Welcome to my Throwback Thursday series of posts. For this series I searched back through my archives and I have selected 5 posts that are relevant to the Land & Expand mission – to provide you with tips and insights for launching and growing in London (and UK) tech. I’ll post a #TBT article once a month taking us through to summer.

For this months #TBT post, we jump in the time machine and head back to February 2014 to revisit the article I wrote for Netimperative.

The original post is here if you want to check it out directly.

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Understanding the world of APIs will help marketers develop smarter mobile campaigns. James Parton, European director of Twilio looks at how marketers can utilise technology to enhance their campaigns.

Understanding the world of APIs will help marketers develop smarter mobile campaigns.

A UN agency report suggests that in 2014 there will be more mobile phone subscriptions in the world than people, and that 75% of Europe will be online. So for any marketer thinking about implementing a mobile marketing strategy, now’s the time. Marketers have a wealth of tools at their disposal which allow them to bring incredible campaigns to life on a daily basis and one that’s finding its way into more and more toolkits is the API (application programming interface).

Understanding the world of APIs will allow marketers to begin developing smart mobile campaigns that help them stand out and attract the attention of today’s online society. So what is an API? Put simply, it’s the middle-man between two separate systems that allows them to communicate and share information back and forth. It’s a slick and easy way to plug in and consume a service from a third party provider. Those services could be anything from sharing the news, to transactional services like making payments, or even sending an email and making phone calls. The clever thing about APIs is now you can consume these services through simple web interfaces that your software development team can integrate in next to no time. You can bypass cumbersome commercial negotiations, the purchase and maintenance of third party software and hardware, and time consuming and expensive integrations. For these reasons APIs truly are making a huge difference and present significant opportunities for business.

The momentum behind the adoption of APIs is huge. According to data from ProgrammableWeb, a website that tracks the growth and usage of APIs across the world, in 2005 there were just 32 public APIs. By September 2013 that number had exploded to 9,992 – and many of these are the secret weapon behind the channels marketers interact with on a daily basis, such as Twitter and Facebook. They allow the simple, straightforward and fast development of incredible tools that help us market our companies more creatively, which will ultimately drive the bottom-line. Looking at Facebook as an example, it’s created a developer ecosystem that has built more than nine million apps on Facebook’s platform, and those APIs power everything from using Facebook to take payments, through to adding ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons to your own website content.

Another good example is Yelp in the way it cleverly utilises Google Maps. By plugging into its API, Yelp can not only share data and information on hotels and restaurants etc, but the API allows it to show users exactly where these local services are. A job that would once have been long-winded and tedious for the Yelp employees is turned into a slick and simple process thanks to the humble API.

Once marketeers begin embracing APIs and dreaming up creative campaigns, amazing new possibilities are unlocked. People are doing incredible things everyday such as building call centres, SMS notification systems, and customer callback sales functions. Another altogether more creative example is when EE briefed London Agency, Poke, to create an outdoor campaign that would bring the community together at Christmas. Poke used an API to create something truly magical – ‘Make Hackney Sparkle’. By simply calling a number displayed on an EE outdoor advert, members of the public could make it snow on London’s Rivington Street! The project really demonstrated just how to grab people’s attention in among all that white noise I mentioned above. Even more powerful was there was no need for complex app downloads and installs – just a simple phone call supported out of the box by every phone on the planet. The campaign reached over 318,000 people on Facebook and Twitter and more than 10,000 people have watched the ‘making of’ video of the project.

This is just a snapshot of the amazing and creative things being built using APIs every day. The beauty of them is that pretty much any kind of implementation is possible. The API is the ingredient, and the recipe is only constrained by the imagination of the developer. From building a fully featured contact centre from scratch in 20 minutes and 8 seconds, to securing Enterprise file sharing with Box, to Coca Cola Enterprises using SMS to alert their field engineers of priority faults across their inventory of 600,000 coolers and vending machines in Western Europe.

I’d love to know how you’ve used an API to bolster your marketing campaigns or how you plan to do so in the future.

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