APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform

In the toady’s 30 second attention span world, we spend much of our time asking each other what is next. In marketing it was the web, then search, then blogging, then social media, but what really is next? Last week David Armano, made a big announcement that he was going to join Jeff Dachis and Peter Kim at the Dachis Corporation to focus on social business design. After reading David’s post it spurred me to write a post I have been kicking around in my head about the “future” of marketing.

Companies have always needed a platform to communicate with their customers. In the past that platform has been many things: media, billboards, advertisements, blogs, fan pages as well as a a host of others that I am forgetting.  Social media has been a breakthrough for many organizations because it removed the gatekeepers from the marketing equation and allowed them to publish their information directly to their customers on their own schedule.

In a world without media gatekeepers where does marketing go next?

API’s Are The New Marketing Platform

If I was a CMO, I would take some of my marketing budget from traditional media buys and creative work and use it to hire a small group of extremely talented web developers that have experience using API’s to develop simple and easy to use web applications. API stands for application programming interface and it serves as a platform for web applications to interact and share information with other applications. A practical example of this are Twitter clients like Tweetdeck and Seesmic, though they reside on a desktop, they use the Twitter API to send and receive tweets, which means that you don’t have to go to your Twitter.com page to use your account.

The future of marketing is about companies developing useful applications for their customers that extend web services that the customers are already using. This replaces the current model which is to use web applications to communication with customers.  The problem with current social media marketing is the noise. A company is one of thousands, sometimes millions of users and it is easy to get lost. Developing applications via API’s provide a way for companies to break out of the crowd and at the same time create value for customers.

Brands will need to become conduits that facilitate consumer communications instead or interrupters that intermittently drop in advertisements.

Imagine if Pepsi had built the first great Twitter desktop application instead of  Tweetdeck or Twhirl and millions of people were using the company’s application to use Twitter. This transforms Pepsi’s role from a company that is trying to communicate amongst millions of Twitter users, to instead providing one of the handful of major applications used by millions.

I mention Pepsi, because they are a company that has began to create web applications using APIs. An example of this is the Pepsi Zeitgeist which used the Twitter API to aggregate relevant tweets at SXSW 2009.

sxsw-2009-twitter-visualizer

Today’s economy is putting web startups in difficult positions, the demands have never been higher to produce great applications with less development staff.  This provides a golden opportunity for brands who have money to spend in the form of  marketing budgets. If brands use a portion of their marketing budget to hire API developers then they have the power to partner with developing web companies to help them improve how consumers use the service while in tandem changing consumers’ perception and awareness of the brand.

Marketing As A Service

Developing third party applications based on API’s is the extension of an idea that has long been kicked around often referred to as “Marketing As A Service”. Brands have been trying to execute on the idea of marketing as a service on the web, but normally it is with small stand alone applications that are developed as widgets or are a component of a campaign microsite. This isn’t a bad approach, but developing and extending existing web services through API’s offers much more opportunity. Plus these services already have a predefined and organically growing user-base.

The ROI of API’s

What is the ROI of this? The biggest appeal of using API’s as a marketing platform is that brands have a mountain of data at their disposal. Instead of knowing that a customer came to a sales page, brands can know what type of information customers are interested in, how they like to communicate with their friends, keywords that cause them to take action, and countless other data points that would render the best market research obsolete.  Data is just the beginning. The long-term brand awareness that is driven from positive user experience can build stronger brand advocates.

Flip It And Reverse It

Developing on the APIs of existing web services is only the beginning. We live in a world that now has expectations of open and available content. The natural extension of this will be for companies themselves to release their own API’s to allow their customers to create and develop applications. This goes against most current thoughts on inbound web marketing, but understand that empowering customers with information, empowers word-of-mouth marketing. This approach applies to all businesses not those that are web-based, but rather anyone who has a web-based tool or component for their organization.  Obviously this concept will have many hurdles for some organizations, especially from a legal standpoint.

