Community, Not Pipeline

Brendan O'Leary

Brendan O'Leary

June 22, 2024

Explore the true value of communities in the DevRel and open source industries beyond mere sales pipelines. Discover how GetSphere empowers companies and projects to thrive through genuine community engagement.

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Lately, the Developer Relations (DevRel) and Community industries have witnessed a significant shift. As the understanding of how communities work becomes more nuanced, it’s clear that there are fundamental misconceptions about their value—particularly the mistaken notion that communities are merely a “sales pipeline” for commercial endeavors.

The Misunderstanding

Open source projects and developer communities have been at the heart of some of the most transformative technological advancements. Yet, the success stories of companies like Hashicorp and GitLab have led many to mistakenly equate community success solely with financial gain. This misunderstanding has led to a widespread attempt to commercialize open source software and developer communities, massively oversimplifying them into mere feeders for sales pipelines.

And then external business pressures have only served to up the urgency from investors and others to “prove” the value of community in terms of pipeline generation or dollars and cents. But those methods at their best under value community and at their worse miss the value of community all together.

The Real Value of Community

While it’s undeniable that some of your best customers may emerge from your community, the essence of a community goes far beyond converting each member into a sales lead. The true value of a community lies in several critical areas:

  • Brand Awareness: Engaging communities raise awareness and recognition of your brand far more organically than traditional marketing channels.
  • Brand Affinity and Loyalty: Genuine community engagement fosters a deep sense of connection and loyalty that transcends mere product use.
  • Open Source Contributions: Communities contribute code, ideas, and solutions that drive your open source projects forward, often outpacing what internal teams could achieve alone.
  • Advocacy: Community members can become evangelists, spreading positive testimonies about your projects and products far and wide.
  • Scalable Outreach: Leveraging community can exponentially extend your outreach, penetrating new and nascent audiences in ways conventional marketing cannot.
  • Beyond Commercial Metrics: Communities offer intangible benefits like feedback loops, innovation through collaboration, and a more resilient and adaptive product development process.

These are some of the areas that make community-based commercial enterprises outperform their closed off peers. These are the areas that are very hard if not impossible to replicate with additional funding alone and is why open source and community based projects have seen such success - both community and commercial - over the past decade or two.

Impact on Community Tooling

If you have a misguided view on the value of community, it will be very hard for you understand how to value tooling that enables community teams to do this work. We’ve seen recently the acquisition of a number of community platforms - ending in the shutdown of their SaaS platforms.

Now - to be very clear - I don’t believe this is a result of them or their investors not understanding the value of community. The work of these teams has seen some of the most amazing tools that have ever existed for community leaders, DevRel leaders, and others in this space. However, those business trends have made it appear that the market for these tools may not be large enough to support venture capital investment.

Other community tools in the space have pivoted - both in their messaging and products - to serve this new thinking of “community as pipeline.” To align with VC expectations and increase their ability to raise capital, these tools have often skewed them towards sales, rather than fostering genuine community growth and engagement.

Reigniting the True Power of Community with GetSphere

At GetSphere, we understand that the heartbeat of any successful community is its people—those who contribute, engage, and innovate together. That’s why we’re committed to creating a community-focused platform that enables companies and open source projects to thrive beyond the limitations of traditional business metrics.

We aim to reignite the communities we serve, providing the tools needed to empower collective efforts and amplify the impact of communal innovation. By prioritizing the needs of the community over the demands of investors, GetSphere is dedicated to preserving the integrity and true spirit of what makes communities invaluable.

Community First

Communities are not simply a sales pipeline. They are ecosystems of talent, passion, and collaboration that drive true innovation and loyalty. As we move forward, it’s crucial to remember and uphold the real essence of community—to build, support, and grow together. GetSphere is ready to lead this effort, unlocking the potential within our communities and proving that their value lies far beyond commercialization.

If you are eager to join us on this journey, get started today. Also, we’d love to chat. If you would like to learn more, you can schedule a chat here.

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