Further fun with Twilio: two easy, clever things you can do

logos_downloadable_roundOn my last post I detailed a simple way in which you could use Twilio to be a central phone number directing on to wherever you happened to be (home, office, abroad etc). What I didn’t detail though was some of the extra stuff I’ve done with my number which underlines why I use Twilio and don’t just buy a Skype number, for example.

First up: Twilio and Zapier. Zapier is very similar to IFTTT; it allows you to feed one API into another to make something happen. A large number of services are supported and you connect them up to do things like tweet when a new Mailchimp campaign has been sent, for example. In this instance though, what I’ve done is set up a “zap” where if I text an email address to my own number, it adds that address to the Daily Digest mailing list. I often have people ask about signing up when I’m at events or meetings, so this is a perfect way to take action on that; I can just text their email to my Twilio number, and it then adds that address to the Daily Digest list, then sends a confirmation email to the subscriber. Simple, but hugely effective. In time I’ll probably buy a separate number so I can publicise the feature – ie “text your email to [number] to subscribe”.

If you do have a Twilio number, Zapier is really a must-have service as it just opens up the possibilites no end – particularly to non-developer types like myself. For example, you could have Twilio call you when one of your artists updates their Facebook page. Or you can have it text you when someone adds a new file to your Dropbox. The possibilities are endless, so do check it out.

Something else I found that could prove incredibly handy is this free-to-use app that allows you to text the number you want to call to your own Twilio number, then have Twilio call you back and connect you to the number you want to ring. If that sounds a little bizarre, let me elaborate: if I am abroad, calling the UK from my mobile could be incredible expensive. By having Twilio call me back and connect me through, I am paying $0.32/min (for Twilio to call my mobile) and a further $0.02/min (for the call from Twilio to the UK number). So, its a total of $0.34/min to chat – or 21p at the current exchange rate. If I was travelling in the USA, that same call would cost me £1.25/min to make. Ergo, there’s a significant saving to be made here.

Ultimately I think both Zapier and the call-client above highlight just how much is possible with Twilio. Even if you don’t plan to use it as a main phone contact number, for $1 and extremely low costs it is capable of delivering a huge amount of flexibility to you.

If I had one wish, its that Twilio perhaps wasn’t quite so developer-focussed. The power of the service demonstrates all the ways in which Skype falls short as a VOIP client, and from where I sit its plain to see that Twilio could be a serious challenger to them… if they wanted it to be. Right now, the subtext I get from all conversations with Twilio staff etc is basically “we provide the platform – its up to you to build on it”, which I totally understand, but which also shuts a huge number of people out.

Its also quite surprising how few Twilio apps are out there to make use of. I would have thought there’d be a huge number of open-source apps being made for people to use… but as yet, that’s not the case. I suspect that will change in time, but until then if anyone finds any good apps or directories of apps, please let me know in the comments section below.

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