Metrics and their importance for DevRels | Part 3
Numbers matter, but how can we keep track of what is relevant to our goals? What can we improve? Which numbers should we focus on?
In previous articles, we have talked about what DevRels are, their types and what they do. In our second article, we went over the ultimate guide for content creation and how to start sectioning your community to reach your goals. In this new episode, we'll learn about which metrics you should focus on as a DevRel, data sources, vanity vs actionable metrics and more.
This is often referred to as the least fun part of being a DevRel, but working on it will guarantee you better results and a clear overview of how to achieve the very important company goals.
Why focus on metrics
Don't confuse a metrics exercise as a test of your creativity. It's a test of your impact.
-Developer Relations. How to Build and Grow a Successful Developer Program
Metrics work as the north on what your next steps should be, who to hire, which community activities to do, what content to produce, what collaborations to make and more. They also help you see ahead in time when you'll be reaching certain goals and which activities will get you closer to it based on previous metrics.
Metrics help you unify the company fort and get everyone working towards the same goal.
Numbers matter. That's the reality, but which numbers matter in particular?
Which metrics to focus on
It's a priority to focus on the metrics that align with the company goals and the expectations of your investors/stakeholders. The company’s goals may vary depending on what the company’s focus is at the moment, like, for example, the number of developers who are moving from the free version of your product to a paid version, better known as conversion.
It's important to set a baseline on when to analyze the information. The most common measuring times are quarterly or monthly. Another key part that will help you is identifying a KPI (Key Performance Indicator). KPIs will help measure your company’s numbers in contrast to previously set targets, objectives, or industry equals.
The rule of thumb on which metrics to focus on is whether or not it will help your company achieve its goals.
Some of the most common numbers to keep track of are signups, stars on GitHub, discussions/issues on GitHub, conversion metrics and often community insights like the number of members in your community, number of page clicks, or number of followers on social media.
Keep in mind there are two types of metrics, the one that matters, actionable metrics and the ones that are considered vanity metrics.
Vanity metrics vs Actionable metrics
It's so easy for DevRels to fall into the vanity metrics trap, trust me. Vanity metrics are those metrics that don't bring useful information on what steps to take next or what to keep doing to achieve business goals. Some common examples are the number of followers, clicks on an article, number of views on a video, etc.
Even though they demonstrate improvement and interest that comes from the community, they mean little to nothing if those views and clicks are not converting to paid users (if that's the company goal).
Think of vanity metrics as looking at your company with rose-tinted sunglasses. They don't reflect reality. There is no way of tracking and repeating these numbers to reach the previously established company goal.
Actionable metrics, on the other hand, are those that we can directly track back to a certain number of users utilizing our product. They, contrary to vanity metrics, help you make informed decisions on what needs to stay the same or what tweaks need to be made. You can repeat them and get the same result, if not better, after making some iterations. They show a direct correlation between the numbers and business impact.
It's important to mention that even though the number of views can be considered a vanity metric, it can be considered an actionable metric if, for example, a website gets paid for page views.
The metrics you track will go hand in hand with the company goals. Why? Because it's so easy to become focused on the numbers and not on the value delivered.
There might be several metrics you want to keep track of. Sometimes it will be easy to track, but in other cases, it will be more obscure to do so. Some of the most common tools to track different types of data based on your goals are:
For surveying your developer community, you can use any form-generating service like Google Forms, SurveyMonkey or Typeform.
These, and many others, are tools that will allow you to present the metrics insights to the whole company and help you visualize the information clearly for reporting the results of the DevRel department and the reality of its efforts, things to improve and what is working.
Testing and iterating your metrics
You will not find a metric that will align with your company’s goals at the first try and that's normal. Find ways of testing and iterating through the metrics you have chosen that relate the most with the previously set goals. This will help you fix some mistakes and some misalignments that might be in place and are the reason you are losing users. Like, for example, friction in documentation causes users to drop off after signing up or not completing their first project.
Like most things in life, you need to practice and test it to master it, so don't be frustrated when some numbers don't match your goals. Keep tweaking and you will find the metrics that work for your goals.