API for growth

How to Use API for Product Growth?

APIs or Application Programming Interfaces are basically a protocol for communication for software.

In this blog, I want to focus how APIs could be leveraged to propel growth. One powerful example of this API integration for product growth is Facebook login. Many websites integrated Facebook Login API when Facebook made it open for use. This step not only boosted the growth of users for Facebook but also helped the startup to gain credibility and optimized onboarding process. Moreover, the Facebook widgets and plugins have further helped in driving traffic to Facebook.

In this article, we will cover:

Why is API required?

Applications sharing information wouldn’t want to provide direct access to the database and further, would like to abstract the data structure. That’s why API, which is a layer that sits on the database, is extremely useful for information sharing.

What is RESTful API?

REST is one of the most popular API framwork. At the core, it’s client-server model: client makes a “Request” and served gives “Response”. It was originally designed to fit the HTTP protocol that the world wide web uses.

The core tenants of REST framework include:

  • Stateless: Server don’t store the state, helping it to serve clienst at scale.
  • Cacheable: Clients and intermediaries can cache responses. 
  • Uniform Interface: The method of communication between a client and a server must be uniform.

RESTful APIs use of standards, such as HTTP, URI, and JSON. Let’s look at these components.

1. HTTP Methods

REST APIs use HTTP protocol for communication using the following methods:

  • GET: Retrieve information about a resource
  • POST: Create a new resource
  • PUT: Update a resource
  • DELETE: Delete a resource

When you type a URL, you make a GET request.

2. JSON

JSON is standard file sharing format and is the most common format for data transfer via APIs, as it’s both human and machine readable. JSON grew out of a need for stateless, real-time server-to-browser communication protocol without using browser plugins such as Flash or Java applets.

JSON uses key-value pairs to transfer information and have often a nested structure. Here is a common example of JSON:

{
  "firstName": "John",
  "lastName": "Smith",
}

Example of a Simple Python Script to Make API Call

You can easily write a program to retrieve data by making API calls through the following:

  • Curl: It’s a command-line tool 
  • Postman: It’s an http client and also used for API orchestration
  • Python Library – Request

Here is a code snippet that I wrote in Python just to illustrate how API call could be made using Request library:

This program makes an API call to get a currency rate from fixer.io. I took the API key after signing up on the website. 

Now, let’s dig into some exmaples of APIs being used for growth hacking.

Airbnb API Integration with Craiglist

This is probably the most famous example of growth hacking. As Craiglist had a massive userbase, Airbnb offered users who listed their properties on Airbnb to post on Craiglist. At that time Craiglist was a go-to place for people looking for an alternative to hotel accommodations looked for listing.

Airbnb definitely offered a much better user experience. Posting through Airbnb was seamless, and the listing on it more superior – nicer photos and a better description. That’s why after making the switch these users were more likely to start using Airbnb directly and book through Airbnb in future.

Posting
Airbnd Posting on Craigslist.

Airbnb team created used an smart hack to post to Craiglist using their URL as an endpoint. Further, the team did a fantastic job of making the listing stand out. This API used to autofill the listing info of Craigslist from information given on Airbnb, place a link back to Airbnb listing, and make the listing stand out amongst standard Craigslist listing through the usage of better-looking photos and personalized descriptions. You can check the technical details of this API explained by Andrew Chen here.

Uber – The Case of Partnering using API

Uber launched the API to allow the developers to recreate the Uber experience without the requirements of downloading the Uber app. This API allows users to experience all the Uber app’s utility by API. Uber pays around USD 5 for every new rider signup via this affiliate program.

For Uber, the API was a big growth factor. Just by allowing developers to get access to Uber resources, Uber could capitalize on a large variety of channels such as content producing mediums, deal websites, and gaming websites.

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Uber Integration with Facebook Messanger

A few examples of famous integrations include:

  1. Integration with Baidu Maps in China and Help Chat in India
  2. Integration with Facebook Messenger, which made a lot of news.

One unique example was integration with United Airlines. Built on top of Uber API, this integration also included deep linking to the Uber app.

Even Uber’s former rival and now partner, China’s Didi had integration with the messaging app – WeChat that allows users to book cabs.

Using WhatsApp API for Content Distribution

At Sqrrl, I used WhatsApp API for content distribution. This really helped us drive the engagement with content, as people in India spent a lot of time on WhatsApp, and it’s convenient for them to consume content on WhatsApp.

Check out this complete article on how I leveraged WhatsApp API.

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About the author

Incoming Product Manager at Google | Kellogg MBA '20 | IIT Delhi Graduate

I am passionate about product management, startup, and fitness not in any particular order.

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