Posted 12.28.2022 by Josh Krakauer
Developer-centric businesses do marketing differently — partly because developers respond to marketing…differently. They’re tech-savvy, often skeptical, and prone to using ad blockers to stop ads and keep popups off their screens. Better luck next time, brands!
Why bother if they’re so anti-brand (or some think)?
Developers are vital decision-makers in infrastructure, software, and technology purchasing decisions (depending on experience level and career stage). Developers choose a product knowing their reputation is on the line.
Our Social Media Marketing Survey for Developers shows that the key to gaining developers’ trust is simply asking them what resonates. The survey also reveals where to find them across the social media universe.
For this guide, we surveyed 35 developers from North America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa on their social media marketing perspectives and what brands can do differently.
What we learned can help you too.
Successful marketing strikes a balance between Developer Marketing and Developer Relations, or DevRel. How? Our comprehensive guide will discuss findings from our survey and offer practical social media marketing practices for B2D businesses.
B2D, or Business-to-Developer, refers to businesses that offer their products and services to developers.
Here’s the thing — in traditional framing, those businesses are typically either B2B — where developers are the users and decision-makers — or B2C, where developers are the customers.
For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to call these B2D businesses.
B2D companies don’t sell their brand as the end goal. Instead, their products are tools to be leveraged as part of a new product.
The B2D model works this way:
Business -> Developer -> Consumer/Business
Some examples of B2D companies are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Zapier, GitHub, Expo, and other SaaS companies.
This guide will help you understand:
A successful B2D program combines Developer Marketing campaigns and Developer Relations (DevRel).
These can completely transform your social media marketing when done right. We find this example of how to market to developers on Twitter very useful.
Developer Marketing campaigns aim to provide developers with an in-depth understanding and awareness of your product. DevRel, on the other hand, is practically the CRM of B2D businesses. It involves everything your company does to build and strengthen relationships with developers and developers’ communities.
Our comprehensive guide was created to help you effectively combine these two concepts in your social media marketing to quickly grow your user base. It also provides real examples of how to market your startup to developers.
Social Media Strategy for Your Developer-focused Business.
Developers are humans, too, so the usual platforms used in online marketing are still important.
Social media offers plenty of opportunities. According to our Social Media Marketing Survey for Developers, 28.6% of developers access social media 1-2 hours each day; up to 20% use it more often (5-7 hours).
Developers use Twitter, StackOverflow, Slack, Discord, and Reddit to learn about new solutions.
Here’s a breakdown of preferred social media platforms according to our survey:
As a B2D brand, there are various ways to market your product on social media. We’ve put together 9 best practices and marketing tips for developer-focused businesses to help fast-track your social media marketing.
Developers typically use more than one tool. They use products based on how they fit pending or current needs. So your social media framework should focus on how your product can meet those specific needs.
When asked what B2D brands on social media should do differently, one of our respondents said: “Make things personal to your brand rather than [creating] generic posts. It’s the same with getting to know someone at a party—you don’t care about the weather usually, and it’s more interesting to hear about their own traits or hobbies.”
To be perceived as an authority, your content and community activities should amplify your product’s purpose and demonstrate how it addresses developers’ pain points.
For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) shares various hacks with developers that let them use the service to enhance efficiency and output.
#AWS X2idn and X2iedn instances, powered by 3rd generation @intel Xeon Scalable processors with an all-core turbo frequency up to 3.5 GHz, deliver up to 50% higher compute price performance—ideal for memory-intensive workloads. ☁️🚀✨ https://t.co/dQwcvurxuD #CloudComputing pic.twitter.com/JKIk3r0cdi
— Amazon Web Services (@awscloud) March 10, 2022
Understanding how the developer community operates is key to earning their trust.
Use developer communities to create, cultivate, and bolster relationships with devs (developers). We mentioned earlier that an effective social media marketing strategy for B2D companies combines Developer Marketing campaigns and Developer Relations (DevRel).
Rather than focusing on sales and marketing tactics (which most developers will tune out), get involved in discussions, answer questions, and connect with developers.
Crypto communities, for example, are currently seeing significant growth — developers are looking for the latest in the cryptocurrency world.
Example: Flamingo DAO is an NFT-focused DAO that explores and buys rare NFTs.
According to eMarketer, 67.9% of marketers at companies with 100+ employees leveraged paid or unpaid influencer marketing in 2020. A trend that has continued annually.
Developers follow content creators who are experts in their space and share stories, tips, and jokes. Whether through paid or unpaid partnerships, you should leverage influencer marketing and user-generated content in your social media marketing as much as feasible.
Here are examples of tools you can use in your marketing strategy to find creators in your category:
Looking for Dev content creators you can learn from? Crowd.dev put together a list of 200+ creators across web development, machine learning, DevOps, and even specific programming languages. Access it free, here.
