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Developer marketing channels 101.

Read Time: 5 Mins

If you have been following our series on developer marketing you should have a good idea about what developer marketing is, and how to create content for developers. The next question that often follows is, “what are the best channels for engaging with developers and how can I find the right developers?”

All of the channels typically used in B2B marketing, such as email, SEO, and events should be considered and leveraged in business to developer (B2D) marketing too. However, when we talk about developer marketing channels, it’s communities and publication sites where you want to focus. Developer marketing channels are places where peer-to-peer conversations and true engagement takes place. Think of these as “watering holes” where developers can meet up to work through specific issues, recommend products, and pose questions to fellow devs. Publisher sites such as a CNET, are not ideal developer marketing channels due to the broad audience focus and wide-range of non-technical content; while a source for generating initial awareness, most developers would only superficially consume assets in this space.

What makes for good developer marketing channels?

Developer marketing channels should be selected based on defined goals and objectives. The best developer marketing channels share three key characteristics:

  1. Resources can be peer validated and/or recommended by the community.
  2. A feedback mechanism exists that allows for conversation and active discussions e.g., forum, comment sections, etc. to happen.
  3. Shared assets and resources are easily accessible and clearly highlight actual benefit to the developer workflow.

Effective developer marketing channels provide simple and shareable content distribution, ways for developers to connect, and most importantly are made up of like-minded constituents.

A good measure of a channel is to review and audit conversations and actions that already happen: are developers in this community already talking about your product(s) or topics at hand?

It’s a good sign if an audience is actively talking about the same kind of content your company or brand is looking to share. Developer channels are vastly different in terms of how they’re used, and that affects how and what should be marketed to them in these channels.

Most common broad developer marketing channels.

Unlike more traditional marketing efforts there isn’t a “holy grail” channel to identify, acquire, and engage audiences. Larger channels such as Stack Overflow, Reddit, and various social platforms should be components of an omni-channel program but each channel needs to be evaluated on its own merits.

  • Stack Overflow, Reddit, and Twitter offer the biggest and most engaged (broad) developer audiences and are ideal for expanding reach, building awareness, and driving discussion.
  • Despite a general aversion by many marketers, Facebook provides the largest reach and access to developers and is ideal for  acquisition and growth objectives.
  • LinkedIn is often cited as a premier source for developers; however most leads and “developer” audiences in this channel are adjacent personas, such as procurement team members, group leads, or CTOs more likely involved in business decisions rather than end usage.

Beyond these major channels finding and partnering with niche communities and channels is crucial to long-term success.

How to find niche developer marketing channels.

Niche communities often have a higher concentration of developers that are laser-focused on specific topics and solutions. By aligning messaging and resources to developer habits and channels, some of the initial friction of trusting a brand or product can be bypassed for faster and better results.

Finding niche channels can be done both directly and indirectly. Simply asking developer audiences via surveys or in public discussions is an under-utilized method to identify where devs get the most helpful information and recommended solutions. A direct approach can be very revealing and help to build a rapport between a brand and a developer.

Indirectly, brands and companies should use its analytics to find referral sources and channels. By looking at site referrals and user flow, brands can better understand what sources are driving traffic and also where developers cohorts may be going to. This allows marketing teams to reach out to and partner with found channels and communities in order to distribute resources and build brand affinity.

Niche channels are generally more expensive but often provide some of the highest quality audiences due to pre-existing interests; scaling becomes much more difficult but in tandem to larger channels can provide supplementary volume and engagement.

Taking a omni-channel approach in B2D marketing

Imagine hosting a dinner party with friends or family. An easy way to invite everyone and have all the event info in one place, might be to create a Facebook event invite.

But what about the people who don’t use Facebook? You might need to email them the information instead.

And what about the people that use Facebook infrequently? You may have to call or text them separately. Furthermore, you might invite someone in-person but will also need to send a follow-up with more information somehow. A simple invite has now become a communication headache.

Developer marketing follows a similar behavior: multiple but relevant channels, fragmented audiences, and different consumption habits make communication nuanced and illuminates a need for more tailored and relevant messaging..

Using an omni-channel approach is a necessity in the developer realm. While some developer channels are perfect for awareness, others are more suitable for acquisition, while others are best for building a community and driving deep engagement. Brands cannot approach each channel in a vacuum and expect a single channel to address all developer touchpoints. Instead, marketers need to understand that the developer journey happens in many different places, in many different ways.

Measuring the success of different channels.

In developer marketing, there are five important (measurable) objectives:

  • Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Acquisition/adoption
  • Education and usage
  • Advocacy

When evaluating the success of your efforts be cognizant of the primary objectives in each channel as those directly impact the KPI’s you should—or should not use.

Channels differ in both purpose and use, making it difficult to comparatively measure them 1:1. Because each channel has different strengths, they also have different KPIs. Rather than comparing literal apples to oranges, marketers should strive to understand channel effectiveness based on their contribution to an end goal- not just the more immediate KPI.

The Iron Horse insight.

Compared to more traditional marketing efforts, finding and engaging developers is problematic due to the lack of a centralized channel or community that addresses most marketing needs. Marketers should employ a multi or omni-channel approach to ensure that they are more likely to be seen or interacted with at some (if not all) places that a target developer congregates.

Most importantly, effective developer channels are nuanced and specific so testing marketing outreach for each specific developer audience is crucial to identifying the right mix.

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