Nothing incentivizes developer engagement better than developer contests. Implicit in the developer contest is the requirement for engagement via participation. By collecting data about who participates in each contest, you get more than a mailing list—you immediately gain valuable insight about your audience. What rewards attract them? Who tends to participate in contests? This is valuable customer insight! Even better, properly structured, your contest is sure to generate developer buzz, influencer content and new applications built on your platform.

Remember that a contest is essentially a digital event. While digital events have lower cost per headcount than in person events, they still require planning and coordination. And, contests come with the rich reward of a digital trail to satisfy your KPIs.

When to Use a Contest

Fundamentally, developer contests are events, like hackathons. Unlike hackathons that attract mainly students, unemployed developers and professional contest entrants, developer contests attract people who may not attend a hackathon. People with teams, and products, and budgets. Developers who are in a position, not just to use, but to buy your products. Influential developers, who have mindshare among their peers.

Use a developer contest whenever you might want an event to support your marketing strategy. Product launch? Event. New platform – event! Developer relations program – EVENT. The key is to make the contest relevant and intriguing to your audience. With a D2D audience, it’s essential to appeal to their competitive spirit with contests that engage their technical expertise and curiosity. For example, you could challenge them to learn rather than build something with your tool. This not only encourages engagement, but also spreads adoption of your tool or technology. Reward them more for social shares and for any content they produce showcasing your product or service. Increase their likelihood of winning prizes or recognition for every ladder they climb in your contest.

How to Structure a Contest

Again, use the event analogy. When you host an in-person event, you host it for a specific purpose, and you measure how well the event satisfied your purpose. When developing a digital contest, start with your goals and KPIs. Just like an event, you also want the contest to feel and look good. Your contest site should be an attractive, enticing, welcoming site. A successful contest has a website or landing page that attracts developers and engages them so they will stay, play, and invite their peers. While the contest itself is the main event, like any in-person event, your contest site should have many attractions to hold your visitors’ attention.


A contest ignites the passion of developers by offering them an opportunity to both demonstrate their prowess and learn a new, sexy technology. While developers may have to level up to participate, if the technology is something they’ve been dying to prove themselves on anyway; it will lure them to participate. If the demonstration of knowledge is staged so that climbing each level of knowledge brings a potential for reward, it will cast a wide net for all types of developers to participate. Your top developer influencers, however, will go all the way to the summit.

Appeal to the developer ego, but make sure you don’t send it crashing, either. Provide an information-rich environment. Your contest may already be technical in nature, but even if it’s not, don’t hesitate to surround the event with the resources that your audience will want to use, and may otherwise have trouble finding. It’s also important to add tips and tricks throughout your contest to help participants get through the various challenges or levels, so that you attract and engage both novices and experts.

Make sure your contest site is branded, but that branding is not the sole focus. Visitors DO want to know who you are, and not just what you are offering. But remember, too much branding is like the person who won’t stop addressing the crowd of happy event-goers chatting away and relaxing.

Yes! Digital networking is…social media. Make sure that your contest offers ample opportunity for visitors to talk about it, share information, actions they’ve taken, exhort others to participate, and reach out to each other. Don’t forget to assign a hashtag to your contest.

Yep, make sure there is a reward they will value. Money is a good start, but don’t forget about recognition and impact. Publishing the winner in a D2D community is one way to keep your visitors’ egos stroked and their enthusiasm stoked.

Fair, Safe and Secure Environment

Just as you would hold an event in a place where your visitors are treated fairly and their belongings are safe and secure, you want to have a contest where your visitors feel safe and secure. Have a trusted and recognized third party hold your contest. They can guarantee the safety and security of your visitors’ experience, their data, and also that the contest is run fairly.

Reduce Liability

You may not realize that contests have different rules and regulations in every country. Therefore, sometimes your legal department will not sign off on an online contest. Working with a company like Developer Media allows you to sponsor a developer contest without being responsible for the legality in each country.

That’s a Wrap

If you remember nothing else, remember this: contests are digital events that function analogously to physical events. Use them just like you would use a launch party, an expo, a workshop. They require the same amount of ideation and planning, and result in the kind of enhanced engagement inherent to anything that requires active participation by definition. As a bonus, engaging developer participation generates adoption, content, and most importantly,  excitement and PR that directs enthusiasm to your brand and product.