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What Is an API & Why Does It Matter for Social Media?

API for Social Media

What Is an API & Why Does It Matter for Social Media? 

There are two questions we need to answer when it comes to APIs. Firstly, what is an API? Secondly, why does it matter for social media? Regards the first question, API stands for Application Programming Interface. As the name implies, API is an interface. What it interfaces is two discrete applications. More simply, it allows these two applications to communicate with each other. 

Why do these different apps have a need to interact? Let us look at an example. You have an Uber Eats app on your mobile and want to order takeout, so you send a request for a Big Mac. Uber Eats can provide you with meals from any number of restaurants but only McDonald’s has a Big Mac and that is the selection you have made. An interface is needed for Uber Eats to send your request to McDonald’s and for McDonald’s to let Uber Eats know when your food is ready for collection. 

You cannot contact McDonald’s directly to order food (perhaps in the hopes of it being delivered faster) as they only deliver through Uber Eats. Likewise, you cannot get into the McDonald’s systems and access any information you want. 

Basically, an API gives you limited access to other applications.

The API Process

When you want to check for messages on your Facebook account you open the Facebook app on your mobile. Your Facebook application connects to the Facebook server and sends it your request. The server looks for the information you want and sends it to your phone app. The app takes the data from the server and provides it to your phone in a user-friendly format. This is a social media example of a simple API process. 

Now, imagine you want to check your Twitter mail. You can repeat the whole process that you went through with Facebook but this time with Twitter. But wait. Why duplicate your efforts? If you have a Smart Inbox application from Sprout Social, you can access your mails from both accounts simultaneously and even perform other operations at the same time. Instagram grants Sprout members access to one of their APIs that makes it possible to determine how you want all your uploads to look and then to schedule them for publishing. 

This is the magic of APIs.

Public APIs 

Some big businesses like Shopify send out information to access their public APIs. This encourages developers to enhance their platforms. Developer involvement such as API First leads to improved experiences for a company’s customers and enhances their competitive edge.

In return, they provide users with tools for creating templates. Shopify’s Storefront API allows smaller companies to leverage on their customer database to reach more consumers. Their Payments Apps API provides access to their payment processing system, which saves the small business from having their own. 

The Benefits of APIs to Businesses

As can be seen from the Shopify example, there are many benefits to smaller companies that make use of public APIs. Additionally, these businesses can utilize these opportunities to have their workflows automated. This cuts down on the costs of doing business. Using Shopify’s Partner API, they can apply this strategy to their backend and front-end processes. 

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