Mobile technology and social media: How APIs bridge the gap in the digital age

By Karin Kelley

Though application program interfaces (APIs) that allow various software applications to interact with each other are not new, businesses that aren’t leveraging them in the digital age will inevitably be left behind. Their uses are widespread throughout all industries and all levels of the enterprise, from marketing and development to accounting and strategic planning. The API economy is growing fast, too, with about 15,000 APIs recorded in the ProgrammableWeb directory to date, according to Nordic APIs.

The use of APIs in mobile technology and social media platforms arguably provides the clearest view into the effectiveness of APIs overall. For instance, take the number of mobile phone users. Statista estimated there will be 222.9 million smartphone users by 2017 in the US and more than 2 billion users worldwide in the same time. These users are increasingly using mobile technology to access social media sites and apps to access goods and services. The whole system is connected by underlying APIs.

Measuring API effectiveness with mobile technology and social media marketing

It’s no secret that leading social media platforms generate the vast majority of revenues from digital advertising. However, it’s only recently that many have rolled out APIs to help their advertising partners gauge the effectiveness of their respective campaigns.

In early 2016, in fact, Adweek reported that Facebook introduced its Lift API, which is based on the measurement technology the company initially revealed in 2015. The API enables advertisers, Facebook marketing providers and third-party measurement vendors to tap into Facebook’s massive amount of user data and create reports on conversion rates, mobile app installs and sales. It goes further than that, too, by giving partners granular insight into which ads users clicked on from which channel and which eventually led to a sale.

Snapchat also recently launched Snapchat Partners, an API that will help advertisers and marketers expand their campaigns through the social media platform. The API allows third parties to sell ads to two different types of partners: advertisers and social media content creators. Though this makes it easier for partners to buy and sell ads, they can take this a step further by integrating with third-party vendors that can measure the effectiveness of their respective initiatives.

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Other uses for APIs with mobile technology and social media

In another example, drugstore chain Walgreens recently opened up its pharmacies and photo printing to third-party developers through APIs, according to Harvard Business Review. MEA Labs was quick to respond, developing an application called Printicular, which enables customers to print photos at Walgreens stores from their mobile phones and their Facebook, Instagram or Dropbox accounts. Through this API-based engagement with the third-party app provider, Walgreens has been able to increase customer engagement and revenues in retail stores by six times from customers that interacted with the company through mobile technologies and social media than those who simply walked into a location.

By leveraging the API economy, brands can gain valuable insights and improve their abilities to engage their audiences. As consumers and businesses continue to do more and more on mobile devices and social media platforms, expect the usefulness of APIs to continue to grow.

Written By

Karin Kelley

Independent Analyst & Writer

Karin is an independent industry analyst and writer, with over 10 years experience in information technology. She focuses on cloud infrastructure, hosted applications and services, end user computing and related systems management software and services. She spent nearly eight years…

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