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Most of us have heard the term API in relation to our favorite social media platforms. Remember when it was a big deal that Instagram opened up their API? That meant that there would likely be some cool apps on the horizon that helped you do things you wished the Instagram app already did (like repost photos or schedule posts). You may have anticipated new things, but did you really know what it meant for Instagram to open up their API?

Before we tell you how APIs can help grow your business, let’s talk a little about what APIs are and how they work. (And if you’re already tech savvy, you can skip down to the four ways to grow your business with the power of APIs.)

API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs are a way for programmers to communicate with other applications or websites. The API of a website or application contains protocols for how others can exchange information with it.

So, let’s say you want to build an app and you want to use data from another app or program. You’ll need to call that application’s API and communicate with it in its own unique language in order to do so. Simply put, the API is the middle man between the programmer and the application.

Most apps that rely on data from other sources use open APIs. APIs allow us to build amazing tools that take the information we need and deliver it to us in the way we want it. Whether it’s a notification on your phone, an app on your tablet, or a dashboard you log into at work, there’s an API for that!

Knowing what an API is, does this pique your curiosity or open your eyes to a world of possibilities? Whether you’re creating internal use software for your own business or client- and user-facing software and apps, APIs could help you and your clients do more.

So check out these four ways to grow your business with the power of APIs and see if any of them spark some new ideas for you.

Opening up Your API

The first question that might come up is, why would you let someone making an app or product profit from the use of your data? Well, a lot of cool things have been built using APIs. If opening up your API and sharing data enhances your product, brings new users or customers to you, or re-engages users, then opening up your API is a win-win for everyone.

When Twitter opened up its API, a new application (Tweetdeck) was built on top of the platform that enhanced the user experience. This Chrome app drove new users by the hundreds of thousands and was eventually purchased by Twitter. Opening up your API could mean other developers spend time and money delivering features your users want that you hadn’t thought of or don’t have the resources to build.

When Walgreens opened up its photo prints API, developers immediately started building on it. One app, Printicular, allows users to send photos from their other apps to be printed at their nearest Walgreens. This story is another example of how opening up your API could mean re-engaging customers or driving new business right to you.

Packaging and Selling Your API

In some instances, monetizing your data might be better than opening up your API to everyone. Packaging and selling your API is a great way to establish partnerships with other companies, so you can monetize your data and know exactly who is using it.

Build a New Product Using APIs

What if you could offer a new service or app that was built off data already being collected? That’s the beauty of APIs! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can use data that’s already being aggregated for new and innovative products and services.

Think about all the things Alexa can do using APIs. (In case you aren’t familiar or don’t remember because of your Halloween sugar hangover, Alexa is the voice-controlled system behind Amazon’s Echo speaker, a device that can play music, search the Internet, and even do simple things like dim your lights, all with just the sound of your voice.) She can tell you the weather, read the news, order an Uber, or order items from Amazon Prime. Alexa’s magic and utility are powered by APIs.

With the Internet of Things and all the digitized products today, the capability of APIs continues to grow.

Enhancing Your Product with APIs

There are lots of ways to enhance the user experience, streamline your processes, or improve operational efficiency by using APIs. APIs can allow your internal software to interact with mobile applications, so your salespeople can access information on the go. They can also allow you to access outside data that help your users, like accessing Google’s API to allow users to add appointments to their Google Calendar.

APIs offer up a world of possibilities, whether you’re trying to build something or you’ve got data the rest of the world would love to tap into. They can offer growth opportunities by allowing developers to enhance your product and send more users or customers your way. They also allow you to tap into data that already exists, so you can streamline processes and make your own people or processes (or both) more efficient. APIs may also help you find new uses for data you’re already aggregating.

Either way, APIs represent a collaborative, data-driven future. And you and your business could be a part of that.

Curious to learn more? Set up a free chat with some of our experts here at RTS Labs. We’d be happy to discuss options with you. And if you come away with even one new idea from the conversation, you’ll know it was time well spent.