Leveraging Influencer Sponsorship for Your Developer Marketing Program

Influencer marketing was one of the most effective channels for reaching developers in 2022. More than 20% of respondents in the State of Developer Marketing Report selected it among their most successful picks of the year. There’s a lot to gain from working with influencers, but where do you start?

As part of a three-part series, we’ll start by focusing on influencer sponsorships, defined as paid collaborations between brands and established influencers. A successful collaboration creates a win-win-win cycle. It helps you achieve your developer marketing objectives, helps the influencer grow their channel, and allows developers to discover your product.

Influencers: Your audiences’ trustworthy sources of information

Catchy has spent more than 12 years supporting clients like Google, Amazon, and Slack to build and grow their developer communities. No matter where you are with your developer marketing program, the starting point with an influencer sponsorship is the same: Understand who influencers are and where you can find them.

You can look at influencers for your brand in a few different ways. An influencer may be a channel that helps you reach a new audience, a creator who enables you to produce new content, or an endorser who increases your credibility with developers.

Influencers are effective because developers view them as trustworthy sources of information. An influencer may create content that supports their work, act as a professional (and personal) role model to them, or help them discover new products.

Influencers must provide value to their followers to stay relevant, and that’s where sponsorship comes in. Collaborating with your brand will provide a revenue stream to support the influencer's work, an opportunity for them to learn something new, and valuable new content to keep their followers engaged. This win-win-win cycle helps everyone involved.

How to collaborate with influencers

Before you begin, we recommend addressing a few questions about how the influencer will fit in with your developer marketing program:

  • Who is the target audience you are trying to reach through this sponsorship? Does the influencer have this audience in their follower base?
  • Where is the target audience in their developer journey, and where do you want the sponsorship to take them? How will the influencer’s content and personal style help you achieve this?
  • What’s the ideal outcome of this sponsorship? How do you define success?

After you determine your objectives, you’ll need to find the right influencers to help you get there. These are our strategic recommendations:

#1 Identify where your developer audience is

Let’s start by looking at the roles influencers have on their channels. This will help you decide which type of influencer is the best fit for your program’s goals.

Influencer Role Content Portfolio Example
Introducers Explores new products and technology A techie interviewing startup founders about their products on a podcast
Educators Explains concepts and teaches methodologies A data scientist breaking down statistical modeling concepts on Twitter
Practitioner Uses products hands-on to build things or complete tasks A programmer sharing YouTube tutorials on how an API works
Pioneers Focuses on the forefront of innovation in their field A researcher exploring the latest breakthroughs in their field across their social channels

Note that the influencer's role on their channel may differ from their full-time profession. For you, it’s all about who they are on their channel.

Developers follow different types of influencers for different reasons. Let’s look at how these reasons relate to your developer marketing objectives:

Influencer Role Follower Characteristics Developer Marketing Objectives
Introducers Limited knowledge of the field, but interested in introductory content to learn more Increase product or brand awareness to a broad audience
Educators Some knowledge of the field and looking for informative content to improve their understanding Drive consideration with a new audience or general education of an emerging technology
Practitioner Doers who will use the product to create something and are looking for tactical guidance or tutorials Reach developers who may acquire your product and support developers already using your product
Pioneers High familiarity with the field and looking for content on the frontier of innovation Establish industry leadership and keep your developer audience engaged

#2 Follow the developer journey  

Understanding the level of detail influencers go into on their channel will reveal additional insights about their followers. For example, this table explains how the depth and breadth of content informs an influencer’s audience.

Influencer Level Content Portfolio Example
Depth Explores a few selected fields (or a single field) at an advanced level A web3 researcher sharing a 30-minute video across their social channels about smart contracts
Breadth Covers a wide range of topics at an introductory level A full-stack developer trying out different tools on YouTube and creating projects across different programming languages
In-Between Maintains a specific area of interest, but presents it to a broader audience A developer who writes Twitter threads on different sectors of AI/ML like speech, image, or text

Developers engage with influencers at different levels depending on what kind of information they need. Understanding the follower’s characteristics will show you whether they’re part of your intended audience.

Influencer Level Follower Characteristics Developer Marketing Objectives
Depth Basic knowledge of the technology and looking for product-focused content Reach experienced developers operating in your space
Breadth Unaware of the technology and looking for introductory content Reach developers who may be new to your space
In-Between Familiar with the industry but need to learn more about what your product does Meet developers in the middle of their developer journey

#3 Optimize your mix over time

Many factors will impact your influencer selection so it may be challenging to find the right balance. A combination of different influencer types will allow you to leverage the advantages of each and reach a variety of developer audiences. Take your time to find the right mix. Achieving a strong balance will optimize your benefits and grow the win-win-win cycle over time.

For example, a client developing emerging technology wanted to reach new developers through an influencer program. Most of their candidates were specialized NLP researchers who were influencers of depth acting as pioneers on their channels. While this was useful for establishing industry leadership, our research showed that they weren’t reaching net new developers who needed introductory content and practical guidance about how to use the technology. 

Catchy worked with the client to pivot their influencer mix to include influencers of breadth acting as practitioners on their channels. This change allowed the client to leverage the advantages of both approaches by more effectively aligning their influencer program with their developer marketing objectives.

Defining success with influencer sponsorship

What makes influencer sponsorship successful? It depends on your broader developer marketing objectives. Before you start, be clear about who you’re trying to reach, what you’re trying to achieve, and how you can measurably define success. Collaborate with a mix of influencers who can help you get there and keep track of your results to optimize this mix over time.

Remember, this could be one of your most effective channels if you take the time to get it right!

Stay tuned to learn about tactics in the next entry of our influencer marketing series. Follow us on LinkedIn to hear about it first.