Even if you don’t use GitHub, you’ve probably heard of it. GitHub is the largest web-based code sharing platform worldwide. In 2018, they were acquired by Microsoft for $7.5 billion USD. However, GitHub still operates independently as a community.

We’ve previously looked at how Stripe grew to be the industry titan they are today, mainly their developer marketing strategies and tactics. So, we’re now turning our attention to GitHub, highlighting all the marketing lessons you can learn from them.

What’s GitHub?

GitHub began its life in 2008, as Logical Awesome, with many of its main components launching the same year (such as GitHub Pages and the company blog). Since then, it’s become invaluable and indispensable for developers around the world.

In essence, GitHub is a web-based platform used for version control that allows multiple people to collaborate on projects. While it’s mainly used for code, GitHub can be used to manage all sorts of files, such as Word documents and Final Cut projects.

Within GitHub, there are several things to consider:

  • Git: GitHub is built on an open-source version control system called Git, which allows users to track changes, revert to previous stages, and work on different branches simultaneously.
  • Repository (Repo): this is the heart of content on GitHub and it’s where files for projects live (like folders). A repository also includes documentation, and each file’s revision history.
  • Forks and clones: users can fork any public repository, which creates a personal copy for them to edit, and also clone it, downloading it to their local machine.
  • Pull requests: if a user has forked a repository and made changes in their fork, they can ask for those changes to be included in the original repository with a pull request. The owner of the original repository can accept or decline the request.
  • Issues: each repository has a section called ‘issues’ where users can report bugs, request features, ask questions, etc.
  • Actions: this feature allows developers to build, test, and deploy software development workflows directly in a repository. Actions supports Node.js, Java, Ruby, PHP, and more.
  • Pages: a static site hosting service that takes files straight from a repository to create a website related to the project.

The power of community

GitHub is hugely focused on community, By bringing developers together, they grew.

After all, developer communities – and the social aspect of GitHub – help devs to share knowledge, provide feedback on products, network with their peers, share valuable resources, contribute to open-source projects, and so much more.

What’s more, because GitHub was built on top of Git, the company tapped into an already engaged community.

The free public repositories encouraged open-source projects to host their code on the platform.  This crucial decision showed support for the open-source movement and made GitHub a hub for these projects, drawing in developers from around the world.

The ability to fork a repository and submit pull requests made it easy for people to contribute to projects. Because of this, coding became a community-driven process.

Freemium model

GitHub offers basic services for free while charging for advanced features or additional storage, which attracted a lot of individual developers and smaller teams. The model also allowed users to test and grow with the platform.

By offering several options, GitHub can cater to a wide range of users, from individual developers to large enterprises. You get free, team, and enterprise solutions, each providing different features and accesses.

A freemium model allows the company to offer substantial value for free, capturing the attention and interest of a broad user base, and then provide additional value in premium tiers – encouraging free users to become paying customers.

Tool sharing

GitHub offers a platform for users to share their applications, called Marketplace. This has helped the company to grow and be more versatile and helpful for developers and teams.

Marketplace allowed third-party developers and companies to create applications and extensions and integrate directly into GitHub, which expanded the GitHub ecosystem.

Before the Marketplace, developers often had to search externally for tools that could integrate with GitHub – this platform centralized the process, allowing developers to find, purchase, and integrate tools directly from within GitHub.

Another way Marketplace has helped GitHub grow to be the giant they are today: the platform provides an avenue for third-party developers and companies to monetize their tools and reach an audience that’s already on GitHub.

Apps on the Marketplace also undergo a review process, which assures users of their quality and security and helps them to trust what they find on the platform – further encouraging them to try, buy, and adopt even more tools.


GitHub’s API allows third-party applications and tools to integrate with the platform, which made GitHub the center of many development workflows. This integration helps to extend the platform functionality, since developers can do things like open issues, comment on pull requests, manage projects, etc.

A resource hub

By being a resource hub, GitHub attracts many developers and marketers (the latter can benefit from the platform by building authentic relationships and making the most of collaboration opportunities, for example). It continues to grow due to its software development, open-source projects, and collaborative endeavors.

As seen, GitHub allows for developers to host their code (and access other devs’ code repositories) and spans almost every programming language, which further draws developers onto the platform.

Documentation is crucial in product development and marketing, and GitHub allows you to include detailed REDME files, wikis, and other types of documentation that help explain the purpose and usage of the software.

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There are also many tutorials, educational guides, coding challenges, and learning pathways on GitHub. Another thing to mention is that you can also find many templates on GitHub, from starter kits and boilerplate docs to help you kickstart a project.

The platform is multifaceted and offers many resources for developers, marketers, and researchers – it’s become more than just a code hosting site. Instead it’s a hub for learning, sharing, and collaborating.

A focus on security

Another thing to remember is that developers value privacy, safety, and security, and GitHub can provide this.

“GitHub is committed to developer privacy and provides a high standard of privacy protection to all our developers and customers. We apply stringent individual privacy protections to all GitHub users worldwide, regardless of their country of origin or location.”GitHub

They even hired a 15-year NSA veteran as security VP to ensure quick and efficient action to open-source security threats.

Train developers

GitHub also provides the opportunity to train developers. Their Global Campus “helps students, teachers, and schools access the tools and events they need to shape the next generation of software development.”

The platform provides hands-on experience in a cost-effective way as well, which is another factor that draws developers onto the site.

Case studies

Many companies build with GitHub, so the platform showcases that via customer stories – A.K.A., case studies.

Big names, like Mercedes-Benz, Shopify, Ford, Etsy, Vodafone, and Figma, use GitHub tools and their integration capabilities, as well as the ability to unify developer resources and drive collaboration and innovation.

They also help companies to provide a seamless developer experience, to streamline their workflows, and to stay ahead of the competition.

Make sure to display case studies, as they help you to:

  • Build trust with your audience,
  • Provide concrete evidence of your product’s effectiveness,
  • Tell a compelling story about your product,
  • Highlight specific features or unique selling points of your offerings,
  • Address common challenges and developer pain points,
  • Drive potential customers to take action, and more.


Events like hackathons are key in developer marketing and developer relations, and GitHub has hosted, sponsored, and participated in various developer events, hackathons, and conferences worldwide.

GitHub Actions also allows participants to solve problems, deploy to the cloud, create innovative workflows, and more.

You can also showcase your own hackathons on the platform.

Key takeaways

Which marketing lessons can you take away from GitHub’s growth and position as a dominant platform for software development and collaboration?

  • Harness the power of your developer community.
  • Find the right pricing model for your product.
  • Create a hub of content, tools, and/or resources, including documentation, that can attract and engage developers.
  • Provide the option to integrate your product or features with other systems.
  • Showcase use cases and success stories.
  • Make the most of developer events.

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