer Relations Team, 2020.
Where Your DevRel Team Should Have a Presence
"There was definitely a move to more remote things versus kind of in-person events for our developer advocacy team, which means different measures of engagement and that we have to experiment with various virtual platforms," shares Rizel.
Rizel notes there's been a pivot in the DevRel industry overall from the last couple of years as many teams had to switch tactics during the pandemic. Now, that's not to say in-person events and industry conferences aren't still important for community building, but DevRel experts need to have a comprehensive strategy to tackle both areas. Github as a company is well known for experimenting with those different types of engagement formats and platforms, especially when it comes to playing in a remote setting.
"Honestly, our TikToks and YouTube shorts are getting a ton of engagement, and developers are learning a lot from that short-form content that they can digest from anywhere on their own time," shares Rizel. "And of course, our blog content always performs well across the board."
Another area that Github's DevRel team has been experimenting with is Twitter Spaces, which is one of Rizel's sweet spots.
"I do Twitter spaces to advocate for open source, where I'll chat with an open-source maintainer in the community, and I'll have other people who are in the audience ask the open-source maintainer how they can contribute or other questions. I'll also have other audience members jump in and promote their projects if they have an open-source project to share as well," shares Rizel.
That's been an effective outlet for Rizel to truly reach the larger developer community and be that on-the-ground presence from a DevRel perspective. Since GitHub is known as 'the home of open source,' holding a virtual space for those open source conversations helps Rizel identify other potential contributors.
Here are a few of the places that Rizel recommends other Developer Advocates check out as they build out their own DevRel program:
- Tiktok- Great for reaching younger developers, providing an authentic 'day-in-the-life' experience
- YouTube- great for long-form and short-form videos, demonstrations, coding examples, etc.
- Twitter Streams/ Twitter Chats- Great for answering questions in live time to your community
- Twitch- Great for live streaming
- Discord- Great for community building, answering product-related questions, providing additional insight, and diving in on deeper topics
- A Blog platform- great for long-form content, deep-dive technical blogs, and anchor content series (preferably on your company's own website to drive traffic back to your organization).
- Reddit/Stack Overflow- great for answering other developer questions and getting your software out there as a part of the solution story.
However, it's important to note that each DevRel professional will have their own niche and different platforms that will work for them; she emphasizes it's important to pick 2-3 and focus on those areas. Don't boil the ocean, as we always say here at Stoplight!
If you're a strong writer, tell your stories through blogs. If you're more of a visual learner and demonstrator, consider short-form video. Most importantly, go where your audience already is and cater to the community that's already established.
In the end, developer relations programs will continue to grow as product, business, marketing, and engineering lines blur. No matter what platforms you're on or how you're measuring the success of your own DevRel program, the most important thing is that you create a team of strong, technically-minded experts who have the expertise and the background to speak to your product but also the soft skills necessary to engage with the external community.
DevRel isn't marketing, and it's not customer support. It's a community first and community always. As always, subscribe to the API Design blog or our podcast for more insights.