Not A Replacement

Developing on API’s and using other marketing as a service approaches is not a replacement for social media marketing or even traditional marketing, instead it offers the ability to provide consumer value in a more meaningful and complementary way then other current forms of marketing.  It would be difficult to leverage API’s as a marketing platform if brands did not have other traditional marketing resources to help drive exposure and users to the applications that have been developed on the APIs.

Looking Back At The Future

The ideas discussed in this post aren’t new ones, they have been at the heart of successful marketing, the Web simply provides a cheaper and faster way to execute these ideas. In the way that software as a service (SAAS) businesses are changing the software industries business model and increasing profitability, marketing as a service on the web has the same opportunity to improve ROI and change the industry.

I challenge you to think about the roles APIs have for your customer-base. Would this approach work for you? Do you think this is the future? If not, what is?

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40 Responses to “APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform”

  1. Blog Post: APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform http://bit.ly/PJyTF Do you agree? Think I am crazy? Would love your feedback

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. Couldn’t agree more. APIs expand your service beyond your own dev team and let ideas take flight that you may never even have thought of.

  3. Great forward thinking post RT @kbodnar32: Blog Post: APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform http://bit.ly/PJyTF Do you agree?

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform (via Google Reader) http://twurl.nl/xjy711

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform | Digital Capitalism http://bit.ly/1Gx1TJ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. HEADLINE: APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform | Digital Capitalism – http://bit.ly/Ms39d

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  7. APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform | Digital Capitalism: In the toady’s 30 second span world, we spend muc.. http://bit.ly/xzryU

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  8. Wow – great post: “APIs are the Next Marketing Platform” http://bit.ly/AIiTW – indeed they are! via @magicmerl

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  9. @BestBuyRemix We are planning to talk about APIs soon on @talksocialnews but also see my post. http://bit.ly/AIiTW

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  10. Retweeting @magicmerl: @kbodnar32 Couldn’t agree more! APIs are the next marketing platform http://bitly.com/nQJt7

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  11. Love that notion that everything is turning into a service. Is marketing next? http://is.gd/sBsA

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  12. Great post.
    API = services = feeds.
    The world has been moving to services inside and outside the enterprise.
    API economy in here NOW !!!

  13. API = services = feeds. The API economy in here NOW. Great post. http://tiny.cc/bnrwa

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  14. APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform | Digital Capitalism http://ff.im/-28Gm9

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  15. APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform http://bit.ly/1bmrDb

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  16. Thanks for the feedback. Glad you liked it.

  17. “API’s are the next mktng platform” http://tinyurl.com/csoa74. end game is spot on but every co. hiring devs 2 build 2 api’s does not scale

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  18. the overall premise is spot on… but the notion of every company building apps to plug into api’s does not scale and too much reinventing of the wheel.

    better to have platforms in the middle that do this and companies can easily plug into.

  19. @kbodnar32 Great Post – APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform http://bit.ly/PJyTF – you should check out http://www.socialeyes.com

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  20. Why does your business need an API? http://edgeofthecloud.com/ More thoughts on this http://bit.ly/9wg4d

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  21. Couldn’t agree more. APIs provide a new distribution channel and revenue stream for most Internet businesses.

  22. Just what we’ve been saying! APIs Are The Next Marketing Platform http://bit.ly/9wg4d VIA @mtantow

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  23. need to do more API research. cool article. also wish i couldve gone to SXSW :/ http://bit.ly/AIiTW

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  24. In the toady’s 30 second attention span world, we spend much of our time asking each other what’s next http://bit.ly/12J1d1

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  25. a very interesting point I like to add on that I believe that some of the companies who have chosen to go on the APIs path is becos it is a far more superior way to improve your google ranking and market your services as opposed to doing your own online marketing.

    A news media firm opening its API for developers to access their data archive serve really no direct monetary value to the firm. however, the developers might develop interesting widgets that they ask people to put on their website. Inevitably, the firm url is posted everywhere. Unknown to the users of the widgets and maybe the developers as well, they have help to improve the search rank status of the firm as they do so.

    From certain angles, I can see why some big firms are trying to get into APIs. They wish to decentralize their marketing team and let the crowd help them spread the marketing message indirectly. The benefits, at most of the time, are win-win.

