If you have an open source project that could use some more users, you’re not alone. Many open source projects run into the same problem. The good news is that with a few tricks, you can build a community of more active users and attract new ones. In this video, we’ll take a look at some of the marketing and promotional tactics you can use to increase the user base of your open source project.
Software isn’t just about the actual product. People are often just as interested in the team or individual behind the project as well. Ideally, when you talk to people about your project, you’re not only talking about the project itself but also telling them about yourself. The best way to do this is to be invited to speak at conferences or speaking events which will allow you to share your knowledge and speak about your project at the same time. If you don’t get invited, one solution is to respond to Call For Papers, which are when organizations ask for contributions of original content or scholarly articles. Another way to get yourself out there is to write a blog to share knowledge and information about your project. Anytime you get a chance to talk to people about what you know and what you’re doing, go for it!
One thing that differentiates great open source projects from good ones is their ability to fulfill a particular need. This could be something that simplifies work or automates a repetitive process. Whatever it is, be clear on your website what it is your project does and how it can help your users. Have a clear list of the features and how those features can benefit the user.
Creating Great Documentation
Lacking good documentation is a warning sign for new users. Unless your project is really easy to use, you will need some form of documentation. It’s a good idea to divide the documentation into levels of experience from first time use to advanced usage of the project. This way, users of the software know what to read and avoid wasting time. It’s a great idea to have others check the documentation and provide comments for improving it where they see fit.
Making a Marketing Plan
Open source software is no different from other kinds of products in that it needs to be promoted to gain people’s attention. A good starting point is having a description of the typical user who might use your project. Answer the question of why people should use your software and what benefit they would have from using. Consider where you will market your project. Some good places to start are developer platforms, forums, and other websites like social media and Reddit.
Using Corporate Resources
The most popular open source projects have a great community or a corporate sponsor behind them. Gaining a community is hard, takes time, and provides no guarantees about the longevity of your project. If you have a company supporting your project, they may help with your marketing plan and even share your project with their customers. Getting a corporate sponsor can also provide the ability of finding people with useful skills you don’t have. Maybe you need a designer to create a logo for your project or a copywriter to write a tagline for your project. With a corporate sponsor, you may find it easier to find these resources. You can also ask the higher ups to speak about your project. Getting a referral is as simple as asking most of the time. You will attract a lot of users when other people are talking about your project
Building Your Community
While speaking events, social media, and forums are a great way to build a community, don’t discount email as a powerful tool. Email is a great way to tell your community about updates and new features that have been added to your project over time. When you get people talking about your project, a snowball effect can occur. Even if you start with only a few users, don’t be discouraged! Listen to those users’ feedback and provide the updates they’re looking for and they will tell people about your project.
There are a lot of ways to build your open source community. Most people in the open source community don’t have a background in marketing so this process can be difficult. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes time. Use the free resources that are available to you around the web to attract an audience and whatever corporate resources you might have. Follow some of this advice, and you’ll have a growing community in no time.