When you’ve developed a product to improve your audience’s workflow, it’s only natural that you’ll want to talk about how great you think it is.
But if your tool isn’t communicated in a way that speaks to developers, they’ll be more likely to see your enthusiasm as social media spam.
According to one software developer in our study, it would be wise for brands to consider reducing “10-things every developer should know” threads and post useful things like interview[s], coding tips, etc.
So be sure to ask yourself these questions before hitting the post button:
Generally, developers want the same things other consumers do — to solve the problems in front of them and make their workflow easier.
They want to focus on doing what they do better, faster, and in a more streamlined way.
Understanding your audience and their desires will make your message functional and attention-grabbing.
Developers generally fall into four categories:
Developers are not a monolithic audience. They have different interests, roles, and software tools and use different languages and hardware. All of them have desires that are specific to their roles.
Let them know how your product improves efficiency and solves specific challenges. This will help the right people find your offering.
In technology, there’s always a new kid on the block.
It’s not enough to “be aware.” You also need to jump on discussions about new developments (which often happen on a daily basis). Leveraging discussions about new tech helps you better infuse it into your social media strategy.
Developers are usually looking to understand new tech better and discover how it can help them, which means they will always be interested in posts and content.
FreeCodeCamp, as one example, is a platform that offers its services to developers, and marketers can learn from their strategies. As one angle, the developer-centric platform has a YouTube channel solely for tech talks, with more than 37k followers, and it’s a favorite for many developers.
If you're building a website, you might want to divide a page into different sections.
And you can build a handy (& responsive!) section divider with some CSS & some optimized code.
— freeCodeCamp.org (@freeCodeCamp) March 14, 2022
There are two core content types to use in your social media marketing strategy.
IBM, for example, shares insightful content to help its developer audience understand trends and offers discussions across various industries.
How are we thinking about the future of #AI? With trust and transparency. 💡 Discover the 5 primary ethical concerns around AI.
— IBM (@IBM) February 10, 2022
One respondent from our survey suggests that brands provide content that helps developers learn how to be better developers. They also recommend showcasing products and partnering with other brands that complement them. In addition, they recommend supporting non-profit organizations that developers rely on.
Omnichannel is a must in the B2D environment.
While some channels are ideal for raising awareness, some are better for customer acquisition. Others are ideal for fostering community and driving deep interaction. So it’s crucial to be in as many places as possible — but not at the expense of quality.
Don’t create a “one size fits all” message for all platforms. There are, in fact, unique B2D social media tactics that work effectively for each social media platform (which will be touched on later in this guide). Naturally, a single channel won’t address all developer challenges. The developer journey takes place in different channels and in several different ways.
When you’ve decided on the social media platforms you want to use, it’s essential to make sure you leverage all of their unique features and use them as long as they’re available.
For example, Twitter is a great platform to write high-quality content using threads, but you can also host Spaces. (Thankfully, unlike in the past, you no longer need a certain number of followers to host a Space.)
Hosting regular Spaces with developer audiences to discuss relatable issues with new technology and sharing helpful information can help boost your developer relationships.
It can also position you as an expert and influencer.
And if you’re using Instagram, you don’t just have to post on your feed. You can create video content with Reels and organize polls with Stories.
LinkedIn also allows you to create polls to engage your audience and share documents as organic carousel posts.
The bottom line is: Whichever platforms you choose to use to connect with your developer audience, make sure you leverage all the platforms’ features to your advantage.
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Developers are not big on traditional marketing. They will spot traditional marketing tactics immediately and move on.
That’s why developer communities are essential in B2D marketing.
Channels such as Stack Overflow are, at their core, communities where devs go to learn, educate, and share and discuss ideas, challenges, and solutions.
Usually, companies that come up short in their B2D marketing strategies try to push their products on developers rather than collaborating with the community to improve product development.
In our research, we found 65.7% of developers use social media to research or discover new solutions. And 62.9% of developers use social media to learn new skills and improve their existing ones.
To achieve success, it’s a best practice to embrace a peer-to-peer approach that focuses on offering genuine value to the community, regardless of whether they adopt your product. You can build genuine and long-lasting partnerships from these relationships and advocates for your product, even if specific developers don’t see a need for it in their own use case.
Many developers participate in online conferences and local meetup groups.
Attending these events is the most inexpensive way to get into developers’ faces. You’ll have the opportunity to network with devs between sessions and get quality marketing research.
Sponsoring conferences and meetups are fantastic ways to build relationships with software engineers if you have the resources. Local meetups, specifically, are less expensive to sponsor. Funding an online conference could be more costly, but it can provide great exposure.
