Building a Social CRM with Django and the Vonage Messages API

In this article, you will learn how to build the core feature of a social CRM using Django and Vonage Messages API. Our social CRM will help sales agents and the customer support team communicate with potential customers directly on Facebook in real-time. Let’s call it Sales Fox.

Pre-requisites

  1. Create a messages application from your Vonage dashboard. Follow the steps outlined here.
  2. Authorise Vonage to access your Facebook business page and link your application to your Facebook page. Follow the steps outlined here.
  3. Install Redis — If you’re using Linux or Mac, follow the instructions here. If you’re using Windows, follow the instructions here.
  4. Install Ngrok. Go to Ngrok download page and follow the instructions to set Ngrok up on your computer.

Now that you have the pre-requisites completed. You need to set up your development environment for the tutorial.

Project Set-up

1. Create and Activate Your Virtual Environment

Create a directory for your project and change your working directory to the directory you just created. Then, run the following commands to create and activate a virtual environment for your project.

python3 -m venv sales-env

source sales-env/bin/activate

2. Install Required Packages

To install all required packages at once, create a requirements.txt file in the directory created in step 1. Copy and paste the code snippet below in your requirements.txt file.

aioredis==1.3.1
asgiref==3.3.4
async-timeout==3.0.1
attrs==21.2.0
autobahn==21.3.1
Automat==20.2.0
certifi==2021.10.8
cffi==1.14.6
channels==2.4.0
channels-redis==2.4.2
charset-normalizer==2.0.7
constantly==15.1.0
cryptography==3.4.7
daphne==2.5.0
Django==3.2.2
djangorestframework==3.12.4
hiredis==2.0.0
hyperlink==21.0.0
idna==3.2
incremental==21.3.0
msgpack==0.6.2
Pillow==8.2.0
pyasn1==0.4.8
pyasn1-modules==0.2.8
pycparser==2.20
pyOpenSSL==20.0.1
python-dotenv==0.19.2
pytz==2021.1
requests==2.26.0
service-identity==21.1.0
six==1.16.0
sqlparse==0.4.1
Twisted==21.7.0
txaio==21.2.1
typing-extensions==3.10.0.0
urllib3==1.26.7
zope.interface==5.4.0

Now, install all the packages in requirements.txt by running the command below in your terminal.

pip install -r requirements.txt

3. Create your Django project

  • Run django-admin startproject sales_fox the following to create the Django project named "sales_fox".
  • We will create two apps in sales_fox: The lead_manager app to manage leads and the conversation app for sales agents to communicate with potential customers (known as leads). Now, let's create our two apps by running these commands.
python manage.py startapp lead_manager
python manage.py startapp conversation

Take note that in this tutorial,

  • I’ll be using the words — “leads” and “customers” interchangeably. Leads are potential customers, so it won’t hurt to regard them as customers where convenient.
  • I will use the term Project Directory to refer to the directory where you have settings.py. This directory was created when you ran django-admin startproject sales_fox.
  • I will use the term Overall Directory to refer to the directory you created at the beginning of the tutorial. It contains your virtual environment folder, the app directories, and your project directory

Let’s get SalesFox ready to use Vonage

Create a .env file in your overall directory. Define FACEBOOK_ID, VONAGE_API_KEY, and VONAGE_API_SECRET. Your .env file should look like this:

FACEBOOK_ID=YOUR-LINKED-FACEBOOK-ID VONAGE_API_KEY=YOUR-VONAGE-API-KEY VONAGE_API_SECRET=YOUR-VONAGE-API-SECRET

You can find your Vonage API key and API secret in your Vonage settings page. And your Facebook ID can be found in the Link social channels tab on your application page.

In your project directory, Go to settings.py, load the variables in your .env file using python-dotenv installed from requirements.txt. Add the following snippet in settings.py to load the .env file:

from  dotenv  import  load_dotenv   
import os
load_dotenv()

load_dotenv loads all variables in our .env file as environment variable.Now, define FACEBOOK_ID, VONAGE_API_KEY, VONAGE_API_SECRET, VONAGE_MESSAGES_ENDPOINT in your settings.py file. Simply copy and paste the snippet below.

FACEBOOK_ID = os.getenv("FACEBOOK_ID")
VONAGE_API_KEY = os.getenv("VONAGE_API_KEY")
VONAGE_API_SECRET = os.getenv("VONAGE_API_SECRET")
VONAGE_MESSAGES_ENDPOINT = "https://api.nexmo.com/v0.1/messages"

Setup Static Files

In settings.py, find STATIC_URL variable and add the STATICFILES_DIRS and STATIC_FILES beneath STATIC_URL, You should have something like:

STATIC_URL = '/static/'
STATICFILES_DIRS = [BASE_DIR / 'static']
STATIC_ROOT = BASE_DIR / 'staticfiles'

Go to your overall directory and create a folder named static. This is where you will keep all your static files. Note that you should only do this for a development environment. In a production environment, you should set up an external store like an AWS S3 bucket to serve your static files.

