September 28, 2016 | Rachel Vaughn

What Is an API and Why Should Marketers Care?

There are many answers to the question "What is an API?":

  • Ambivalent Panda Interaction
  • Arthritic Paraguayan Illustrators
  • Analog Potato, Inc

My personal favorite is Academic Paranormal Investigation.  

The ghostbusters are an example of our favorite made up definition of API.#squad

Clearly, there are many reasonable, widely-used and accepted meanings behind this acronym. But in this case, API actually stands for Application Program Interface. And when it comes to your digital marketing, APIs play a more significant role than you might think.

What is an API?

Per the always reliable Wikipedia, an API is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building software and applications. In general terms, it's a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. A good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing all the building blocks, which are then put together by the programmer.  

Put more simply, APIs are a type of technological go-between that allows you to optimize and customize your use of popular platforms and programs for better analytics and functionality. They work like access roads between applications, allowing developers to communicate with the programs themselves so that you can use several different services at once to accomplish separate tasks and gather data more efficiently.

Why should you care about APIs?

All of your digital marketing (including social media), is impacted by APIs. Whether it’s on Facebook, Slack, Snapchat, or Google, using APIs can help to improve your marketing results. Many APIs allow developers to shape how raw data is presented. Twitter's API, for example, allows you to pull in the raw stream of tweets and filter it, resulting in the custom Twitter feeds you often see on websites.

As more customer presence and buying power has shifted from in-person interactions to online exchanges, you need to pair your expert insight with a digital strategy that also encompasses the technology being used.

While it may not be the most intuitive thing to learn about at first, knowledge about APIs and how they work can add incredible value to your efforts, particularly on social platforms. Besides that, knowing how to use them effectively can also reduce the amount of time you spend on repetitive tasks, enabling you to be more agile and productive than the competition.

How does an API affect your marketing?

Since the performance of your marketing campaigns depend so much on this “unseen” element, it’s in your best interest to understand how they work—and more importantly, how you can make them work for you.

You don’t need to be an experienced code slinger, like our resident web developer, Ryan, or a living legend in professional men’s footwear modeling also like Ryan, to learn about and make the best use of this technology.

These may not be Ryan's feet, but they are an example of what his career may have been like before dealing with APIs. His catalog of work is revered in fashion’s highest, most exclusive circles.

“I pioneered wearing socks with Crocs,” Ryan shrieks from the office supply cupboard. “No one even had feet before I made them popular!

“Now, in the case of APIs,” he goes on to say, “I’ll use an email blast to register for a hosted event as an example, along with two services we already use ourselves: WordPress and HubSpot. Say you need to sell tickets to this upcoming event, but also want to get contacts into your HubSpot contact database. You’ll need to use a couple of different APIs.

"HubSpot can’t sell anything through their COS (Content Optimization System), so you would need to resort to your WordPress website to collect the sales/information from the user. The user would then fill out a form and purchase the tickets on the WordPress website, but now all this important information is stuck in the WordPress database and needs to be sent to HubSpot.

Through the magic of APIs, we can create a one-way connection from our WordPress database and the contacts database in HubSpot. We can make this an automatic task by telling WordPress: when this user has finished purchasing their tickets, send the desired information to HubSpot. WordPress will then perform a POST to send the desired information to HubSpot that will enter each customer as a contact.

“APIs can allow marketers to save time and be more efficient at everyday tasks. Without an API, the marketer would have to manually enter customers’ contact information into HubSpot for each individual transaction. With an API, the process is automatic and the marketer can focus on the data instead of the tasks to obtain the data.

Who knew that just above his graceful insteps, Ryan also had the keen mind of a programming ace and the crotchety zeal of a 1,000-year old hermit with the most delicate metatarsals the world has ever seen?

To sum up: as the digital landscape of inbound marketing evolves, your methods need to adapt to keep up. It isn’t enough to know your ideal buyer personas and create content that will appeal to them. You have to be more efficient in order to act trends, innovations, and data. Familiarizing yourself with and using APIs to improve your workflow can help you do just that.

More questions about inbound marketing? We've got you covered.

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Rachel Vaughn

Rachel Vaughn

As a content marketer for VIEO Design, Rachel Vaughn brings serious research chops and boatloads of personality to everything she writes for VIEO and our clients. In particular, she spends her time writing blog posts, website pages, workflow emails, and other marketing materials designed to engage readers and help them connect with VIEO and our clients.

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