Marketing to developers – who they are, what they value, and how we can talk to them

Asavin Wattanajantra

26 October 2015

Twitter is struggling. It has been a year of poor performance, culminating in layoffs for 8 per cent of the workforce. In August, Twitter's share price dropped below the price it originally listed at ($26).

In comes Jack Dorsey, one of the co-founders of Twitter, to return as CEO. And the message is now of ‘developers, developers, developers’.

Twitter has a problem with coders. Early on in its history, third-party developers created features which became fundamental, such as photo posting and web link shortening.

But as Twitter grew, its relationship with developers deteriorated as the company tried to take ownership of its core user experience, which hit many of the popular third-party apps that were available.

As we see from this post from popular dev website Hacker News, developers aren't easily ones to forgive and forget.

Where Twitter goes from here

One of Twitter's major problems is that it can be inpenetrable to new users. Unlike a network like Facebook (you can also throw in networks like Whatsapp and Instagram), most people don't understand how and why they should be using it.

Dorsey is looking at developers as the people to invigorate the platform. And he's started with an apology, as well as a bundle of new features to make it easy for devs to build apps, make money and use of its data.

The Twitter marketing team may want to take a look at some of the tips we have on marketing for developers. Because it's going to be a long process to repair a relationship which has broken down.

Developers are a naturally clever bunch and distrustful of traditional marketing messages – they can be fickle and independent. Twitter will need to devise programs to support and engage developers, treating them as people again rather than numbers to throw away.

The importance of developers

We’ve done a lot of work in developer marketing. From what we've seen, developers have always been important to tech companies, but even more so now in startup-intensive markets. Innovation is central for more and more companies that are integrating tech into their products.

In an article, Bloomberg argues that software developers are the most powerful people in an organisation. This is because the pace of technology change is moving so fast that there is a big gap growing between the innovation of new products and the skills a business has in place to use them.

This means that companies are relying on software developers to make decisions that could affect them for years to come. They are the people who will first use emerging tools that could have profound business benefits.

Like Twitter and other tech companies have found out, software developers could be the difference between success and failure.