One example: IBM was a major sponsor for DeveloperWeek 2022, which took place in February. Other B2D companies that sponsored the event and gained more exposure include BridgeCrew, ClickUp, HackerRank, Oracle, Toptal, and many others.
As another option, you can choose to create an event or podcast, like GitHub’s ReadMe podcast, which takes a peek behind the curtain at some of the most impactful open source projects.
Developers don’t just want a demo. Developers want to thoroughly test your product to accomplish a meaningful task in their work – and hopefully, it does what you’ve promised your product can do.
Developers are not interested in sales engagement, short trial periods, or shelling out cash to access the best features for a relatively unknown tool.
Unless it’s been approved and demonstrated to work by an influencer or someone they trust, no developer will proactively consider a product they aren’t familiar with and haven’t adequately tested. Paid products are a harder sell when there are typically open-source versions available.
In response to the competition from open-source, multiple B2D companies will offer a commercial product at either no or low cost to encourage developers to try it out. Some of those companies are:
To reach developers, offer value before asking for a purchase.
When marketing to developers via social media, make things crystal clear.
According to a study by StackOverflow, the developers interviewed said they’re always looking for new technologies and want a clear definition of what the new tech or product does and the problem it solves.
They also want to know how it integrates with their existing technologies.
Check out these insights from developermarkepear.
Of course, your priority is to share great content — photos, brief videos, and infographics. Share relevant news and updates and what your brand or product has done to make life easier for developers in your Twitter feed.
Tweets from New Relic, for instance, share helpful content and upcoming events and are created to start discussions aimed at helping developers.
Here are some example tweets:
We're big, big fans of @Netlify because it helps developers ship faster, making their jobs easier. 😌
We like it so much that we made a Netlify plugin and quickstart for developers who want to add performance monitoring to their builds and Jamstack apps.
— New Relic (@newrelic) February 10, 2022
Make sure your bio introduces your most significant product for developers. The tone of the bio should be straightforward.
Be prepared to answer questions or respond to comments sent to your page, and don’t be reluctant to connect with others via Twitter.
There are also helpful tools that can make using Twitter better. For example, you can load and schedule your tweets from the Tweetdeck dashboard.
Most people see Slack as a platform where companies communicate internally.
But it can be so much more. Slack can be a potential goldmine of leads for your B2D company.
With thousands of different communities, you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not marketing on the platform.
According to EarthWeb’s b2022 Slack statistics, over 40% of Fortune 100 companies pay for Slack.
And with more than 10 million daily users, it is an excellent platform to network and connects with potential developers who will be interested in your product.
Building Relationships and Acquiring Developers in Slack Communities
Slack is a great platform to help build community and increase engagement.
For example, WordPress.org uses Slack for real-time interaction and community building.
Steps to Take After Joining a Slack Community
When you join a Slack community, do the following:
Consider the common issues your specific developer demographic faces and the benefits your product or event you’re promoting has. Make it personal.
Structuring your content is easier when you ask yourself: “Why would any developer want to use this product?”
Slack communities aren’t the only way to build relationships and get leads from your developer audience. Using some tremendous Slack apps, you can leverage your workspace to automate various tasks.
Here are some of the best Slack apps for B2D marketing:
Earlier, we said various social media networks for B2D marketing could be used for awareness, learning (communities), and client acquisition.
LinkedIn combines all of these. Here are pointers to note when marketing on LinkedIn:
Devs use YouTube, and you should too. It is not only an excellent platform for community building and learning — it’s also fantastic for client acquisition.
Some brands focus their channel on product updates and education. While the biggest brands in the world lean more into entertainment, user education is a perfectly fine strategy for a YouTube launch. Product videos don’t typically drive subscribers, but they rank well in SEO and help devs become more informed users.
For example, Cloudera uses its YouTube platform to create how-to videos and tutorials on its products.
Take a look at these videos: These examples are marketing, tutorial, and explanatory videos, respectively, with thousands of views each.
You want to be sure to keep your YouTube channels active, so try posting at least once a week on each. It’s better if you can find time to post even more often.
Monitor analytics once a month to learn what types of content are most popular with your viewers.
A network of communities based on people’s interests, like Reddit, is a strategic place to engage in conversations and find developers interested in specific groups and topics.
Reddit is especially good for developer relations. But it’s also a great place to market regardless. However, you should know that Reddit marketing means playing the long game.
It also requires following simple rules:
Quora is a terrific place for marketers to find out what issues are troubling their present and potential customers.
You can demonstrate your experience and knowledge of a niche and improve your company’s brand image by answering questions on Quora. You want to discuss how your product addresses a problem.
It is truly an excellent platform for direct marketing.
Quora is great for direct marketing. It’s similar to Reddit. You can identify and follow topics identical to your product.
