Twilio Webhooks Integration: 7 Easy Steps

on API, Data Integration, Tutorials, Twilio, TwiML, Webhook • October 22nd, 2021 • Write for Hevo

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Twilio brings a powerful API for phone services enabling companies to make and receive phone calls, and send and receive text messages. It allows programmers to easily integrate various communication methods and to use existing web development skills and codes to solve communication problems.

This article talks about Twilio Webhooks Integration by providing a step-by-step guide.

Table of content

Introduction to Twilio

Twilio Webhooks: Twilio Logo
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Twilio is a US-based cloud communication platform as a service (CPaaS) company that launched in 2008. It has taken the market by storm and has attracted over 200,000 active corporate customers, including Airbnb, Shopify, Netflix, Spotify, and Twitter.

Twilio allows software developers to semi-build business communication processes that enable:

  • Making/receiving phone calls
  • Sending/receiving text messages
  • Launching email campaigns
  • Staying connected with customers

Twilio also automates user verification and marketing campaign monitoring using its web service APIs.

This is a great solution if you need to exchange text messages and files inside an app, make voice and video calls, send or receive verification codes, and create one or several chatbots for your website.

Twilio helps its clients focus on their current goals, like communication with partners, customers, and employees instead of spending a huge amount of time negotiating with mobile operators to solve communication problems.

Twilio has plenty of services that can reduce the time and money spent on app development. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how Twilio can help your project with its:

  • Communications APIs for enabling messaging, voice chats, and video conversations
  • Programmable connectivity options for providing virtual phone numbers, SIP trunking, and messaging
  • Use-case APIs for powering abstraction for authentication, message control, and call routing tasks
Twilio Webhooks: how twilio works
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Features offered by Twilio

A few features of Twilio are mentioned below:

Omnichannel communication

Twilio’s APIs can help you create and monitor all types of online communication across multiple channels.

Twilio Programmable Chat

For chat and chatbot development, there is Twilio Programmable Chat. The service has a lot of the necessary features for building a well-functioning chat, and they are very easy to set up. They include displaying a person’s online/offline status, sending them push notifications, and saving the message history. Also, Twilio Programmable Chat can help with setting up the deferred message function. This is a particularly useful feature, yet one that’s still unavailable in many messengers and chat platforms.

Overall, Twilio Programmable Chat contains effective and easy-to-use solutions:

  • They help you create a chat the way your target audience expects it to be, from the simplest chats with a minimal set of features to advanced chats that even the strictest critic can appreciate
  • Apart from text-based chats, it’s also possible to make audio and video calls with the help of Twilio Programmable Voice and Programmable Video

Programmable Voice API

Programmable Voice API helps build and monitor calling systems, in addition to supporting the routing of calls to a browser, app, phone, or anywhere else you can receive a call.

Programmable Video

Programmable Video provides high-quality video connections that don’t depend on network conditions, thanks to the use of WebRTC that Twilio enhances with bandwidth optimization.

Programmable Video API is flexible. For example, it helps you to:

  • Deliver an invitation to a video call via SMS
  • Create custom layouts
  • Integrate live chat and phone dial-in
  • Follow up with email surveys to collect feedback from participants

The scope of possible applications of Programmable Video is quite wide: organizing online appointments with a doctor, conducting video conferences and seminars, providing customer service, and managing business workflows, to name a few.

Twilio Studio

Twilio Studio can be used to holistically control omnichannel communication processes. With the help of its simple visual interface, it becomes easy to create, edit, and manage communication flows, as well as fast prototyping thanks to its drag-and-drop capability. With Twilio Studio, it’s possible to address every digital communication need, from order notifications to phone trees, survey tools, and SMS-enabled chatbots.

This service was extremely useful for us during the development of a client-consultant communication system in one of our projects. We created a trigger system: when a client calls, it triggers a chain of actions for the automated client-consultant communication. This chain could be easily mapped out visually in Twilio Studio.

This logic implied two different flows: one for the client and the other for the consultant. These flows take into account various communication scenarios, and each scenario has its triggers for the consultant and the client.

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The advantages of using Twilio

As we can see, Twilio offers a lot of ready-made tools for creating communication solutions. several advantages of Twilio are mentioned below:

  • Pay-as-you-go: you pay only for the time you actively use Twilio solutions, so there is no need to sign long-term contracts. Also, Twilio offers favorable discounts for its services.
  • Easy integration: the Twilio API supports a variety of programming languages like Java, Python, and PHP, and developers start working at maximum speed.
  • Regional distribution: it’s easy to customize all the technologies to local needs depending on what country is going to see your product.
  • The international presence: Twilio services are available in more than 180 countries.

Also, Twilio services offer good scalability, top-notch security, and high-quality performance. That is why a lot of famous digital companies use their solutions in practice.

Learn more about Twilio.

Introduction to Webhooks

Webhooks are automated messages sent from apps to your devices when something gets triggered inside the application interface. They have a message—or payload—and are sent to a unique URL—essentially the app’s phone number or address. Webhooks are almost always faster than polling and require less work on your end. They’re much like SMS notifications.

A webhook is a software architecture approach that allows applications and services to submit a web-based notification to other applications whenever a specific event occurs. The application provides a way for users to register or connect application programming interface calls to certain events under specific conditions, such as when a new user, account, or order is created or an order ships out of a warehouse.

Webhooks use requirements similar to If This Then That (IFTTT) statements. When an event triggers the webhook to “fire,” it calls another external API. This allows the application to “push” the knowledge of the event to any third party, such as an enterprise architecture integration (EAI) platform or directly to other applications.

