Automation rules and awesomeness should always appear in the same sentence together. Gaining a lot of community traction in the last year, automation rules have proved themselves to be the best thing for community management since the Trenta cup at Starbucks. At this year's Super Forum, an all-star panel of presenters provided some excellent tips, tricks, and genius hacks of how to get the most out of this precious, time-saving engagement tool.
Here's an aggregate of the great automation advice from our panel of community thought leaders:
1. Automation rules do not equal email outreach.
Automation rule templates are a community tool - it's a way for community managers to provide high-touch responses and feedback to their members, without having to spend hours on individual outreach.
2. Start small.
It can be intimidating to create a new automation rule, especially if it is going to a lot of your members at once. Start by using automation rules to create a list, or put together an email to your staff. That way you can dip your toes in the water, but you can breathe easy as you’re figuring out how to use the tool.
3. Automation rules may already be at your fingertips.
Some community platforms already have a few dozen best practice automation rules configured and waiting in a disabled state on your site. Trust that these were crafted to help get you started, but aren't a list of hard-and-fast rules. Check them out and adjust them to your community's needs.
4. Don't turn on all of the rules at the same time.
This is an important one, everyone! Automation rules are powerful and you want to be sure you don’t overwhelm your members. Focus on a couple of rules that will hit different demographics at a time. This way you are motivating members to perform actions that will be useful and specific to them.
More on Motivation: Check out our latest eBook with Feverbee if you want to dive into how motivation can help automation for your community. It's chock-full on the psychology and strategy of automation rules.
5. Check your progress.
A great community perk is being able to track the conversion of your automation rules. If you send out a rule asking members who have recently posted and don’t have a profile picture to upload a photo, you should be able to go back and see how many of your members followed through. Take it a step further - put that conversion information into a spreadsheet and track additional items, such as frequency of the rule (weekly, action-triggered, etc), status of the rule (enabled), and any security groups or demographics affected. This was a great idea from Super Forum presenter Laura Brook of Engaging Communities Consulting!
6. Use automation rules to track Return on Engagement (ROE).
ROI is fuzzy when you’re talking about drawing a line between engagement and financial returns. Ben Martin, CEO of Online Community Results, suggests looking at Return on Engagement (ROE). Try using conversion reports, write-back data from your AMS (if licensed), and A/B tested groups (track retention of active community members and those inactive or not in the community) to help track and prove ROE for your community.
7. Focus on first-year members.
Engaging and retaining first year members is something almost every organization struggles with. Ben Martin also laid out some excellent suggestions for using automation rules to engage your first year members, including encourage members to add contacts, fill in their profiles, and start discussions.
8. Respond to any automation rule replies in a timely fashion.
You will find your members will respond to automation rules if they appear personalized. Ginny Butsch, a HUG member and Community Manager of the Educational Theatre Association, gave a great piece of advice to ensure you respond to any resulting outreach from automation rules right away. This gives your members some positive reinforcement for engaging on your site and helps you form relationships with your members. It can also be helpful to change the “Reply to” email address to a colleague if you are out of the office for more than a couple of days.
9. The sky is the limit for what automation rules can do!
There are lots of creative ways to use automation rules outside of industry best practices. Laura Brook is a HUG MVP for a reason—she kicked off an awesome thread of automation ideas on the HUG community. Some of my favorites included the "We Miss You!" rule, a note to new members outlining benefits, reminding members that your community is mobile and reaching out to those who posted privately and encouraging them to post to the wider community.
10. Automation rules are constantly evolving.
Our fearless leader, CEO Rob Wenger, is always looking for feedback from clients and HUG community members. This final tip is to join HUG's Automation Rules Ideas community and submit your own ideas, as well as see the clever suggestions of fellow Huggers.