Increase API Adoption: Thinking Like A Marketer

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by Ron Huber|CEO

Photo by Brodie Vissers from Shopify Burst

Traditional developer portals act as single points of access for developers looking to use an organization's API offerings. But modern-day developer portals, which are now commonly referred to as API portals, need to do so much more.

According to Gartner®, “API portals ensure that developers can discover and use your APIs, but often fail to drive API adoption due to poor developer experience. Application leaders should deliver separate targeted internal and external API portals to enable optimal developer experience and adaptive governance.”

The proposed solution by Gartner? To build API Portals That Drive API Adoption Among Internal and External Developer Communities.

Building a robust API portal from scratch is difficult and time consuming. Today, platforms like Apiboost have made standing up professional and inviting portals at cloud speed a cinch. But launching and marketing an API portal to third-parties can still be a daunting process.

In this article, we’re delving into the five API portal promotion strategies we recommend.

1. Remember That Modern API Portals Aren’t Just for Developers

With digital transformation on the agenda of every forward-thinking brand, the role of the API portal has changed. Gone are the days of API portals housing code and documentation for developer eyes only.

With the growth in usage of APIs and the API-first methodology taking root, particularly at the enterprise level, developer portals have morphed into API portals. These modern platforms act as a way for businesses to drive innovation, revenue, and collaboration among developers as well as other stakeholders.

In fact, what we’re seeing is APIs becoming products that serve developers, marketers, and C-suite players alike. This is in line with Gartner guidance to software engineer leaders on productizing APIs.

In their report, ‘Top 10 Aspects Software Engineering Leaders Need to Know About APIs’, Gartner Analysts Shameen Pillai and Mark O'Neill advise software engineering leaders to, “treat APIs as products by creating the role of an API product manager to promote a consumer centric product mindset for APIs”. [Also,] Software Engineering Leaders should “improve the visibility, roadmap and interoperability of APIs by managing the life cycle of APIs.

With this trend in mind, be sure to offer features that will entice developers, as well as their non-technical colleagues.

2. Take Content Marketing Seriously

Technical documentation lives at the core of an API portal, and producing good docs is a strength of many IT organizations. For example, Divio, an open-source company that maintains the Django web application framework, has compiled a best practices guide that's seen wide adoption across the industry.

Divio’s "grand unified theory of documentation" holds that your docs should cover four different use cases: tutorials (learning-oriented), how-to guides (problem-oriented), explanatory (understanding-oriented), and reference (information-oriented).

While great technical docs are fundamental to retaining devs interested in your product offerings, effective portal promotion requires exploring other ways to reach the developer community. And developers can be a struggle to connect with, they can smell marketing-speak from a mile away and are typically turned off by marketing content.

But content marketing is still a highly effective strategy to reach developers. The secret is to reach them where they stand.

Developers work in a rapidly changing professional environment that can be exhausting for them to keep up with. Help them with content that includes what people are doing with your APIs or your technology. Write case studies, mention success stories, and interview developers who are using your technology.

Developers spend a lot of time reading, and respond well to video series and podcasts that allow them to take a break when the content is relative to trending topics, news, and interesting questions. Just make sure your dev portal is a side dish in your content to avoid a promotional tone.

Plus, traditional content marketing techniques like reaching out to publishers and newsletters in relevant spaces and offering to write content for free or asking about sponsorship opportunities are often effective strategies to reach developers.

3. Build and Promote Your API Ecosystem—Not Just Your Portal

An API portal is a key part of your organizational infrastructure, but it shouldn’t be your final goal. Instead, focus on building and promoting your API ecosystem. APIs should be classed as products that can be promoted to consumers along with the capabilities of the enterprise, eventually creating a larger API ecosystem.

In today’s digital world, no organization can build every aspect of their platform or service on their own. Instead, they rely on third-party APIs to help fill the gaps. An API ecosystem encourages collaboration, providing value for both internal and external resources. This helps foster community growth, which leads to further creativity and innovation.

An API portal should provide documentation and tools that make promotion even easier, attracting organizations to the ecosystem, rather than having to constantly promote. It’s important that organizations also use an outside-in approach to build an ecosystem by looking for ways to solve business needs, understanding what the market wants, and building APIs to fulfill that demand, rather than simply building APIs that offer little to no value. 

4. Don’t Forget About Developers!

Developers consume massive volumes of information in their day-to-day work routine. Much of the time, these developers don't know what they need to know before they encounter it and so rely heavily on websites that are good at surfacing new techniques, products, and workflows while helping them separate the grain from the chaff.

