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Twilio 101

What is Twilio, and how does it work? An introduction to the leader in customer engagement

  • vanessa thompson
    Vanessa Thompson
  • Sep 22, 2020

What is Twilio? Learn what Twilio is, how it works, and what that means for customer engagement at your organization.

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Chatting with customer support, receiving an appointment reminder, messaging a driver, video conferencing with your doctor: what do these have in common?

Twilio powers all of these communications, and more.

So, what exactly is Twilio?

Twilio is a developer platform for communications: the Twilio Customer Engagement Platform. Twilio’s programmable application program interfaces (APIs) are a set of building blocks developers can use to build the exact customer experiences they want.

The Twilio Customer Engagement Platform can be used to build practically any digital experience, using capabilities like SMS, WhatsApp, Voice, Video, email, and even IoT, across the customer journey. Twilio powers communications for more than 190,000 businesses, and enables nearly 932 billion human interactions every year.

We can wrap Twilio around our business, rather than the other way around.

Chris Wilson Shopify

Chris Wilson from Shopify said it best: “We can wrap Twilio around our business, rather than the other way around.”

Today, 9+ million developers use Twilio across more than 180 countries to continuously test, iterate on, and deploy customer experiences, as consumer preferences and business needs evolve.

While developers build applications with our APIs, Twilio manages the connections between the internet and the global telecommunications network. We call this the Super Network, and it ensures Twilio customers can communicate with their customers anytime, around the world, without fail.

Read four key considerations for choosing a customer engagement platform.

Twilio uses multiple telecommunication carriers for each route so a message or call will get through. The Super Network operates a 24/7 global operations center that constantly monitors the carrier networks, alongside Twilio’s dedicated communications engineers who optimize for changing traffic patterns. Through handling massive volumes of traffic, we are able to detect issues—often before our customers or carrier partners. We receive real-time feedback on handset deliverability through a number of carriers and destinations, and we use this data for our own routing decisions. This data-centric approach to telecom architecture is what separates us from traditional carriers, and provides our customers unmatched redundancy, uptime, and security to deliver trusted communications.

All together, the Twilio Customer Engagement Platform enables businesses to know their customer, serve their customers, and reach their customers.

The Twilio Customer Engagement Platform

Let's take a look at the key areas that make up the platform:

Businesses must continually adapt to stay ahead of customers’ changing expectations. Twilio Flex is the industry’s only fully programmable contact center platform, and lets companies deploy a broad array of customer engagement channels while providing the tools to easily create, change, or extend any part of their custom solution. Twilio Flex enables businesses to rapidly deploy tailored cloud contact centers free from the limitations of SaaS applications.

Marketing Campaigns lets companies control the look and feel of both transactional and marketing emails. The UI-based editor enables users to view and modify designs, as well as track critical metrics like delivery, open, and click through rates to drive better results.

Sending and receiving messages at scale is still difficult for a modern enterprise—but it doesn’t have to be. Twilio Messaging is an API to send and receive SMS, MMS, OTT messages globally. It uses intelligent sending features to ensure messages reliably reach end users wherever they are. Twilio has SMS-enabled phone numbers available in more than 180 countries.

With Twilio Programmable Video, teams can build secure, real-time video and HD audio applications, for telemedicine, distance learning, recruiting, social networking, and much more using WebRTC and cloud infrastructure. Use JavaScript, iOS, or Android SDKs, quickstarts, and open source sample code to launch your application in mere minutes, then customize it to meet your unique business and customer needs.

Voice is a high-value, popular channel that enables a direct human connection. Twilio Programmable Voice lets you make, manage, and route calls to a browser, an app, your phone, or anywhere else you can take a call. With it, you can embed PSTN, SIP, or VoIP calling into any app, site, or service.

The email ecosystem is complex, with many messages never reaching the inbox. The Twilio SendGrid API solves deliverability challenges so you don't worry about what happens after you trigger an email. We help you maximize your inbox placement with streamlined tools, insightful recommendations, and expert services.

Online fraud has exploded from a minor nuisance to a major factor in how businesses operate today. Twilio Verify enables customer verification at sign up and on an ongoing basis, via SMS, Voice, email, and now push notifications. Twilio Verify is a managed solution that takes care of channel orchestration and management as well as security and business logic.

Building a global network of carriers in software is no small feat. Twilio has built a global Super Network from the ground up, with an average route depth of four providers. Your message or call is guaranteed to make it to its end recipient*. This global connectivity means the Twilio Customer Engagement Platform effortlessly scales with your business.


Twilio CEO and founder Jeff Lawson addresses SIGNAL attendees.

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vanessa thompson

Vanessa Thompson

Vanessa is the director of product marketing at Twilio. She is responsible for product marketing across Twilio’s communications products: messaging, email, voice, video, and account security. She works across the business to evangelize the stories of our customers, and she is also a discussion leader in the Twilio Engagement Center.