    Back to the question of creating a API company, i think the question is not "What business can i build with API?". It should be "I see a business that creates value and how can APIs approach help to grow it faster (and cheaper for the bootstrap startups)?" What I mean here is that business model should not be build around APIs. Instead, it is how we can leverage on API to build a business that creates value, and indirectly/directly increase revenue.

    Also, some APIs model create value but will not make money.

    Just my 2 cents of thoughts here.

    This comment was originally posted on http://ac-idealog.blogspot.com/)“>Wild IIlusions

  26. News/media companies can make money from an API but it is not the way you might think. It is not about charging a per API call fee or monthly fee for access to content. I always remind companies in media to create a monetization model that matches their business, and/or leverages high value content. For the New York Times API, they drive traffic back to the site by only giving partial article with their API (requiring attribution as part of the terms of service) and this in turn drives additional advertising revenue on their site. The Guardian UK gives access to the complete article but intends to require developers to show an ad from their network with it.

    This comment was originally posted on http://ac-idealog.blogspot.com/)“>Wild IIlusions

  27. Absolutel, when we worked together on the Hoovers API, we provided basic information "Super 7" then links back to Hoovers.com for the more indepth content. The HAPI was a complement to our business model, not a competitor that would cannibalize it.

    This comment was originally posted on http://ac-idealog.blogspot.com/)“>Wild IIlusions

  28. I am interested to find out more about how API can contribute back to a company’s bottom line beyond generating more traffic and advertising. We know now that NYT’s online advertising is not growing fast enough to replace their loss of traditional advertising dollars. Drawing more users back to their site might not help much.

    I want to explore how entire new business models can be built around APIs, not just complementing the traditional way of making money.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on this.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    This comment was originally posted on http://ac-idealog.blogspot.com/)“>Wild IIlusions

  29. Hi Sean,

    Thanks for taking the effort to write such a thoughtful comment.

    Due to my bad writing, I don’t mean creating new businesses with APIs alone. However, I do think that an API driven company will operate very differently from a non API driven one. Currently, a lot of the APIs are built to complement current businesses, which is not where we will see new innovations (just like how newspapers used to treat the Web as just another distribution channel).

    Only when a company is built ground up to be entirely distributed, to go where their customers will be instead of forcing them to come to a centralised site, will we see new models coming up.

    Cheers.

    This comment was originally posted on http://ac-idealog.blogspot.com/)“>Wild IIlusions

  30. Hi Aaron,

    I think your writing is terrific! Just find the theme of your blog is hard to read :P

    I recommend to read one of my favorite book "Starfish and Spider" (can pass you if u want). It gives an in-depth view of centralized and decentralized models. Of cos, that will be another article by itself if you intend to write one (I would love to see it, really)

    Back in my previous startup, I raise the challenge to my team of creating an truly api-driven voip service. The challenge is on whether developers will take on your APIs and built on top of it. Also, Eventually I failed to convinced them. Today, Ribbit did that and boy, look how successful they are in changing the voip market.

    During that research, I view the following factors as important for a company that offers API for their services as their key critical success factor.

    1) You need to identify a developers community to support you, or you know where/how to get them b4 you start
    2) You should be ready to burn money till you reach critical mass (no one will pay fo API usage if its new and your company is new)
    3) Just like open source, you need to provide a strong support platform with good documentation

    One of the companies that I observed with great success in this is Ribbit. (www.ribbit.com) Check it up :)

    This comment was originally posted on http://ac-idealog.blogspot.com/)“>Wild IIlusions

  31. Hi Sean

    I agree with you on the theme. Do you have anybody to help redesign my blog
    at an affordable cost? Recession, need to keep expenses down : )

    The team is very important and is one of the critical factors that will make
    or break the project.

    This comment was originally posted on http://ac-idealog.blogspot.com/)“>Wild IIlusions

  32. APIs are the next marketing platform http://bit.ly/PJyTF

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  33. Great post, can’t agree more. Does it mean then that bluenove is doing ‘Marketing Management’ or ‘Developer Program Management’ ? ;-) http://orangeinstantapis.bluenove.com/
    Best
    Martin


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