Preventing "Twilio" from entering the "I don’t actually know what this marketing word means but other people use it so I’m going to try and use context clues to reverse engineer its meaning, in all likelihood poorly" Hall of Fame

In recent months, us here at FranFunnel have noticed this fantastically odd trend that we just have to talk about – Twilio.

It seems that the word “Twilio” is well on its way to entering the “I don’t actually know what this marketing word means but other people use it so I’m going to try and use context clues to reverse engineer its meaning, in all likelihood poorly, Hall of Fame” along with other legendary terms like:

• “SEO”

• “CPM”

• “Lead Quality”

• “Programmatic”

• “Content”

• “Attribution”

What the FranFunnel team feels like when we hear the word "Twilio" used most times

It seems that you can’t enter a sales or marketing conversation without someone attempting to use the term “Twilio” to describe how their business may attempt to enter the SMS game. So allow me to play my part in making sure that this term DOES NOT make it into the hall. (For you history people, kinda like the office of the Devil’s Advocate…)

What is Twilio?

Twilio, believe it or not, is a company! And a successful one at that!

Founded in 2008, Twilio went public in 2016 and has seen almost 8x increase in its valuation since IPO’ing.

Twilio has built its reputation on bringing texting to the internet. SMS was started as a protocol from one phone to speak to another using a cellular network, and Twilio is the market leader in providing an application layer to that process.

Its most popular product is something called “Programmable SMS” but it actually has a wide, wide array of products and services it offers. Some of the more exciting ones go by names like Flex and Verify.

As a company, Twilio also grows via acquisition. Most famously, they purchased one of the world’s most popular e-mail communication platform, SendGrid, last year. Consequently, their service offerings are continuing to grow and grow and grow, well beyond simply SMS.

Functionally, Twilio core competency is providing software engineers with APIs that allow them to quickly, easily, and reliably execute various sales and marketing functions. Perhaps its most popular use case is for verification texts e.g. when your bank wants to verify that it’s you. As of this writing, Twilio’s stable of customers is very impressive, with companies like Uber, Facebook, and Coca-Cola paying millions for Twilio.

How do people use the term “Twilio”?

It seems that there are a few main ways that the term Twilio is used in our world.

1) As an app“Can’t I just download Twilio to help with my texting?”

Fun fact. There’s not a Twilio app in the App Store or Play Store. In fact, Twilio doesn’t have any user facing platform for non-technical users. So, while it is true that texting can be enabled through the Twilio console, you can’t just use Twilio to text.

2) As a CRM“I’ll just keep all my leads in Twilio and text them that way”

Twilio doesn’t keep track of records. It certainly keeps track of the messages that are sent back and forth, but there’s certainly no concept of a lead or user or customer in their core products. You can’t find someone in Twilio.

FranFunnel employees when reading an e-mail with the word "Twilio"

3) As an agency“The Twilio people will help me with my texting”

Twilio doesn’t provide any professional services to non-technical users. They’re happy to assist developers in using their platform, but they don’t have any experts assigned to help you with texting strategy and tactics. And they certainly won’t send messages for you.

4) As magic “I’m not sure, but I think Twilio does that.”

This one may be the closest as Twilio feels magical sometimes, but it’s grounded in a heck of a lot of reality! They don’t create things our of thin air, and they aren’t a quick fix for your sales and marketing ills.

What’s the correct way to characterize Twilio?

The first step to demystifying Twilio is realizing that while it is true that they are the best-in-class provider, that they actually have many competitors who do something similar. Companies like Bandwidth, Nexmo, Plivo, and Sinch look and feel exactly like Twilio. (We at FranFunnel are big Twilio fans, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only answer!) And as much as Twilio could be on its way to the generic trademark game with Kleenex, Band-Aid, Speedo, and Thermos, it’s not there yet.

Secondly, we need to talk about who can use Twilio. The answer is that Twilio is for: SOFTWARE ENGINEERS to DEVELOP APPLICATIONS that COMMUNICATE WITH CUSTOMERS. Here is a screenshot from the Twilio homepage:

It literally says that it’s built for developers. If you’ve gotten to this point in this article, it’s a near virtual certainty that you are not a developer. You can’t use Twilio.

Twilio is an unbelievably impressive company providing best-in-class communication tools for tech enabled businesses. It requires an intense knowledge of computer code and a commitment to maintaining the relationship between Twilio and your business on a go-forward basis. Put another way, you don’t just set and forget Twilio. You work with it all the time.

It’s an engine to put in your car to get you where you want to go. And assuming you have the right driver and mechanic, there’s no reason that won’t happen.

Eli Robinson is the General Manager of FranFunnel and the COO of Metric Collective. He always keeps his Twilio in his pocket in case he needs to use it in a pinch.

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