Be Part Of Your Community, Do Not Just Sell To It

A recent story from Gordon Wintrob (@gwintrob) about how Twilio's distributed team solves developerevangelism has given me a variety of seeds for stories on API Evangelist this week. I love that in 2016, even after an IPO, I am still writing positive things about Twilio and showcasing them as an example for other API providers to emulate.

Twilio just gets APIs, and they deeply understand how to effectively build a community of passionate developers, demonstrated by this statement from Gordon's story on developing credibility:

How do you have technical credibility? You have to really be part of your programming community. Each of us is a member of our community, not marketing or trying to sell to it.

It sounds so simple. Yet is something so many companies struggle with. An API community is often seen as something external, and often times even the API is seen as something external, and this is where most API efforts fail. I know, you are saying that not all companies can be API-first, where the API is the core product focus like Twilio--it doesn't matter. Not being able to integrate with your developer community, is more about your company culture, than it is about APIs.

Another area my audience will critique me is around sales--you have to do sales to make money! Yes, and even Twilio has a sales team to come in at the right time. This is about building technical credibility with your developer community, by truly being part of it--if you are always trying to sell to them, there will always be an us and them vibe, and you will never truly be part of your own community.

As an API provider, I always recommend that you get out there and use other APIs, to experience the pain of being an API consumer. Using Twilio, and participating in the Twilio community should be the 101 edition of this. Where all API providers spend a couple of months using the Twilio API, and "actively" participating in their community before getting to work on their own API program.