Many cloud apps already have built in integration with other cloud apps. Sending something to DropBox seems to be an option in every app.
But there’s always something missing. So if you’re using a lot of cloud apps and want them to work together, you have to look at task automation services like IFTTT (If This Then That) and Zapier. Even if you’re chained to desktop apps, in some cases you can get some help keeping those aligned with your cloud apps with these services, too.
Which one to choose? It depends on what you want to do. Both work with hundreds of apps so your first step would be to review those to see if they partner with the apps you want to use (lists for each here – Zapier, IFTTT).
But one big difference is that IFTTT has iPhone and Android plus lots of “smart home” integrations. IFTTT also has a mobile app and new “DO” apps that perform simple tasks like emailing yourself reminders, quickly sharing photos or turning off the lights in your living room.
Zapier doesn’t support mobile operating systems or have any mobile apps but it does support many more business related apps than IFTTT. Plus, Zapier offers enterprise level subscriptions so it can be used with Exchange, Amazon Cloud – even SQL Server.
Another difference is that IFTTT is totally free. Zapier offers a limited free service with paid plans starting at $20 per month that give you more Zaps, tasks and faster actions (5 minute “delay” versus 15 minutes). If you’re looking to get the most out of your business productivity apps, the Zapier paid plans make sense.
How It Works
For both, the process goes something like this: Pick a “trigger” app, define a task you perform in that app and finally, pick an “action” app where you want a “reaction” to your trigger to occur. What you’re doing is creating a conditional formula: If this happens, then that should happen.
An easy way to find a formula is to specify the two apps you want to work together. For example, on Zapier, I’ll pick Twitter and DropBox from their “Zaps” collection (pre-made formulas) because I want to save a copy of all my Tweets in a file in DropBox. On IFTTT (shown below), the process is similar except I’ll put the two apps in the “Recipe” search box. Then I’ll scroll to find a Zap/Recipe that matches what I want to do.
What if there’s no formula (or you can’t find one)? Search online for what you want to do and see what comes up. Someone somewhere is likely to have already created a formula for the same thing.
So some tips and ideas for how you can use these:
Figure Out What You Really Need
- The sheer number of apps and formulas can be overwhelming so start with apps you currently use.
- Think about redundant actions you perform like signing into multiple social accounts to post or copying contacts from one place to another.
- What is it that you’re always wishing you could do that your app doesn’t have? Maybe things like text alerts, email notifications, automatic copy/paste from one app to another.
- Don’t forget to check if an app already has the functionality you’re looking for. Most social networks have several options for email alerts for example. And I was going to mention Google’s appointment reminders via text but they’re discontinuing those at the end of June 2015. If you relied on that, maybe it’s time to look at one of these automation services.
Social Network Posting
No WordPress blog with plugins? Don’t use a social management tool like Hootsuite? No problem. There are plenty of formulas that will cross post for you. Choose a “base” network, let’s say Facebook, and set up triggers to also post to Twitter, LinkedIn and so on.
You can also set up automatic retweets (I’ve noticed some people do this for my posts – thank you very much!) or replies and auto posting from curation apps (e.g., if I put an article on Pocket, post it on LinkedIn).
If you’re using email marketing services like MailChimp, form tools like Wufoo or run webinars or events, create a trigger to send new emails to a spreadsheet, a list/note/storage app or a supported CRM. It can work the other way, too. Add a contact to your CRM and send it to your email marketing service to keep your list up to date or to a spreadsheet to use for other purposes.
Send emails from any email app to your Zapier or IFTTT email address then let their parser extract contact information. Ideally, you want it to go into your CRM but if you’re not using one of the supported CRMs, you can send it to a DropBox file, Evernote etc… to retrieve later to add to your CRM.
Email and Text Alerts
You can send yourself email or text alerts (the number per day is limited for SMS) for just about anything. Some useful formulas to try are those that send emails as text messages or alert you via text when an email from a specific sender’s email arrives. You can get email or text alerts for appointments, task list items or when new activities are posted to a project you’re collaborating on.
You can keep on top of news, too. Set up a daily email digest from your Feedly account or an email or text alert for Tweets about a company or from a specific user.
There are also several formulas for sending voicemail messages (from Google Voice or IFTTT/Zapier phone numbers) to email and SMS.
Tip: If you’re using POP email or your mail app is not supported for some of the formulas you want to try, have your business emails retrieved at specially created Gmail account. (If you have a Gmail account already you could use it but your formula would be more complicated if you just want to use this for business emails.) Just make sure that the option to LEAVE mail on the mail server is checked. Then you can use this Google account for various email tasks and continue to use your regular email app (Outlook users, I’m talking to you!).
Unfortunately, you won’t find many formulas for most CRE cloud apps (ahem…developers…get on that, huh?), desktop standbys like Act! or Outlook or most any CRE data service. But Gmail and Salesforce users can have a field day with these formulas especially for CRM and marketing integrations.