Marketing an open-source project – Part IX – Effective Marketing Strategies in Open Source Software Projects

This is the ninth post of the “Marketing an Open Source Project” series. This article explores the strategies successful OSS communities like Ubuntu, Fedora, and WordPress use to enhance their brand awareness and community engagement. From organizing dedicated marketing teams to leveraging co-marketing initiatives with major companies, we’ll delve into the methods that help these projects thrive. Whether you’re part of an OSS project or simply interested in the intersection of open source and marketing, this guide offers valuable insights into how strategic marketing efforts can significantly boost visibility and participation in the OSS ecosystem. If you haven’t read the first article, you can find it here.

How are the successful OSS community-driven projects doing marketing and increasing brand awareness?

Marketing committees are a common way to organise marketing efforts internally in OSS projects. Successful communities like Ubuntu, Fedora, and WordPress have dedicated teams for technical support and marketing. These committees ease the coordination of everything from the volunteers entrusted with producing community assets, such as collateral materials, websites, blogs, videos, and social media, to planning event support from speakers to booths and conferences. Marketing committees execute the marketing plan as developed or approved by the community by project leaders [1].

Examples of effective community-driven marketing include Hyperledger and the Node.js Foundation. Node.js markets through its Enterprise Conversation podcast series, featuring companies like Netflix and Google. This program highlights how companies like Netflix, Lowe’s, SkyCatch, Twitter, and Google use Node. Hyperledger benefits from its community’s content contributions, with a Developer Showcase blog series.

As an open-source consortium, Hyperledger relies on community members to help spread the word about the thought leadership, technical achievements, events, and engagement opportunities being driven by the community.

Hyperledger – marketing team.

Common traits in OSS marketing teams are clear missions, guidelines, codes of conduct, defined goals, and easy ways to join and contribute. These elements build trust and transparency, reducing fears of single-company influence. In other words, by easing the task of contributing, the project attracts more people.

Marketing plans differ based on target markets and goals. Does the project want to grow the user base or contributor base? Does the project need to attract sponsors to raise money to sustain hardware or infrastructure expenses?

To raise project brand awareness, a common practice is to publish case studies. This can be done as a co-marketing strategy within a company. An example can be seen in the Kubernetes project, where the community publishes case studies on production usage showcasing the benefits of adopting the project. By doing this, Kubernetes benefits from co-marketing with better-known companies such as Spotify, Bla Bla Car, AppDirect, etc. Conferences and community events are also effective tools.

Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing is prevalent in OSS communities. This kind of marketing is done even when members do not know that they are actively engaging in marketing activities. Developers often display stickers of their favorite projects, boosting brand awareness and community pride. WOM marketing becomes then fundamental within the community to the success of any project increasing brand awareness, and raising the reputation of participating members, while at the same time making them feel proud to belong to that community.

In the next post, I will summarize all the findings and recommendations mentioned throughout this blog series.


[1] TODO Group, 2018. Marketing Open Source Projects. s.l.:s.n.