If done right, these niche channels can pay huge dividends:

  • Reddit: Dev-focused Reddit subs are bustling with developers looking to explore new technologies and APIs. The /r/webdev subreddit alone has some 750,000 subscribers. Reddit's algorithm promotes posts based on their engage - number of responses and upvotes. Promotional posts are often downvoted out of view, so focus on engaging in conversation, adding insights, and telling stories along with dev-focused articles as your top-level posts.

  • Quora: A channel like Quora can be an effective place to get the word out. Answer relevant questions thoughtfully and in-depth with a link to your portal, and you'll stand out from the torrent of low-value promotional answers on the platform.

  • Product Hunt: When your API portal is ready to launch, adding your site to ProductHunt can help gain mindshare and visibility. You only get one chance, so do your research first.

  • Directories: API directories are lists of publicly-available APIs with search features to help developers discover resources. It's worth taking the time to list your offerings on directories like ProgrammableWeb, RapidAPI, and APIs.io.

  • Catalogs: Catalog sites like Rakuten RapidAPI are similar to API directories and provide additional tooling for devs to work with service offerings like testing and monitoring.

5. Leverage Social Media

Twitter is incredibly popular with developers because its short-form content makes it easy to scan a large volume of information and engage with others working on similar problems. The platform also has an incredibly vibrant developer advocate community. And while developers will follow a company page, they interact with people. However, a high follower count isn't necessary to use the platform effectively.

Just be a part of relevant discussions, easily surfaced through following relevant hashtags. Research the hashtags that are relevant to your portal, set up alerts for them, and use them to start discussions.

LinkedIn is an important channel to ensure that your portal is discoverable (via its profile), but building a following or using sponsored postings are important to get your message out on this platform to developers. New feature announcements, beta programs, and links to quality dev-focused content are good choices for sharing on your LinkedIn channel.

Reusing your video content on YouTube, or making it your primary distribution channel for video content, is a great way to reach developers. While most general channels fare better on the platform with fewer channels and more attention, dev-focused video content should be organized by topic in separate channels, preferably in sequence to encourage developers to keep watching and engaging. You can also make it easy for them to share your best content on other platforms.

6. Host, Attend, or Sponsor an Event

Developers typically love webinars and tech conferences because they offer the opportunity to interact and connect with others in the industry. The pandemic has made hosting virtual meetups truly normal.  Writing code can be an isolating experience at times, and the opportunity to engage professionally with others in a social atmosphere is appealing.

Tech conferences range from small to huge and often offer opportunities to speak or for sponsorship. Meetup now allows virtual meetups and can be used for recurrent get-togethers centered around a relevant technology or industry. Webinars offer another effective tool to educate potential users about how your product works and your unique value proposition in a friendly and laid-back setting.

Apiboost: An Enterprise API Portal Platform Primed for API Monetization

Focusing on organic engagement with the wider development community and including developer-focused content marketing in your efforts is an effective way to grow the user base of your API offering.

By working to include developers within your own organization in your developer marketing efforts, you’re likely to build velocity in delivering messaging that entices third parties to discover your APIs.

Apiboost is a cloud-based API portal platform with rich functionality and high extensibility. As well as providing functionality for building out flexible catalogs for your APIs, Apiboost lets you productize APIs through Product Optimizer and enable people to collaborate in teams with Team Builder.

With Product Optimizer, your APIs can become shoppable products controlled at a Product Owner level, enabling authorized administrators to add new content, descriptions, blog posts, video, events, and even discussion forums to help educate third parties about your APIs.

With Team Builder, administrators can manage collaborative environments with assigned roles and permissions. This is great for assigning apps and products to departments, partners, and customers for effective development, all while securely exposing data to team members who are authorized to see it.

Learn more about our API portal and how Apiboost can help you engage with developers better, schedule a demo with us.

 
Gartner, ‘Create API Portals That Drive API Adoption Among Internal and External Developer Communities’, Akash Jain, Mark O’Neill, November 19, 2020
Gartner, ‘Top 10 Things Software Engineering  Leaders Need to Know About APIs’, Shameen Pillai, Mark O/Neill, May 27, 2021
Gartner, Quick Answer: What API Approaches Should Software Engineering Leaders Take?, Shameen Pillai, Mark O’Neill, May 28, 2021
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

 

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