Connecting to Social Media APIs

Connecting to APIs makes for a better experience

 

As I have spoken about in the past, the social media modality triggers deep aspects of our psychological nature. Through social media you are exposed. People know what you’ve posted and what you like. You know how many of your friends, and what friends, like a product or idea. It activates cognitive biases like in-group favoritism and the consistency principal.

This is good for the owners of social media platforms. Clicking into cognitive bias is addictive. This fact is not lost on these owners. They utilize web technologies like JavaScript AJAX to display in new posts without the visitors to the site having to take any action, a la the endless news feed. That constant (re)inforcement of in-group and consistency principals combined with the Zeigarnik effect (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeigarnik_effect), where folks are inclined to finish an uncompleted task, makes for an extremely compelling case for adding social media elements and techniques to your content.

This is great. Utilize social media in your messaging and you too can tap into this amazing marketing resource. The only problem is that Facebook and Twitter and all other social media platforms are doing it on someone else’s website. Visitors are not clicking on your buy now button if they’re on the facebook.com domain.

 

Social Media Platforms are Sharing Too

 

Luckily for us it is to the advantage of social media platform owners to share their content. They do this through a standard web development mechanism called the application programming interface (API – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_programming_interface). As per Wikipedia, “an application programming interface is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building software applications.”

Whoa, what does that mean? APIs take the content from web services and break it down into discrete pieces. For example, you can connect with the Facebook’s Graph API and get information about users on facebook.

 

As facebook describes it on their overview page (https://developers.facebook.com/docs/graph-api/overview) The Graph API “is a low-level HTTP-based API that you can use to query data, post new stories, manage ads, upload photos and a variety of other tasks that an app might need to do.” That’s a long way of saying that you can get (literally using the GET method) information from Facebook through http. HTTP is most commonly utilized in a browser. The webpage you’re looking at was delivered to you via HTTP (look at the start of the location in the location bar at the top of your browser… http or possibly https (s is for security)). That means with a browser you can see information from the Facebook Graph API. You can also get this information via programming languages like PHP, JavaScript, etc. Check out the reference here: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/graph-api/reference/.

 

That’s a lot of information to grab from Facebook and other platforms have APIs as well. You can take information from one API and mix it with another to create new ways to interact and consume with content.

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