1. Update Installed Apps and define channel layer

We need to add channels and the apps we created (lead_manager and conversation) to INSTALLED_APPS in the project's settings.py. Your INSTALLED_APPS in settings.py file should look like this:

INSTALLED_APPS = [
'django.contrib.admin',
'django.contrib.auth',
'django.contrib.contenttypes',
'django.contrib.sessions',
'django.contrib.messages',
'django.contrib.staticfiles',
'channels',
'lead_manager',
'conversation',
]

Django channels help us include WebSocket support to Sales Fox. A channel layer introduces the use of channels and groups in SalesFox. It helps us build distributed features into our application. You can read more about channel layers here. For this project, I will be using Redis as our channel layer. We have installed channels-redis from requirements.txt. Now, let's add CHANNEL_LAYER to settings.py. Copy and paste the code snippet below:

The Brass Tacks

Now, let’s get to the real deal.

Create models for the lead_manager app. Here, we will add models for Lead and Agent. The model Lead will represent customers and prospective customers. The model Agent will represent SalesFox salespersons who will be in touch with the customers. Copy and paste the following code snippet into lead_manager/models.py:

We created a User model to represent every user in SalesFox — This could be community managers, region representatives, customer support, etc. However, to keep SalesFox as lean as possible, the only kind of users we have are the agents.

The Lead model represents potential customers reaching out from their Facebook account. The facebook_id field represents the ID of a customer's Facebook account. It is the field we need for agents to send a direct message to customers on Facebook. The Lead model also has a preferred_medium field. It holds the customer's preferred means of communication. We will only focus on communicating via Facebook.

Now, let’s create a Message model in the conversation app. The Message model represents a single message sent from/to SalesFox. Copy and Paste the following code snippet into models.py of the conversation app.

In our Message model, we have two generic relations to identify the sender and recipient of the message. The sender and receiver can either be a lead or an agent. It means only Agents or Leads can send or receive messages. Visit here to learn more about generic relations in Django.

Create a property method messages for the Lead model in lead_manager/models.py. This method returns all the incoming and outgoing messages of a lead.

In lead_manager/models.py, paste the following import statements.

Under the Lead model, create the property method - "messages" as in the snippet below:

Let’s get started with the views.

In lead_manager, we will create views to perform CRUD operations on the Lead model. Go to the lead_manager app folder, then copy and paste the following code in views.py to create the views:

In the views above, we override the dispatch method to handle permissions for each view.

Create forms.py inside the lead_manager app directory. In forms.py, define LeadForm:

Create views.py file inside a sub-folder in lead_manager named agent. And define your AgentLoginView and AgentDashboardView views.

Let us create lead_manager/urls.py and lead_manager/agent/urls.py.

Go to the lead_manager directory and create a urls.py file. Now, define URL patterns for lead_manager views.

In your lead_manager directory, go to agent folder and create a file named urls.py. Define URL patterns for agent views as in the snippet below:

From the two urls.py in the lead_manager app, you can confirm that all the views we created in the lead_manager app have corresponding URL configurations.

Now, let’s inform Django of the login URL, login redirect URL, and logout redirect URL. Add the following to settings.py

Now, let’s move to the conversation app.

Besides views and URL configuration, you will also set up a web-socket consumer in the conversation app. It will enable communication between SalesFox agents and leads in real-time.

Let’s create the lead_conversation_room view for the conversation room. Go to views.py in the conversation folder and paste the code snippet below

The lead_conversation_room view handles requests made by agents to open a conversation room with a customer.

Now, create send_outbound function. send_outbound function is responsible for sending messages from SalesFox to customers on Facebook Messenger. It takes the message to be sent and the lead facebook ID as arguments.

Because we want real-time communication between leads and agents in the conversation room, we need to create a WebSocket on the client-side and set up a WebSocket consumer on the backend.

Right in the conversation app folder, create a consumers.py folder. In the consumers.py, create a WebSocket consumer class - ConversationConsumer.

To explain the methods — For every agent that opens the conversation page, there is a call to ConversationConsumer. It results in a new channel for the agent.

  • connect(): is called when a WebSocket connection is received. Here, we add the agent's channel to a conversation and then accept the connection.
  • disconnect(): Here, we remove the agent's channel from the conversation.
  • receive(): Here, we receive a new message from the client. After which we call save_message which saves the message to our database. We then send the message as a Facebook direct message to the lead by calling send_outbound. The message is then sent back to the conversation room. At the end of the receive method, the message will be sent to every agent in the conversation room.
  • save_message(): We save the agent's message to the database here. This is called in receive
  • send_to_conversation(): We use this to broadcast the agent's message to the conversation room so that every agent in the room can see the message.

