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Automation Rules for Beginners

Written by Molly Talbert | on November 18, 2015 at 10:30 AM

Automation rules are crucial for community managers -they alleviate daily or repetitive tasks while encouraging member behavior you want to see. If you're lucky enough to have a community platform that supports automation rules - congrats! When you’re starting out, it can be difficult to know where to begin and scary to let go of the reins.

There are so many different directions to take - what are the basic automation rules everyone should know? And what’s the line between helpful and annoying rules?

What automation rules can do for communities

An automation rule is simply a setting or group of settings that follow a member’s actions within the community, most commonly with emails. There are many combinations, but basically, you set up an automation rule like this: If X happens (i.e. if a new member posts for the first time), then make Y happen (they receive a welcome email).

When appropriately used, automation rules streamline your job, reduce tedious tasks and keep your community moving forward. It’s important to remember that an automated system isn’t a static and unresponsive member engagement strategy. We encourage all community managers to inject their organizations’ voices (as well as their own personalities!) into each automation rule and email campaign. You are streamlining the process, not creating customer service bots.

For a deep-dive into how automation rules can help you with member motivation and improving engagement, read our eBook with Feverbee, "Using Automation to Support Motivation in Online Communities."

Here are a few tried and true rules for any community manager to apply, from beginners to well-seasoned experts. To make the rules easier to scan, we’ve put them into several categories based on communication or member type:

Engaging new community members

  • “Introduce yourself” thread. When someone first signs up, it can be intimidating to jump right into a well established community – it’s like being the new kid on the first day of school. To make it easier, have an “introduce yourself” thread for new members and send them an email prompt or notification to start there. The best part: once you get a member to post once, they’re much more likely to post again.
  • Reach out to a new user who hasn’t posted in the first week. If at first you don’t succeed, try again; sometimes that first email doesn’t work. Send out another email, encouraging the new user to post on the “introduce yourself” thread again.

Check in with first time posters

  • Congratulate a first time poster who has a bio and picture. It’s a great feeling when someone posts for the first time. It’s an even better feeling when you see they have a good profile, complete with a bio and picture. Send them a congratulatory email thanking them – it shows you care about getting to know everyone.
  • Congratulate and remind a first time poster to add a bio and picture. Posting for the first time is still great, even if the profile isn’t filled out. But the chances of someone else responding decreases if they don’t have a bio and profile picture. Set up an automation rule congratulating and reminding them to fill everything out – highlight that this will help them get responses.

Reward engaged users

  • Give ribbons when a member gains a certain number of engagement points. Gamification is a powerful tool for motivating – it’s feels good to earn ribbons and triggers competition when results and leaderboards are public. Set up a rule for when a member earns a certain number of engagement points, which awards ribbons such as “Master” and “Senior.”

General communications

  • Congratulate a member whose post receives more than four replies. When you see activity you like, reinforce it. Virtually pat a member on the back when they start a good thread; make sure they know their work is noticed, helpful and appreciated.
  • Encourage people to download the mobile app (if you have it). For members who have logged in through a mobile browser five times in one month (i.e. through Safari or Chrome on their smartphone), remind them about your app.

“We miss you!”

  • For a member who hasn’t logged in for 30 days, encourage them to come back. As hard as it may be for you to grasp, sometimes people forget to log into your community. If someone hasn’t logged in for 30 days, send them a friendly reminder. Include a few recent blogs, webinars or other resources they might find interesting.

This may seem like a lot (and it can be) but these rules are basic to set up, will lighten your load and make your members feel more connected to you. Remember, the work involved in setting up automation rules is front loaded – it may take some time in the beginning, but then you’re on automation autopilot with more time to devote to other engagement efforts.

What automation rules have lightened your load and increased engagement? 

Topics: Communications, Online Community Management

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