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How to Build a Developer Community with Content

Educational content is one of the most effective tools in building a developer community in the long term. In this article, we'll review how technical content can be used to build, grow, and foster your developer community.

Table of Contents

Why should you build a developer community? 

Building and nurturing an active developer community is no easy feat—it’s not a “set it and forget it” type task. Before we discuss how you can build and nurture a developer community, let’s make sure we have a solid why you’d want to commit time and resources to creating a dev community.

Developing a truly valuable software solution and retaining a loyal user base is a complex process, especially in today’s fast-evolving environment. Nowadays, users expect on-demand services that cater to their senses and not just their basic needs.
 

To succeed in such a competitive ecosystem, businesses need to adopt a collaborative approach to creating and sharing their software services.  

One such approach is creating a loyal developer community for your product. Community involves sharing common interests, values, and characteristics — often designed to achieve a common goal. So, a developer community is a platform where developers converge to learn and create software through collective knowledge.  

The number of developers entering the workforce is steadily rising and is expected to reach 28.7 million by 2024. And growing right alongside them will be more developer communities that cater to their shared interests. This is an excellent opportunity for marketers to learn how to build and nurture a developer community around their products and create a loyal pool of engineers with domain expertise in software development.  

Number of Developers in the Workforce  

Developer_Community

Community-driven growth allows marketing teams to harness feedback organically, crowd-source solutions, and drive bottoms-up adoption of a product. Developer communities also spur growth and turn brand-new software products into sought-after global services. Community-led growth is a tried and tested tactic applied by leading software companies: 

  • Hashnode: a developer blogging platform. They grew from 100,000 users to 1 million active users in a span of 1 year by offering developer-centric and blog customization features. 
  • Appwrite: an open-source backend service provider founded in 2019. They are a community-led product built by 500+ contributors that have raised $37M. 
  • MongoDB: a publicly-traded database provider that involved their community champions in the product development strategy. The champions work closely with the company’s leadership team to represent the community’s needs and complaints. The company has successfully raised $311M in funding to date.  
  • Snyk: created a developer-first security service that implemented feedback from their developer community into the product. They now have more than 2 million contributing developers and have raised $470 million in funding since its launch in 2015.  

 

The examples above give a good snapshot into the power of fostering community around your product. So how did these industry leaders build loyal communities and leverage them for growth? How do they nurture them and still capture new audiences?  

A core pillar in building and nurturing a developer community is sharing technical content that spurs dialogue around a problem that your solution solves. 

Publishing content that educates, inspires, and informs is an excellent strategy for drawing an audience into your ecosystem and increasing community engagement. This is a fact confirmed through a 2019 Developer report that indicated 60% of developers prefer technical blogs and 33% prefer community forums to learn about new products.  

Building valuable content moats will compound over time and position your company as a thought leader in your field. This is a tactic that Canva perfected to stand out in a highly saturated market. The graphic design company built a reliable content moat and loyal community by producing free market insights, tutorials, free courses, and eBooks. 

Technical content tailored to your community’s needs also attracts loyal fans that are genuinely interested in your solution. This improves the likelihood of achieving your goals because you already have a willing audience. 

In this article, we talk about how to build a developer community, how to foster community around your product through technical content marketing techniques, and the tools you need to start building your community.  

Let’s begin. 

 

How to build a developer community: Getting started

A thriving community starts by defining why you need a community. Do you want to support existing marketing efforts? Identify new revenue opportunities? Improve user-retention? Provide a space where your customers can share their knowledge and feedback about your products? Your answers to these questions serve as the core pillar for your community and content strategy. 

Next, Identify the online platform most preferred by your audience. You can choose from two types of platforms: social networks and channel-based platforms. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram give access to a broader audience and act as a funnel to draw your audience into a controlled community forum.  

The major drawback of social networks is limited flexibility and customization options. You’re also at the mercy of frequently changing algorithms, making it harder to maintain engagement.  

Your next best solution is channel-based platforms such as Discord, Reddit, Slack, or a web-based community forum hosted on your company’s website. These platforms give you more control and flexibility, as well as features such as detailed analytics, customization options, moderation, and software integrations with third-party applications.  

Now that you’ve defined a community strategy and identified a suitable platform, the next task is developing an execution strategy. How you communicate and empower your community determines the level of engagement and momentum you get.

