The Importance of Authenticity in Open Source Marketing

Authenticity means credibility, creating trust, showing people they can rely on you and your word. Without much pretense.

Marketing Open Source Projects

If a company is open-sourcing code, there are many reasons to market these projects: adoption of the application or product, recruiting developers, selling services around the Open Source product, and more.

In the Open Source world, there is a very specific distrust for sales and marketing. Marketing is associated with “image over substance”, or, in the worst case, sleaziness. Most FOSS contributors would rather just let the code speak for itself.

But that’s rarely enough.

There are millions and millions of repositories on GitHub and GitLab. How will you draw attention to your particular project to attract new contributors and users? You need to create awareness and demand for your project, i.e. you need to market it.

Marketing means communicating what you’re project is about. What does it do? Why is it interesting? Why should anyone get involved? Why should someone use this application? That doesn’t sound sleazy, right?

Brand value: Authenticity

Open Source itself is a brand; it is a brand that is built on openness, transparency, collaboration and, yes, authenticity. So, if your company wants to participate in Open Source, it figures that the company’s brand should profit from the brand values of Open Source.

So, what does it mean to be authentic? You do what you say. You communicate transparently, you make your goals public. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

  1. Get people to do your FOSS marketing that know how to speak to the developers: let your company’s FOSS contributors do the talking. Send them to conferences, let them tweet about their FOSS projects, let them publish blog post on your company’s tech blog. Let them give talks at meetups. You might have to convince your comms department to give up some control, but it will be worth it. The people in your company that contribute to Open Source projects are your best advocates.
  2. Don’t hide your mistakes: some of the most interesting talks or articles are stories about making mistakes and the lessons learned. So, be humble and talk about lessons learned.
  3. Be welcoming: make sure that your Open Source projects are well-documented and maintained. Make sure that there are people who will answer questions, tend to pull requests and bug reports. Make sure that there is a communication channel (IRC, Slack, mailing list) for users and external contributors where they will get answers.