Now, let’s set up routing for our ConversationConsumer.

Create routing.py in the conversation app directory and paste the following:

Create a routing.py file in your project directory. This file holds the global routing configuration for the project.

Now, reference application in settings.py as ASGI application to be executed when Sales-Fox is served through asynchronous server gateway interface:

Let’s create an inbound view. The inbound view receives a customer's message from Vonage, saves the message, and sends it to agents in the conversation room.

Vonage sends message status updates via the status endpoint.

Since we will not be using the status information in this tutorial, let’s create a simple status view to write the request body in a status.txt file.

In the views.py file on the conversation app, copy the following to create the status view.

Let’s create URL configurations for the conversation app. Go to the conversation app directory and create urls.py file. Then copy and paste the code snippet below:

Go to the project directory and find the urls.py file. This file is in the same directory as settings.py. Now, copy and paste the following code:

Now that we’re through with the backend of our project. Let’s create the frontend files.

Go to your static folder in the overall directory and create a folder named css. In css folder, create two files style.css and chat.css.

In styles.css, copy and paste the following styles

In chat.css, copy and paste the following styles:

We will use the chat.css file for conversation room.html while we use styles.css for other pages. Now, in your overall directory, create a folder named templates and create two HTML files - base.html and index.html. You will extend base.html in every other HTML file except in conversation room.html.

In base.html, copy and paste the following

In index.html (Home page), copy and paste the following

Now, go to the lead_manager application directory. Create a folder templates and in templates, create another folder lead_manager. In lead_manager/templates/lead_manager, create five html files - lead_list.html, lead_create.html, lead_update.html, agent_login.html, agent_dashboard.html.

lead_list.html,

lead_create.html,

lead_update.html,

agent_login.html

agent_dashboard.html

In the conversation app directory, create a folder templates and in templates folder create a sub-folder conversation.

Inside “conversation/templates/conversation” folder, create a room.html file. Copy and paste the following:

Before the closing tag for the body element in room.html, we have a script that handles the WebSocket operation and message rendering in the conversation room.

Get SalesFox Running

We have now completed the development of SalesFox.

Follow these steps to get SalesFox running locally.

  1. Run redis-server to start Redis. You can safely stop the Redis server by running redis-cli shutdown
  2. Create an HTTP tunnel with Ngrok that forwards request to the port from which you’re running SalesFox. This provides you with a public available URL for your SalesFox localhost:port. Learn more about this here.
  3. Go to the .env file in your overall directory. Define a new env variable called HOST set to your Ngrok tunnel URL
  • HOST=4339-197-210-53-35.ngrok.io

4. Add HOST from .env file to ALLOWED_HOST in settings.py. ALLOWED_HOST definition in settings.py should look like this:

  • ALLOWED_HOSTS = [os.getenv('HOST'), "localhost", "127.0.0.1"]

5. Recall that we filled in dummy URLs as inbound and status URLs in our Vonage application page. Now, we will replace these URLs with the correct values. Because my tunnel host is http://4339-197-210-53-35.ngrok.io, my inbound URL will be http://4339-197-210-53-35.ngrok.io/conversation/inbound and my status URL will be http://4339-197-210-53-35.ngrok.io/conversation/status.

6. Now, go to your terminal (ensure that you’re in the overall directory). Then, run python manage.py runserver to serve SalesFox on port 8000.

python manage.py runserver 9000.

Conclusion

If you got here, thank you for building this project with me. In the course of building SalesFox, we have stuck to the minimum possible features and design. However, You can do so much more by creating more features upon SalesFox.

You can add more preferred_medium options for leads. Vonage provides varieties of communication APIs, some of which you can develop SalesFox to support. It would be worth checking them out here.

Cheers!

--

--

--

Developer content from the team at Vonage, including posts on our Java, Node.js, Python, DotNet, Ruby and Go SDKs

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

State of mobile AR development

Scratching the Firebase services with your iOS app

Everything you need to know about Databases and SQL.

Tunnel your Kafka Cluster from AWS

Just add RSpec!

Anime Metaverse Community Verses#60: What do I think of the anime metaverse?

How to implement an authentication feature using a provider in Flutter

Baby Steps Into Computer Vision

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Vonage Dev

Vonage Dev

Developer content from the team at Vonage, including posts on our Java, Node.js, Python, DotNet, Ruby and Go SDKs

More from Medium

Best Free Resources to Learn Django in 2022

Star Admin — Free Django Starter

Django Star Admin (Open-Source) — Mobile View

Mastering Django Development — Bonus Lesson: Powerful Django Rest API with Nginx, Docker…

Deploy Python Web Apps with DigitalOcean