  

How to nurture a developer community using content

Technical content is the primary driver of value in communities, according to a 2020 state of the developer report. Among the key findings are six “must-have” content categories that developers want from a community: 

The advantage of technical content is that it cuts through the usual marketing copy to demonstrate how and why a particular product adds value to a developer. When done right, technical content builds trust, which increases retention in your community.  

To start, you need these six content tools for launching, communicating, and maintaining your community: 

  • A blog: for hosting articles, tutorials, and eBooks 
  • A Newsletter: for reaching out to your mailing list 
  • The Code of Conduct: to govern community interactions 
  • A communication platform: such as Discord or Slack  
  • Technical documentation: for product architecture and functionality 
  • A customer support portal: for FAQs and general support  

Now let’s look at how to build your technical content engine.  

 

Speak to a specific audience  

Targeting the general audience without proper specification results in low-performing content. You need to narrow down your focus to a specific group, identify common pain points experienced within this segment, and develop content that solves these problems. This approach helps you create content that resonates with developers and compels them to try your product. It’s also a good strategy for identifying content gaps that your competition is not addressing.  

 

Build up your subject matter expertise 

By now, you’ve identified a specific topic and the common software problems your audience encounters. Your next task is to build subject matter authority around the identified challenges and offer your solutions. Go beyond the obvious information and provide deeper insights, fresh data, new processes, and new ways of solving problems.  

 

Define a goal for each content piece 

Creating content just for the sake of “having something to fill the space” results in low-value content that does not contribute to your community’s growth. Sure, vanity metrics like the number of members, comments, likes, and the number of downloads are nice. But, building and sustaining a thriving community requires you to look beyond generic metrics to assess the quality of community engagement.  

Consider these goals for each content piece you publish instead: 

  • Retention rates before and after you publish content within a specific time frame: This metric indicates whether new and existing community members value your technical content enough for them to join or stay in your community. 
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly active community members: This metric gives marketers a snapshot of how often community members interact with your platform.  
  • Average session duration per visit on your community platform: This will let you know how long your audience spends on your channel, what they’re looking at, and if there’s engagement among the community members. 

 

Create highly shareable content   

Shareable and fun content inspires developers to share them with their peers because they are helpful, fun, and able to validate their opinions or provide new insights. You don’t want to drone on about product features and why developers need your solution.  

Developers frown upon direct marketing tactics and will shun your product if what you put out are simply glorified marketing pieces. Instead, create compelling narratives and tidbits that inspire your audience to share your content on their social networks. Another tip is to keep your pieces SEO-friendly, as this is a great way to gain new users.

Embrace content repurposing and distribution 

Great content lives beyond your website. Identify different content formats and channels where you can distribute your content. This allows you to reach a wider audience.  

 

Work with technical writers and content creators 

Writing for a technical audience requires someone who can transform complex technical concepts into easily digestible information that keeps your reader engaged. It’s certainly not easy to curate a team of content experts. So, we recommend seeking out a dedicated technical content production team like CircleCI did.  

When CircleCI tried to scale their software solutions through high-quality content, they found success with ContentLab. Through a mix of technical authors, content strategists, a consistent content engine, and SEO tactics — CircleCI outranked their competition, and their website rose to the first page on Google 

 

What’s next: maintaining community momentum through technical content 

Finally, here are some more suggestions to keep in mind when creating technical content to foster a community around your solution:  

  • Create technical content that adds value to developers: These include technical blogs, well-written documentation, tutorials, courses, eBooks, and whitepapers. Focus on value addition and avoid fluffy marketing speak.  
  • Provide free access to products and new features: This means not asking for credit card information upfront and lengthy sign-up processes. This increases the chances for developers to try out your solution.   
  • Foster collaboration and emphasize open exchange on your chosen platforms: For example, you can host hackathons that solve a particular problem around your product or organize community networking events.   
  • Give rewards and incentives to active community participants: This motivates them to keep participating in your community.   
  • Add value to your developers by solving an actual problem they experience: For example, you can create an open-source tool that improves developer workflow. 

With these building blocks, you’re ready to start powering your content engine and building your community. Go forth and advance the world. We thank you for your solution! 
 

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Catherine Kiiru
Catherine Kiiru
Catherine Kiiru is a software developer, technical writer and open-source enthusiast with professional experience in marketing and software development. She creates software applications and translates their functionality to end-users through technical content. When not writing code and creating technical articles, she volunteers in various tech programs that impact women and underrepresented groups. Reach Catherine on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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