APIs for Beginners | Using an API for SMS Marketing | SimpleTexting
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Beginner’s Guide to Using an API for SMS

Beginner’s Guide to Using an API for SMS

APIs may sound complicated to someone who is not a techie, but in reality, they are easy to understand.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are everywhere. APIs allow the instant exchange of information so you can track your fitness from a device on your wrist, check availability of a product in a nearby store, or hail an Uber from Google Maps. In other words, APIs are the unsung hero of much of what we do online. 

APIs may sound complicated to someone who is not a techie, but in reality, they are easy to understand.

So, to answer all your questions, we put together this SMS API guide for beginners. 

What is an API?

An API is an interface that lets one software program “talk” to another, exchanging data behind the scenes. 

If you’re old enough to remember a time before cellphones, this scenario may sound familiar. Your parents decide at the last minute to have a BBQ. They want to ask their friends, who live two blocks away. So, they ask you to run down the street and extend the invite. You then bring back an answer. In this example, you’re acting as the API. 

Your parents and neighbors stay put. You bring information over to your neighbors and then back again to your parents. In this scenario, you do what APIs do every second–only they share information between apps, websites, and software programs.

Source: ProgrammableWeb

How to Use an API

Let’s say you’re building an app that provides information about all the hair salons in your city. You want people to book appointments through the app and take a small commission. You know that customers want to see the location of the nearest salon on a map and that having them leave the app isn’t a great user experience.

Unless you have deep pockets or tons of time, you’re not going to build an entire digital map of your city to include in your product. Instead, you can use Google Maps API to have the map–and all its updates–in your hair salon app forever. APIs make it much easier to add layers of functionality and sophistication to existing technology. 

The above is an example of an API adding functionality to a new product. You can also use APIs to integrate two existing products. Here are two examples:

  • “Share on Twitter” is a common sight on most online publications. When you click on this button, the site you’re visiting communicates with your Twitter account through an API, sending information in the form of a Tweet. 
  • You want to share live invoice data between your accounting software and CRM because your sales team is constantly nagging the finance team for the latest update. You can connect the two platforms via an API.

How Do SMS APIs Work?

An SMS API allows you to integrate SMS messaging with other software programs. To understand how it works, we need to explore a couple more concepts. 

To help bring these concepts together, we’re going to use a fictional company, Surf’s Up, that allows people who send an SMS with their location to receive a surf forecast.

API Keys

An API key is the name given to some form of secret token which identifies your SimpleTexting account and the activity on your account. You can access your unique API token under Profile & Settings → API: 

Surf’s Up needs to use the API token to identify their SimpleTexting account and incoming (or sent) text messages.

API Parameters

API parameters determine the type of action you want to take. For example, if you want to send an SMS message from SimpleTexting when an event occurs, you’re going to need to tell us what your API token is, your account’s phone number, and the message you want to send.

Surf’s Up would use the parameters “token”, “phone”, and “message” when automatically sending an SMS. They would also configure parameters for forwarding incoming SMS to their surf forecast application. 

Webhooks

A Webhook allows actions to happen automatically when certain criteria are met or scenarios take place. Put in even simpler terms, an SMS Webhook allows you to link up certain apps together and whenever an event occurs in one it triggers an action in the other.

If a surfer sends their location via SMS, using SimpleTexting’s Webhook, Surf’s Up can forward that information for processing, and the forecast system will respond with the location’s wind and swell. Surf’s Up can then trigger an outgoing message from SimpleTexting with the surf report included.

SimpleTexting uses webhooks to let your application know when events happen, such as receiving an SMS message. We include details on the event such as the incoming phone number or the body of an incoming message. You can set the URLs you want to receive the SMS (or MMS) under Webhooks:

The above is a crude example of how an API is configured. If you’re interested in learning more about the nitty-gritty of REST APIs and Webhooks, this is a useful resource.

More Examples of the SMS API in Practice

To give you an example of how this works in the real world, we can use one of our customers, LEAP, as an example.

LEAP is an ACT/SAT prep and tutoring service. With over 400+ students at any one time, the company has to manage a lot of different schedules. It uses a scheduling platform called Bizstim to do this but wanted a way to send out automated SMS reminders a few hours before a session. Bizstim does not offer the ability to send SMS reminders. So, LEAP used SimpleTexting’s SMS API to add this functionality to Bizstim.

Now, at a specified time, an appointment in Bizstim triggers SimpleTexting to send an SMS.

👉 You can read more about LEAP’s experience with our API in this success story.

With the SMS API, you no longer need to log into SimpleTexting to send these SMS messages. Instead–working in the background–the API automates the process. Here are further examples of what an SMS API integration can do:

  • Send automated appointment reminders via SMS. You can plug our API into your CRM or reservation system to remind customers.
  • Automate instant SMS notifications if an event occurs, i.e., when a product ships or a delivery occurs.
  • Send unique two-factor authentication codes to keep an application secure.
  • You can send users a custom coupon via our SMS API.
  • You can build out unique digital products with the ability to send and receive text messages.

These are some of the most common uses of an SMS API. It’s also the tip of the iceberg–the possibilities are endless. If you can imagine it, our text message API can make it happen.

How Do I Use Your API?

We know that not all customers who want to use our API  have access to an in-house developer. If this sounds like you, we recommend looking to hire a freelance API developer. You can hire these developers at rates that range from $16 to $150 an hour. Here are two well-known sites that you can use to find an API developer:

Review Our API Documentation and Request API Access

To get started, you’re going to want to provide a developer with our API documentation

To check if you have access to our API, log into SimpleTexting, navigate to your Dashboard, then click the person icon in the upper righthand corner of your account. From there, select Profile & Settings then select the API tab. If you have access to our API, you’ll see your API token listed there.

If not, you’re going to need to request API access. This help center article provides the steps that you need to take to do this.

Check Out Our Zapier Integration

If you aren’t in a position to hire a developer, we recommend that you check out our Zapier integration. Zapier is a tool that allows you to connect the platforms you use. This connection means that processes and tasks happen on your behalf behind the scenes. There’s nothing you have to do to keep up with or remember them. All you need are Zaps—Zapier’s automated workflows—that support your workflows.

It requires no technical skills and instead involves setting “if this happens, then do this” flows. For example, if someone buys from your Shopify site, you can add them to your text blasts. The Zapier team adds new integrations all the time, so the possibilities are far and wide.

If you are wondering why anyone would go to the trouble of using an API instead of Zapier, the simple answer is that an API is more customizable. Zapier’s pre-built integrations limit the information you can share between two applications. 

👉 You can learn more about using our Zapier integration here. 

Still Have Questions About How SimpleTexting’s API Works?

Our team of SMS marketing experts would love to help. We’re available 7 days a week. Text or call us at (866) 450-4185 or use the chat at the bottom of your screen. You can also schedule a demo or sign up for a 14-day free trial–no credit card required.

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