Community Manager Tip: Automate Tasks

This is one of those things that can be hard to make the time for, and it is more technically challenging than many other community management tasks, but over the longer term it can really pay off in time savings. Think about those repetitive tasks that you do over and over – monthly community metrics come to mind as one of the most common examples. I started really looking at the time it was taking me to compile my monthly metrics, and I vowed to start automating as much of it as I can. Right now, I’m getting close to having most things at least partially automated.

Here are a few ways to automate your community tasks:

  • APIs: Many APIs are easier to use than you might think and can be a great way to suck data out of commonly used services like wikis. You can often format a URL and get a file without any programming required.
  • Database queries: Yes, I’m picky, but I’m almost never happy with the reporting tools in community software, and I always end up needing a few database queries. If you don’t have the technical skills, find a geek to help you write a few queries that can be set up to automatically run every month and email you the results.
  • Scripts: I have one gigantic shell script and a couple of smaller ones where I dump a bunch of commands that run other stats gathering programs, do database queries, download data into files (parsing if needed), etc. This requires a little programming knowledge, but it’s easier than it sounds.
  • Schedule: Many web hosts make it easy to schedule your scripts to run every hour, day, week, month or on some custom schedule with a nice, user-friendly interface into cron (which can be incomprehensible to some people in its native form).

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

Image by hobvias sudoneighm used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

One thought on “Community Manager Tip: Automate Tasks”

  1. I am so glad you didn’t say automate the community! I feel that the reporting/tracking should be done by a third party. Having a third party run tools like Radian 6 allows for someone that specializes in Social Research to build a report for the brand manager on a regular basis. A fresh set of eyes often sheds light on issues that would otherwise not be seen clearly. I know SM departments don’t even exist at many companies, and when they do exist they often don’t have budget. Hopefully Social Research insight teams will become an extension to Community managers. IMO the less automated a research tool is the better the tool ends up being which is why I say 3rd party.

    Mike Handy
    Helping community managers do what they do.

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