APIs or Application Programming Interfaces are one of the recent and hot tools in the arsenal of the marketers. APIs are basically set of clearly defined communication – subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools – between different software.
An API helps in developing computer program by providing all the building blocks, which are then put together by a programmer.
One example of this API integration hack is Facebook login. Many websites integrated Facebook Login API when Facebook made it open to use. This step not only boosted the growth is users for Facebook but also helped the startup to gain credibility and optimised onboarding process. Moreover, the Facebook widgets and plugins have further helped to drive traffic to Facebook. For some large companies, API business match or even exceed their original sales focus: Salesforce – 50%, eBay – 60%, and Expedia – 90%.
Core Product APIs and Growth Hacking APIs
Let’s first talk about core product APIs such as Mixpanel, Segment, and Stripe. Growth for these companies will be a function of a number of API calls. While these companies have employed several innovations in APIs, it’s different from the usage of API for growth hacking, as in this case, the prime objective of APIs is to add values to existing applications.
As a growth hacker, we are more concerned about the APIs that helps in attracting more users (or drive AARRR). Taking some cue from Guillaume Balas of 3Scale, who is expert in API marketing and business model, we can say that there broadly two types of such cases:
- Projects the product:
Extends the functionalities of product. For example, Salesfore.com has 1000+ apps that increase the customer spend and indirectly increases the number of customers.
- Promotes the product:
In this case, the API has a direct revenue impact. For example, the widgets of Facebook help in the content creation and driving users to the site. Further, Twitter gets 75% of its traffic from APIs.
Let’s dig deep into this topics through examples.
Airbnb API Integration with Craiglist
This is probably the most famous example of growth hacking. As Craiglist has a massive userbase, Airbnb offered users who listed their properties on Airbnb to post on Craiglist, where people who wanted an alternative to hotel accommodations looked for listing. Once these users visited Airbnb, they used to find the listing at the app 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.
In order to make the users share the listing easily and make the listing standout on Craiglist, the API build the Airbnb team did fantastic jobs. 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 personalised 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 for downloading the uber app. This API allows users to experience all the Uber app’s utility by API. When the API was launched with the affliate program, Uber used to pay USD 5 for every new rider signup.
For Uber, the API was a big growth factor. Just by allowing developers to get access to Uber resources, Uber could capitalise on a large variety of channels such as content producing mediums, deal websites, and gaming websites.
There was an integration with Baidu Maps in China and Help Chat in India. Then, there was a big integration with Facebook Messenger, which made a lot of news. One distinct example was integration with United Airlines. Built on top of Uber API, this integration also included deep linking to Uber app. Even Uber’s former rival and now partner, China’s Didi had integration with the messaging app – WeChat that allowed users to book cabs.
This is a thriving channel. I would have detailed some APIs that we have built, but I can’t make that information public at the moment. I would love to hear what API hacks worked for you in comments.