Developer contests are a Catchy favorite. They can be a great way to attract, engage and inspire your developer community. The reason contests can be a great way to gain developer attention is that they are different from the same old ‘try our platform’ messages they see day in and day out. Contests enable developers to apply their skills in a practical way, with the opportunity to win great prizes. It’s also a real community event, and if it’s done properly it means that developers will be able to connect with their peers.
Contests don’t have to costs the earth, but they do require a lot of thought, planning and resources. The first step in creating your developer contest is setting clear objectives. You’ll need to understand what your goal is – build awareness in the developer community, engage your existing developer population, or spark interest with new developers and get them to onboard.
The best contests are hyper-targeted to a specific developer segment. We’ve said time and time again that in your developer marketing strategy you should not just broad brush targeting a developer audience. When you’re thinking about which developer audience you want to engage in your contest, you’ll want to target the most valuable to help you reach your objectives. You might think, ‘we’ll target everyone then we’ll know which are the most valuable’ – don’t. You need to identify specific developer types and create a thoughtful contest messaging framework that will resonate with that specific population.
So why should your chosen developer audience care about your contest? A contest is typically time-consuming for a developer to participate in, so the payoff has to be worth the effort. There’s no hard and fast rule about what type of reward or incentive you should offer to developers for entering your contests, but typically it would include:
- Prizes: Money, hardware, software, tickets to your next event or swag
- Promotion: Winners finalists, and runners-up should all get a bit of free PR from you. Typically this would be on social media or through influencers
- Recognition: If they win is this going to make them look great? It should
- Personal challenge: If your competition is too easy developers will get bored. You want to set the bar so that for your chosen developer audience it’s a bit of challenge and they are inspired to get creative
- Community connection: From reading part 3 of this guide, you’ll know how important peer-to-peer interaction is for developers. Your contest should give them a platform to interact with others also competing
Next, you’ll want to define your contest rules such as:
- Who can enter?
- What is expected?
- When is the deadline?
- How will entries be judged and by who?
Make sure these are really clearly described, completely transparent and visible. If you don’t get this bit right you’ll jeopardize your contest and possibly alienate your developer entrants. News spreads fast in the developer community, so it’s really important to nail it the first time. Alongside your contest rules, internally you and your team need to define the contest targets and measures of success. You’ll want to consider how many entrants you’re aiming for and other key metrics that you can all work towards, otherwise how do you know whether you’re celebrating or commiserating at the end of your contest?
Don’t underestimate the importance of project management for this contest. You should have a clear understanding of:
- The contest timeline
- Promotion and communication schedule
- Contest closure and associated activities
- When and how winners, finalists, and runners-up will be announced
- what internal resources you’ll need to run the contest (and make sure you’ve secured them for the time you need them)
To ensure your contest runs without a hitch, pay close attention to the finer details prior to even launching. Considering the following will help you:
- Submissions – how will this be captured? Do you need to build a microsite for the contest?
- Judging – who will be the judge or judges? How will they shortlist entries? Who makes the final call about the winner?
- Support – if your entrants run into problems who will be their technical support? What about general queries, will you have someone on hand to answer developers?
- Prizes – who will arrange the prizes? How will these be dispatched to the winner and/or runner-ups?
- Legal – do you need to run this past your legal team (probably)? What are the terms and conditions of the contest? Who is writing those?
Ok, that’s a lot of legwork done but it’s really worth the effort to ensure your contest runs smoothly. Whether it’s your 1st or your 50th, the pre-work is critical for success. You’ll now want to spend some time planning the outreach, marketing and promotional efforts. Spend some time thinking about which channels will be most effective to promote the contest and if you will use paid media. You may also want to consider using influencers to help get the contest in front of the right developers. Don’t rely on just one communication method though, whatever you choose there should be a mix in your contest promotion. Give some thought about how you’ll track progress and how you’ll measure effective and ineffective communication methods. This is important so you can adapt and improve your communication plan throughout the contest window.
Once it’s time for the contest to go live it’s not a time for you to go quiet. You’ll need to have your team on hand to support developers through the entry process, answer any questions they have and get them over the line and submitting their entry. It’s absolutely no use to you if you have 1000 half finished entries or poor quality submissions. You must act as your developers’ cheerleader, remind them of the wonderful entries you’ve already received and how fantastic the prizes are. Be sure to monitor any incoming questions and add frequent queries and answers to an FAQ section on your contest page. This will reduce developer frustration and also make life a bit less repetitive for your team.
Once the contest closes it’s time to pick a winner – there are lots of different ways this can be done. A few options for you to consider – a live judging panel at an event you host, online via live video or a public vote. Once you’ve picked and announced your winner you’ll need to wrap up the contest. Although in your eyes the contest is over, don’t make the mistake of annoying or upsetting all of your other entrants, be sure to thank everyone who participated. The contest will have also produced some valuable, great content for you to share with your developer community – the result of the contest, pictures, entrant stories and more. Don’t sit on it and be quick to get your post-contest messaging out there.