If you’re involved in managing your organisation’s online presence it’s very likely you have come across the term “API”. So what is it? Application Programming Interface is the full term, but all you need to know is that an API is a toolkit that allows different online services to talk to each other. The services may be your customer database, financial software, social media platforms or your web site.
Many online services offer an API that is free to use and is generally compatible with most websites. The great thing about having these services speak to each other directly is that you don’t need to manually intervene to export information, key data in twice or reconcile information in two different places. It’s all done for you automatically. It’s faster and more accurate than the manual alternative.
Let’s look at a simple example. Say you post news to your website, but you also manage a Twitter account. Each time you have a big announcement to make you need to login to your CMS and create the news post. You then need to login to Twitter and repeat the procedure. Using an API to connect the two services allows you create the news post once and have it automatically feed through to your Twitter account. The reverse is also true if you want to be able to tweet something and have it appear on your web site automatically.
Another example might be the contact form on your web site. When visitors complete the form you probably get an email with the information which you then add manually to your customer database. An API-enabled database (such as Salesforce) allows the information to be written directly from the website to the database and sends an alert the relevant person in your organisation automatically. No more data entry, the customer has done it for you!
Today almost all organisations have multiple social media accounts and a growing number of clients are shifting to web-based customer relationship management (CRM) systems. With so many different tools to manage, API integration saves time, improves accuracy and allows you to make the most of your online presence.