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How companies and DevRel serve the communities developers join

If you have been following Developer Relations and Marketing for a while, you might have noticed how the community is becoming a more and more integral part of all strategic activities. Developer Relations is becoming (if not already) a community-led effort.

There is a huge benefit to any vendor to maintain a community for all the reasons that data shows us. If we can enable developers get more out of a product, if we can enable them to be excited about the product, share their experience with their peers and also progress through the community member’s lifescycle from new joiner to expert, we are helping them progress in their career and we’re also getting them more invested in our product and ecosystem. If you keep those core needs in mind, that’s when vendor communities start to add value.

- Jamie Langskov, Community and change management strategist.


Naturally, this leaves us asking:

  • Where do communities fit in the perception of developers?

  • Why are developers joining communities?

  • How are developer-facing professionals address developers’ community needs?

We don’t have to guess these answers. We just need to look at the data Jamie is referring to. These data come from 2 surveys run by SlashData: the Developer Nation survey (developer-focused) and the Developer Program Leaders survey (DevRel-focused). Let’s look together at the insights these bring us.


Where do communities fit in the perception of developers?

Developers join communities to learn. According to the Q3 2022 Developer Nation study, which surveyed 23,790+ developers, 19% of developers rank community in the top 5 resources that companies should offer to support developers. This makes the community 7th most important resource overall, just ahead of answers in public forums and only slightly behind professional certifications.


Student developers’ professional aspirations

Having understood what makes developers join a community, we look at what the “next generation of developers” aka developers who are currently identifying as “students” look forward to.

When asked about their top career aspirations, student developers (sample size of 4,790+) listed these as their top 3 aspirations:

  1. Solve problems

  2. Become an expert in a domain or technology

  3. Build innovative products/services

You can see their full responses in the graph below. What the answers to this question show is how the community can be the place where student developers' needs are getting addressed. The community can provide the space, the resources and the interactions that can help student developers meet with their top aspirations: solve problems and gain expertise in a domain or technology.



Are organisations paying attention to developers’ community needs?

Yes, they are. And we will data-back this affirmation by looking at the data from the latest Developer Program Leaders survey, where we surveyed ~130 industry professionals in developer-facing roles. The data speaks for itself. Communities are now sharing the spotlight with other traditional popular methods of developer education. And developer-facing organisations are aware.

According to their responses, when the professionals are setting their strategy on how to talk to developers and address their technical audience needs, 73% consider community as (at least) a key part of their strategy. More specifically

  • 34% consider community as the most important part of their strategy

  • 39% consider community as a key part of their strategy

  • Only 6% do not include the community in their strategy.

You can see all responses in this graph:


What are developer program leaders’ roles?

By now we have established the importance of community in a developer marketing strategy. To better understand how this strategy is implemented, we will look at the hats these developer program professionals are wearing to implement this strategy and we will also look at the community sizes - for perspective.

With 73% of those professionals reporting community as a key part of their strategy, it comes as no surprise that 34% of them have “Community Manager” as their professional title, the second most popular, right behind “Developer Relations Practitioner” and only slightly above “Developer Marketing Practitioner”.


“I’ll have one ‘large community, please”

Communities come in different sizes. While everyone strives to build a space with a massive, always active user base, the reality sometimes shows differently. In fact, only 4% of the Developer Program Leaders reported running an active community that counts more than 10M members. 27% responded to running communities smaller than 100 members.

The fewer people in a community, the more effort is needed to keep the discussion going. Which begs the question: how can you engage the community members?


Driving participation in the community

To answer this question, we don’t look at what community managers are doing to increase engagement in their communities. We ask developers what makes a community fun for them.

33% of developers (sample size 10,478) responded that having a well-designed community platform is their #1 reason that encourages them to participate. Four more reasons are tied for the second place, with 29% of respondents saying that what encourages them to be active are:

  • Getting regular updates

  • Fun activities

  • A well-defined purpose for the community

  • Projects on which community members can work together

The latter one is especially important for students.

Here is the full breakdown of their responses:


Developer community + DevRel strategy wrap up

In summary, looking at the latest data from our Developer Nation survey (developer-focused) and the Developer Program Leaders survey (DevRel-focused) we reach the following conclusions which we discussed in this hopefully-not-that-long article:

  • Developers rank community at their top-5 resources

  • Developers’ #1 reason for joining communities is training and resources

  • A community can be the means to address student developers’ top aspirations

  • Community is considered a key part of a developer-facing strategy by more than ⅔ of developer program leaders

  • Community management is the second most popular title

  • Communities come in all shapes, but even more sizes

  • Developers share what makes them engage in a community and are happy to share it.

How are you addressing your developer community? Join the discussions with like-minded people in the DevRelX community. If you want more data on developer needs and wants or you are trying to better understand developers, SlashData has the insights you need.

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