APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are among the most powerful features of social media networks. They allow us to add both content and functionality to a website while leveraging its enormous data capabilities.
And developers have found all sorts of creative uses. For example, enabling users to log in to a Web site through their existing Facebook account. It’s an added layer of convenience and means one smaller password that people can remember.
Then you have the ability to connect to ecommerce, share live streaming events, and display your latest posts. Each of these items can be a valuable addition to a website. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s possible.
However, the option of taking advantage of a social media API should not be taken lightly. There are some risks involved and situations where it is too damaged.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some things to consider before making social media a part of your site.
Determine the Value and Purpose
The value of social media content and functionality is subjective. Another aspect that may be considered “essential” may be the opposite.
So, it’s worth taking some time to think about the social aspects you want to implement. How do they fit in with the overall goals for your website?
Ideally, they will serve a specific purpose, such as:
- Gain fans and create communities;
- increase sales;
- Powering your multimedia content;
- Enhance user experience (UX);
The answer will be different for everyone. And it will probably depend a little on the ease and cost of implementation. For example, will a particular feature require a WordPress plugin or custom code? Sometimes the benefits do not justify the costs.
If you find that social media adds real value to your website, great! Otherwise, you may want to boom elsewhere.
To Push or Pull Content?
If you have decided to implement a social media API, the next question is where that content should come from. In other words, is it something that could effectively self – host your website or should it come from your social feed instead?
Some content, such as videos, could theoretically be hosted directly. However, storage and bandwidth costs can be high. So embedding that same content from a service like YouTube may be the best option.
In other cases, it may be too high to extract content from a social media API. If your website uses a content management system (CMS), you may prefer to create content there and push it to the networks you need.
Apart from bandwidth-intensive items, your website should generate content that is critical to your mission. This provides complete control over the content. In addition, it protects you against any downtime from third party providers.
Understand the Risks
If you pay attention to world events, you may have noticed that some social media companies do not have the greatest reputation. While policies vary from provider to provider, there are some universal concerns that need to be aware of.
Using an API means you are taking some level of risk. Amongst:
While most social media APIs are technically free, there is a cost to privacy. These services will generally collect data on your website and its visitors.
The data can be used to serve relevant ads, to find out user preferences, and to generate demographic profiles. And it can be accessed by more than just that particular company. It could be sold to anyone else who is willing to pay for it.
This is an ethical and legal issue. Depending on where in the world you are (and where your visitors live), there may be compliance requirements to think about.
It’s important to know where social media companies stand for privacy. At the same time, it is challenging to have a clear understanding of individual policies and keep up with change. Still, it’s worth researching.
Keeping your website performing at its best is an ongoing battle. And the more third – party APIs you integrate, the more likely your site may be slowed down.
Even simple features like Facebook or Twitter timeline can hinder performance. Their servers may be experiencing delays or output code generating errors in the browser console.
Either way, your site suffers the consequences.
Break Uptime and API Changes
What happens when an API has a downtime? In one case, it may mean that whatever features you rely on are temporarily unavailable. This can be devastating for sites that rely on these systems.
In addition, the major social media companies are known to make major changes to their APIs. That often means you have to adjust your code (or hopefully the plugin you are using is updated). Otherwise, you run the risk of losing functionality.
Even if rare, these situations seem inevitable. So, you will want to pay close attention to the latest developments regarding the APIs you implement.
It’s also worth having a plan for how your site handles an API issue. For example, depositing things may keep going until problems are resolved.
Use Social Media API Thoughtfully
There are many great use cases for linking your Website to a social media API. They can bring a wealth of valuable content and functionality.
However, it is not always the best solution. You may find alternatives that better respect user privacy and avoid the performance overhead that comes with it.
So, before you implement an API, consider the above factors and make sure that it suits your needs.