This guest post, part of a series of platform success strategies, comes from Chuck Freedman, Director of Platform Strategy at Mashery. Follow him @chuckstar. Communicating the value of your API is a simple, but often missed, step that can position your platform incredibly well among partners. How you describe the value of your offering is important messaging that should inform visiting partners and developers why your API is worth exploring and how it brings the missing content or service to their business and/or application. What were once no-frills landing pages to API access and documentation, API portal homepages now must greet partners and developers alike, carrying the same exciting proposition that your business development and evangelism teams do. While providing a streamlined on ramp to developers, visitors to your site must also understand why your API products are worthwhile. There are no set rules on how much or how little you need to say. Like your portal, how you communicate the value of your API is unique to your product and its value proposition. It acts as a reflection of your overall brand. As we look at some examples, a common essential element is that visitors to your API portal can understand the value of your API within a few minutes of arriving on your site.
Displaying the message
Within seconds of visiting http://developer.foodessentials.com, you know their LabelAPI ‘simplifies building nutrition-based applications’. According to FoodEssentials Founder & CEO Anton Xavier, “We identified core points that we wanted to communicate and clearly address them on the landing page.” (At http://developer.foodessentials.com, the value is clearly displayed and extended with a detailed value proposition.) With a mandate to focus on what the community needed, FoodEssentials set out to understand partner and developer needs along with the value LabelAPI brought them. “We learned very quickly that once people understood the scope of data available, they got really excited about using it,” Anton told me. “It’s more important to get users using the API and engaged at a basic level.”
Crafting the message
As for building the message, I advise companies to review their existing business models and incorporate existing value that may have already brought success. Getting stakeholders together and asking a series of questions can both engage and energize others in your organization to recognize the value of your platform. Engaging partners and developers is a great way to optimize a platform’s value messaging. After all, this is the audience you want to serve, manage and build on with your API portal. Talking with partners has helped Runkeeper fine tune the messaging of its HealthGraph platform that serves over 17 million users. In fact, touting ‘instant exposure to millions of users’ is a key value proposition they effectively communicate on the homepage at http://developer.runkeeper.com/healthgraph. Runkeeper’s Platform Evangelist Bill Day says, “Partners often emphasize that access to our large and rapidly expanding user base is very attractive to them. And the ability to access a user data generated from other 3rd party apps, devices and services is proving increasingly important for a large and growing portion of our platform partners.” This value is also promoted clearly on the HealthGraph site. Along with addressing other hurdles, like OAuth for developers, Bill and the Runkeeper team continue communicating value throughout the site and other channels. “We have spent a lot of time working our partners on the Health Graph discussion group and via our @HealthGraphAPI Twitter account.” Yes, communicating value goes beyond the home page. As with HealthGraph portal, you’ll find it the context of blog posts, forum discussions and tweets. Companies post informative visuals to clarify their platform’s vision and value. Well-made videos work to present a captive message that can even reach beyond the site.
Supporting the message
With a little effort, creative messaging can put you in an even better position to entice innovation with your API. On their API portal homepage, PeerIndex asks ‘Ready to bake influence into your app?’. (PeerIndex supports their messaging with integration ideas to inspire development.) Offering their social influence data at https://developers.peerindex.com/, PeerIndex founder Azeem Azhar says “the idea of influence, that one person’s opinion can affect the behavior of others, has been around for decades He added, “understanding and leveraging the power of the influence graph is a relatively new concept.” To “help get the idea juices flowing” on their portal, according to Azeem, PeerIndex features an API Inspiration section. The section features examples of how the API is and can be used within apps. “Giving examples of how an API could be used really helps work out what can be done with the data.” Whether by simple message on the homepage or creative pages showing examples, communicating the value of your APIs invites partners to learn more. It entices developers to explore what an API may bring to their app. If an API portal is not telling visitors its value, what is it saying?