Webhooks are transmitted via HTTP or HTTPS, usually as a POST request over a specific URL. The POST data is interpreted by the receiving application’s API, which triggers the requested action and sends a message to the original application to confirm the task is complete. The data sent is commonly formatted using JSON or XML.

Webhooks are user-defined HTTP callbacks. They are usually triggered by some event, such as receiving an SMS message or an incoming phone call. When that event occurs, Twilio makes an HTTP request (usually a POST or a GET) to the URL configured for the webhook.

To handle a webhook, you only need to build a small web application that can accept HTTP requests. Almost all server-side programming languages offer some framework for you to do this. Examples across languages include ASP.NET MVC for C#, Servlets and Spark for Java, Express for Node.js, Django and Flask for Python, and Rails and Sinatra for Ruby. PHP has its web app framework built-in, although frameworks like Laravel, Symfony, and Yii are also popular.

Benefits of webhooks

Because webhooks notify other systems when an event occurs, changes are event-driven and made in near-real-time. A continuous integration system using webhooks might send a message to the security team only when a build failure is due to a security problem, for example. This can “push” information onto the screens of the security team, instead of causing them to search for it periodically in other systems. It can also allow systems to synchronize in near-real-time, instead of overnight or in a batch.

An alternative to a webhook is a polling process. A polling process has a program wait five or 10 minutes, then calls an API for a list of recent transactions, adding any new ones to a list and processing them. This assumes the API provides a list of recent transactions.

Uses and examples of webhooks

Webhooks are a simple way to make an API accessible to make or receive calls or send text-based responses to users when specific events occur within the application. Platforms that support webhooks include Facebook, Github, Trello, Confluence, and Google Calendar.

Practical uses of webhooks can include:

  • Daily automatic email reminders for meetings
  • Confirmations of processed and completed payments
  • Sync changes in customer data between applications

Webhooks are very common on the internet of things (IoT), where a sensor might notice a change in temperature and call the air conditioning system. A motion sensor could send a message to a security system or generate noise to simulate a barking dog, for example.

Setting up Twilio Webhooks Integration

For Setting up Twilio Webhooks Integration multiple frameworks and languages are available to create a webhooks function that works the same for every Twilio application. They will make an HTTP request to a URL that you provide to Twilio. Your application performs whatever logic you feel necessary – read/write from a database, integrate with another API, or perform some computation – then replies to Twilio with a TwiML response with the instructions you want Twilio to perform.

TwiML stands for Twilio Markup Language, which is just to say that it’s an XML document with special tags defined by Twilio to help you build your SMS and voice applications. TwiML is easier shown than explained. Here’s some TwiML you might use to respond to an incoming phone call:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Response>
    <Say>Thanks for calling!</Say>
</Response>

And here’s some TwiML you might use to respond to an incoming SMS message:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Response>
    <Message>We got your message, thank you!</Message>
</Response>

Every TwiML document will have the root <Response> element and within that can contain one or more verbs. Verbs are actions you’d like Twilio to take, such as <Say> a greeting to a caller, or send an SMS <Message> in reply to an incoming message.

1. Generating TwiML in your Web Application

When someone sends a text message to your Twilio number, you can send a reply back using TwiML Twilio Webhook using your configured webhook. This is the foremost step into Twilio Webhooks Integration.

2. Respond to an incoming text message

When your Twilio phone number receives an incoming message, Twilio will send an HTTP request to your server. When you use the helper library, you don’t have to worry about generating the raw XML yourself. 

Twilio can only access public servers on the Internet. That means you need to take your web application and publish it to a web or cloud hosting provider (of which there are many), you can host it on your server

3. Configure Your Webhook URL

Now that you have a URL for your web application’s TwiML Twilio Webhook reply generating routine, you can configure your Twilio phone number to call your webhook URL whenever a new SMS (or MMS) message comes in for you.

  1. Log into Twilio.com and go to the Console’s Numbers page
  2. Click on the phone number you’d like to modify
  3. Find the Messaging section and the “A MESSAGE COMES IN” option
  4. Select “Webhook” and paste in the URL you want to use:
Twilio Webhooks: Configure SMS Webhook
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Make sure you choose HTTP POST or HTTP GET to correspond to what your web application is expecting. Usually, the default of POST will be fine.

4. Backup Webhook URL

You’ll notice in the console that there is also a spot to provide a Webhook URL for when the “PRIMARY HANDLER FAILS.” Twilio will call this URL if your primary handler returns an error or does not return a response within 15 seconds.

5. Protect your webhooks

Twilio Webhook supports HTTP Basic and Digest Authentication. Authentication allows you to password protect your TwiML Twilio Webhook URLs on your web server so that only you and Twilio can access them.

6. Respond with Media (MMS Message)

To send an MMS simply add an image URL. If necessary, restart your server, then text your Twilio number again. You should receive a text message that includes an image. You can even send multiple images by adding more Media elements to your response.

MMS messages can only be sent and received by numbers having MMS capability. You can check the capabilities of numbers in the account portal or query the Available Phone Numbers resource to search for Twilio Webhook numbers that are MMS enabled.

7. Custom Responses to Incoming SMS Messages

Let’s take a look at how we might respond to an incoming SMS with a different message depending on the incoming Body parameter from the incoming Twilio Webhook Request.

Enhance Messages with Add-ons

Need more information about the phone number that sent the message? Need to analyze the message itself for sentiment or other data? Add-ons are available in the Add-ons Marketplace to accomplish these tasks and more.

Twilio Webhooks: Add-ons Diagram
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Conclusion

This article gives a comprehensive guide on Twilio and Webhooks. It also gives a step-by-step guide on Twilio Webhooks Integration.

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Share your experience of learning about Twilio Webhooks Integration in the comments section below.

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