Apollo enables development teams to simplify app development by combining APIs, databases, and micro-services into a single data graph that can be queried with GraphQL. Their developer community includes a Discourse support forum, a custom learning platform known as Odyssey, and a developer hub that comprises a blog, live streams, and community-created content.
Apollo has long understood the value of community as an organization, but it wasn’t until late 2019 that they made their first dedicated developer relations hire. Up to that point, community evangelism had been a shared responsibility with everyone in the company helping out. They thought they would benefit from dedicating more resources to their efforts and began building out a team. However, exactly who to reach out to and which specific actions helped them grow and engage their community was still a mystery. Apollo’s CTO challenged Director of Developer Experience Peggy Rayzis with moving beyond the qualitative, anecdotal data they had to specific numbers and charts showing demonstrable progress.
It was a discussion around the difficulty in measuring impact and KPIs for community with GitHub Developer Advocate Brian Douglas that lead to a recommendation to use Orbit. Apollo began using Orbit in March 2020 within their burgeoning Developer Experience (DX) team.
“Something we immediately benefitted from with Orbit is having one place to see all the ways that members interact with our community,” says Peggy. “We set it up to bring in all our community data, from events to messages, and we also manually add things like blog posts created by community members. We now have a single-window into our community.” Their team continued to expand, and Kurt Kemple was brought in as DevRel team manager.
“The quantitative community data is awesome to see,” says Kurt, “we use it to correlate spikes in activity to specific actions and for ad-hoc, tactical uses. But I also love the ability to dig into individuals and see how they're working within our community. Orbit has drastically changed my workflow. Before Orbit, there wasn't a place to look community members up - so I couldn't identify who was new and what they were doing without being on that platform. Now I don't need to live in GitHub or Twitter all the time because that data is feeding in. It's made talking to community members so much easier. I can find who the most engaged people are and start conversations with them to build relationships. This is something that you just can't keep up with manually at scale."
Outreach was a manual task for the DX team before Orbit. "I used to spend hours finding people manually,” says Kurt. “I even wrote code myself to generate a report to help with that, and we were going to create our own dashboard. Now that we have Orbit, we don't have to roll our own solution.” This was an essential benefit for Peggy, too, remarking that “every minute my team is building infrastructure, it's less time we're building relationships."
As their use of Orbit expanded, other community-facing teams began to use Orbit within Apollo.
Several open-source Engineering teams use Orbit to improve their contributor onboarding. “They use the Orbit Chrome extension for GitHub to see key info on contributors when looking at new pull requests to thank and welcome them. They also tag folks who work at companies we want to prioritize," says Kurt.
Tagging is a core feature that all the teams across Apollo make use of. “Tagging is an amazing part of Orbit. It really helps with audience segmentation," says Kurt. "It gets better the more tags we add. We run two GraphQL Summit events each year featuring community speakers, many of which were identified and tagged in Orbit. We care about building a diverse community, and Orbit helps us find active people who otherwise might not be discovered or don't have an existing platform. As we come across members who are tweeting or writing about topics we’re interested in, we tag them as potential speakers and use that list for outreach. Marketing is now taking over events at Apollo, so they’re using Orbit now. We use tagging similarly to source content for our newsletter and weekly live streams, pulling interesting people and links from Orbit.”
Their Talent Acquisition team uses Orbit too. Kurt explains that "when someone has applied, or they've identified someone they want to encourage to apply, they look in Orbit to give them personalized talking points because we have all their activity info and notes in there."
Apollo now has 21 workspace members on Orbit with staff from four functions: DX, Engineering, Talent, and Marketing. “So many teams have seen the value Orbit provides Apollo; it has been interesting to see the network effect of use growing,” says Kurt. That usage will expand further in the future too. "Orbit will form the basis of our upcoming champions program, using love and reach numbers to identify members and tagging them as potential champions for outreach so that members can opt-in. The company is also working on an initiative to centralize all our data into one platform from across the organization. Orbit will provide the community data for that platform with consumers from product to sales as well as marketing and DX."