Wanna build a developer community? Reward, engage, incent

GigaOM Pro Analyst JP Finnell of Mobility Partners, Brian Magierski of Appconomy, and Marc Naddell of NAVTEQ at Mobilize 2011Developers can be difficult to come by, which is why more and more companies are looking to build and leverage communities of app makers as a way to share expertise and skills. But not all communities are created equal: At GigaOM Mobilize on Tuesday, execs with experience in the field said that to create a robust group of developers, they have to provide rewards and incentives to the top users.

Brian Magierski, CEO and co-founder of Appconomy, said the most important rule is to ensure that the community is engaged. Using the 1-9-90 rule as a model, Magierski said that programs needed to reward the top 1 percent of superstars, and engage with the next 9 percent to participate in the same way. As for the bottom 90 percent of passive participants, community leaders need to incent them as a way to encourage further participation.

Meanwhile Marc Naddell, who is VP of Partnering at NAVTEQ, said that when he was running the Nokia developer community, the company would reward “champions” who had the correct skill set. The community rewarded the 100 top developers each year, and rotated those that it chose to bring in new people each year. It also gave developers something to aspire to.

That said, you also need to build the community with a purpose. “You need to know what you want to get out of the community,” Naddell said. It also helps to give developers a chance to be seen by investors and for commercial opportunities, he said.

Disclosure: Appconomy is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

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