Analyzing GitHub's Podcast Advertisement
Dissecting developer messaging in action
As an avid podcast listener, one of my favourite shows is the business, politics, and tech podcast Pivot by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway.
This past month has seen the placement of an advert by GitHub in the show, so I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at the advertisement to see what we in Developer Relations can learn from it.
Firstly, here is the advert audio:
When it comes to discussions with clients around developer go-to-market, we always begin with two simple questions:
Who are you trying to reach?
What do you want them to do?
To answer question number one, you really need to have completed some kind of market segmentation and ideally created developer personas that represent your target audience. To answer number two, you need a clear call to action leading the developer to a frictionless signup experience.
Armed with the clarity these exercises provide, you will have a much better understanding of where your target audience spends time, what challenges they face, how to reach them, their decision-making influence, and how to position your product to appeal to them.
GitHub has decided podcast listeners represent fertile ground to hunt for new users. Time doesn’t allow me to listen to multiple podcasts to see where else they may be running these ads, but “Pivot” ranks in the Top 20 Tech podcasts, plus one of the co-hosts is superstar tech journalist Kara Swisher.
As a long-time listener, I was a little surprised by its inclusion. Despite “Pivot’s” high ranking in the “Tech” category, I personally don’t consider “Pivot” as a “hardcore” tech podcast when compared to say the Stack Overflow podcast. However, I do appreciate that generic terms like “Tech” are completely open to personal interpretation.
Two things are likely in play here:
“Pivot” is popular in the Tech category meaning it has a good audience reach, so it’s probably a fair assumption that some listeners will be engineers and/or decision-makers for developer tooling.
With already high levels of adoption within developer circles, perhaps GitHub is trying to break out from the hardcore dev audience and attempting to build awareness and appeal with other related job titles for continued growth.
Let’s break down the ad:
“GitHub is where software people go to do all things software.”
First, note the use of “software people” rather than developer. “Software people” is a more inclusive term that Twilio and others have used to include a wider range of people involved in the software development process who don’t have “developer” or “engineer” in their job title. It’s interesting that immediately GitHub is trying to define a broader audience for the advert, especially when coupled with “to do all things software” rather than something more developer-specific like “write or develop software”
“90 million developers use it, some of the world’s most exciting startups use it, and 90% of the Fortune 100 enterprise companies use it to build, scale, and ship secure software.”
There’s a lot to unpack in this sentence.
Firstly “90 million developers use it”. Having avoided the term “developer” when setting up the ad in the opening line, they now flip to “developer”, which is inconsistent. Using data points is good when appealing to a technical audience, but I’m not clear how they define what a “developer” is when claiming 90 million developers use it. Even the most optimistic research we have seen estimates the global developer audience at less than half that number. It sounds like a “registered emails” number at best.
Regardless, 90 million sounds impressive, plus the world’s most exciting startups use it. Presumably, the boring ones do as well :) If that wasn’t impressive enough, 90% of Fortune 100 enterprise companies use it. Three factoids are designed to create FOMO, whilst reassuring you they all trust GitHub to build, scale and ship their software securely.
Sidenote - geographic specific terms like “Fortune 100” are widely understood, but be mindful that it could imply an American bias, unintentionally putting off international audiences. I listened to the ad placed in a show distributed via Apple Podcasts in the UK; the local equivalent would be the FTSE100.
“There’s a ton of tools you can use to get started like automated workflows, embedded security, out-of-the-box CI/CD and built-in AI, plus supercharged collaboration tools and embedded security throughout the developer workflow for an extra layer of competence”
Having stated who the product is for in sentence 1, and established its credibility in sentence 2, we now get into features and benefits in sentence 3.
Firstly this sentence is way too long and complex, with some sloppy copywriting leading to “embedded security” being mentioned twice in the same sentence, or perhaps they really wanted to emphasize it!
The way they have approached the features and benefits syncs back to the broader “software people” target audience referenced at the beginning of the ad, by highlighting workflows, security, and DevOps rather than just focusing on pure software development.
An interesting shift in the tone of voice also happens in sentence 3. Having been very matter-of-fact so far, we see the use of more casual descriptions like “tons of” and “supercharged”.
You can find the plan that works for you at github.com and let’s build from here.
They round the ad off with a simple call to action to visit the top-level domain rather than a campaign-specific landing page which could represent a better opportunity to tailor the visitor experience to improve conversion.
Note there is no mention of signing up for a free account. The use of “plan” implies a premium paid-for service.
We preach practical messaging when targeting developers. What do you offer, and how does it make their life easier? Your go-to-market will also need to fit within your company’s tone of voice - that may be professional, serious, fun, geeky, edgy, etc. Any is fine as long as it is authentic.
All in all the GitHub Ad does well, following a well-defined structure of:
Features and benefits
Call to action.
I would dock points for “90 million developers” coming across as marketing BS, the complexity of sentence 3, and dropping listeners onto the homepage, rather than providing a custom experience to improve conversion. Leaving it with a solid 7/10.
Check out Developer Relations - How to build and grow a successful Developer Program to learn more about The Developer Messaging Framework which includes:
Heros, halos and stories,
Features, benefits, and proof points; and
And please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for some experienced DevRel expert help in creating your Go-to-Market campaign.