What is Twilio? Explained in 2 minutes

Written by
Luke Marthinusen

Twilio is a cloud communications platform-as-a-service company based in San Francisco, California. As of July 2022, Twilio has a market cap of $15.71 Billion. Twilio's products are used by major companies such as Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, and HubSpot.

What is Twilio?

Twilio offers developers a platform for building voice, video and messaging applications. The platform consists of a set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that enables developers to make and receive voice and video calls, send and receive SMS, WhatsApp, and email, and perform other communication functions using its web service APIs.

It's easy to set up a Twilio account to access all Twilio services from Twilio SMS to Twilio API. Empower true omnichannel communications and messaging from a single platform.

Twilio is built almost entirely on a pay-as-you-go pricing model, and the well-documented Twilio API enables developers to easily integrate Twilio into their applications.

Some drawbacks of using Twilio are that it can be challenging to understand for non-technical folk, and the platform can be complex for some developers.

Why use Twilio?

In the right developer's hands, Twilio and its extensive set of API-driven services can quickly enable personalised communications and an automated messaging system across multiple channels to apps, services and businesses. This personalised touch enhances the marketing, sales, and customer service functions and builds loyalty with every interaction.

Twilio calls its broader solution - the Twilio Customer Engagement Platform. This platform enables businesses to engage customers in a personalised way, when, where and how they prefer to communicate. Customers want to be contacted on their terms, on their platforms, and in a highly personalised way.

Twilio's single platform combines the best digital channels to build a personalised customer engagement experience for your business. Best of all, the platform is highly scalable and is viable for use in any industry.

Twilio usage cases

From calling within an application to sending boarding passes via WhatsApp. Below are a few practical examples of how Twilio works in real-world scenarios.

Calling via Twilio

Ever had to call your Uber driver from the app to clarify where you're waiting? The calling is made via Twilio. The Uber app makes an API call to Twilio to initiate and connect the call. The voice data is carried securely by Twilio and not the Uber app. The app just does the initial handshake between the Uber app and Twilio. 


Most modern CRM systems have calling functionality. Calls are initiated by the CRM user from inside the CRM application. They can be recorded and stored in the CRM for a manager to review. The secure calling, recording and voice file storage are all done by Twilio. Below is a screenshot from HubSpot CRM


Boarding passes to WhatsApp via Twilio

Have you ever requested an airline boarding pass to be sent to you via WhatsApp? Your boarding pass and a personalised message are likely sent securely using Twilio. 


Twilio functionality summary

Twilio communication channels

Messaging: SMS, MMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Chat.
Voice: Make, receive, and monitor calls around the world.
Video: Make video calls, e.g. telehealth and education.
Video streaming: Build your ideal live streaming applications.
Email: Email marketing campaigns with Sendgrid.

Twilio applications

Twilio Flex: Cloud-based call centre software for distributed customer service teams.
Twilio Frontline: Programmable mobile app for sales teams.
Account security: Identity verification via SMS, voice, email, OTP and push to prevent fraud.
Twillio Segment: Customer Data Platform aggregates customer data sources and personalises communications with the aggregated data.

And the more traditional telephony products are called Twilio's 'connectivity' products.


SIP Trunking: Connect to any country at the lowest rates.
Phone Numbers: Get local, international and toll-free numbers.
Short Codes: Send text and picture messages.

Final Thoughts

At MO, we use Twilio to integrate WhatsApp into application processes at colleges and universities. We've also used Twilio to initiate and gather contact data for insurance and banking/loan applications.

Twilio enables businesses to access true omnichannel communication; it's a very powerful cloud communication platform. 

We're working on a case study for one of our clients who process college applications using WhatsApp. Check back soon for detailed documentation of how we integrated Twilio for them.


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