But there are some things to do differently here in an app marketing strategy.
Instagram isn’t for everyone. If you want to build on Instagram, consider creating photos or videos that take audiences behind the scenes of your product development. Introduce your team and put a developer advocate front and center.
How often should you post? Aim for one post every week, at the very least.
Of course, this is all from an organic perspective. Because Instagram is part of the Meta network, you might be more likely to expand onto Instagram through the ad platform.
As a developer looking to create a personal brand, we recommend Twitter, LinkedIn, and GitHub.Twitter is great for connecting with other developers and building your brand.
Many devs who have created a personal brand have a Twitter account. And they spend a lot of time there, too.
Some examples include:
You don’t have to spend more than a decade on the platform to have a large number of followers. Listed are some examples of developers who have branded themselves with simple concepts (including some mentioned in this guide). They have hundreds of thousands of followers, and they only launched their brands recently, between 2019-2021:
Here are some tips for getting high followership on Twitter:
When you discuss your projects, do you stop to think about what you’re saying and if the person or people you’re talking to understand?
Are you on the same wavelength as those who follow you and see your content? There’s no need for branding if the people who want to see you and your projects don’t feel impacted.
Understanding your audience will help you tailor your content to their needs, which will automatically help communicate messages effectively.
For example, Vito Rivabella, on Twitter, has a DevRel role at Alchemy Platform.
Looking at his profile, it’s clear that he focuses on Web3 and blockchain. And his content revolves around the crypto audience. He also has a newsletter called “The Crypto Developer.”
But there’s one crucial thing to note — Vito’s content is relevant to both newbies and professionals.
This example takes us to the next part of branding yourself as a developer.
Sharing your content can help you build your brand. It demonstrates your desire to assist others in learning new things through the content you share. You can do this through both technical and non-technical writing. That is why it is essential to understand your audience. Choosing the right channel is a big part of your content distribution.
For example, if you choose Twitter, like Vito, you may need to create threads or keep your message within the 280-character limit.
Once you’ve gotten that out of the way, you can start sharing information like technical lessons, guides, how you solved a problem, faster ways to code, and much more.
A simple guide to sharing quality content is asking yourself the golden question: What would you want to read or engage with as a developer?
Find a niche, create high-quality content consistently, and build your brand around it.
Measuring your growth is crucial.
Setting goals you want to achieve over a certain period is essential. (Check out our complete guide to setting and measuring B2B social media KPIs.)
You need to set metrics to measure your growth, which depends on your goals.
It’s important to state that your time frame doesn’t have to be 6 months. Your time frame could be anything. The key is for it to be achievable.
At the end of the time frame you’ve set for yourself, evaluate your progress.
Are you meeting targets? Then you’re on your way. Or maybe you’re tracking behind and need to re-evaluate.
Re-evaluating could mean changing your target audience, understanding your audience better, improving your content delivery, or something else.
B2D companies looking to market their products on social media must understand that the long game is essential to success.
The same applies to developers looking for the best way to promote themselves.
For B2D companies, don’t forget to make your product easily accessible to developers when you’re just starting out. You want them to use it on an actual project and see for themselves whether it will solve their problems before you introduce a paid version. And take advantage of Developer Marketing campaigns and Developer Relations (DevRel). These form the framework of a successful social media campaign.
We hope this comprehensive guide sets you up to understand how to successfully market products to developers and build a unique personal brand if you’re a developer.
There is no single hack for the perfect marketing strategy that appeals to developers, but there are ideas and strategies to help you. It all starts with a goal — Do you want to increase awareness, generate community engagement, and increase sales/lead generation? Know your specific developer audience and understand their challenges. Use pain points to market how your product solves their problem. Be genuine when you make your claims. Be a helpful contributor to a community of developers and build solid relationships. Sponsor developer events. And finally, remember to measure and evaluate success.
You don’t have to be a longtime social media used to have a considerable presence. But be sure you create valuable and relevant content and be consistent. Consider offering free resources that help improve your developers’ lives. Follow leaders in your niche, engage with their posts, and answer questions under their posts if you’re sure of the answers. Don’t forget to use hashtags to connect with your niche or preferred community. Remember to post visual content, like videos, images, and infographics. Engage your followers in the comment section. Reply to everyone. And promote your social media accounts.
In a study by Sprout Social, 57% of consumers follow a brand to learn about new products, while 45% of consumers will unfollow a brand for sharing irrelevant content. So your post should have one purpose, and one “job to do” for your audience.
Pro tip: Choose one goal and emotion per post, and organize the content series by communication pillars OR problems. Learn from what’s working in the space. Tap into emotion. Copy what the platforms are doing in B2B social media content structure. Remember that quality content is emotional, practical, relevant, and timely.
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