11436 SSO

Developer Adoption: Beyond the Hackathon

Feb 20, 2014

Reaching and enabling developers is something we think a lot about at Apigee. The population of developers has been growing, but so has the number of APIs that enterprises have established in hopes of attracting developers to build apps against their data and services. Developer adoption is key to the success of an API program, but nowadays, it’s become significantly more challenging because enterprises have to compete for their attention. They’re in limited supply, so you have to work hard to understand, attract, and keep them interested in developing for you.

Nurture the connection

We’re amazed by how many times we ask enterprises about their developer adoption strategy, and the answer is: “We held a hackathon.” Sure, hackathons are a great way for enterprises and organizations to get their name out in front of developers, but they're just one part of a balanced developer strategy (for more on that, check out this SD Times article on how to make hackathons successful).

Creating a lasting relationship with developers is about making a connection and then nurturing it. Follow up your hackathon by being present at other companies’ hackathons. It's important to show up and engage in the many places where your developer community does. Developers don’t want tee shirts (most of them have plenty of cool ones already). Broadly, they want access to a great product (your API); a business model that rewards them; a community in which to collaborate and help each other; and an overall great experience.

No calls, please

Developers really go for technical information that helps them do their jobs and build cool stuff. At the top of their list are good tools and SDKs, according to research from Evans Data, the leading market intelligence firm for the software development industry. Most enterprises are way behind in this area, but it’s a key way to attract developers. Emailing information about your tools directly to developers can be successful (but never, ever call them on the phone). Newsletters are also useful sources of information for developers; an enterprise can share more information, use cases, and ways to adopt tools this way (see www.heroku.com for examples of excellent newsletters).

Understand, segment, and attract

Of course, the effectiveness of all this is diminished if you don’t understand the developer audience you are trying to enage with. It’s a common mistake for enterprises to target “all developers,” when, in reality, they comprise a very diverse population. It’s very useful and important to understand that developers have particular needs and different motivations.

For example, developers differ in:

  • The environments they target, whether it’s iOS, gaming consoles, cars, Android, medical devices, or the Internet of Things
  • The services they have an affinity for, including Twitter, or Salesforce, for example.
  • The languages they write in; there are many more than before, including C#, Ruby, PHP, Javascript, Objective C, and Java

Your new channel

There are also lots of misconceptions about what the average developer looks like. Evans Data found that 88% have college degrees, 40% have advanced degrees, and two-thirds have one to three kids. Not necessarily the stereotypical college dropout in a hoodie. It’s critical to segment your developers; the more focused your marketing, the more relevant and cost-effective it will be.

All of this should tell you that it takes a lot of work to attract developers. But it’s worth the extra effort; they’re your new channel; they help bring your services to the public in new ways, and they add value to what you deliver.

For more tips on reaching developers and attracting them to your API, check out our eBook, “Developers Hate Marketing,” and, for more information on understanding the developer population, watch our webcast “Segmenting Developers for Your Digital Strategy.”


image: Indi Samarajiva/Flickr

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