The Power of Automation in Community Management

In this article, we'll explore the benefits of automation for community management and provide tips on how to effectively incorporate it into your workflow.

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As a community manager, you shouldn’t have to deal with the same boring and repetitive tasks every day. However, the reality is that running an online community involves a daily commitment to work that can become tedious and burdensome, especially as the community grows.

We have all heard about how good automation can be both for business and community management, but it’s still hard to know when it is a good idea and how to do it right

In a place where we are working to build real interest and get traction, which tasks can be automated without ruining the essence of the community? How much can you automate without crossing the line that will make your community impersonal?

After researching how community managers do automation and how it affects the community as a whole, I made a list of five tasks that community managers are automating that we are going to explore in this article.

But before jumping into the list, there’s a process to follow in order to ensure we’re going in the right direction. 

Understanding how to automate an online community

At the beginning of this article, we stated this guide was built for community managers who already had a first-hand experience with the tasks they are trying to automate. And that’s so because it’s hard to automate what you haven’t done manually

So, the first step is to determine the scope of community automation:

  • Which are the tasks you perform that keep your community alive?
  • What are your community rituals? (masterminds, weekly events, accountability sessions, masterminds, demo days, etc)
  • Which is the magnet that started your community? (a newsletter, forum, Twitter audience)
  • Which kind of content do you share regularly? Where?

After answering these questions, you might have a clearer look at what can you automate and which tasks must be handled manually. To help you get started, here’s a list of common community activities that can be automated:

1. Member onboarding

Onboarding might sound like a must for most community managers, and there’s how then we have to go through uncomfortable onboarding experiences in new the communities we join. But, onboarding is a way to help new members understand what’s going on in your community and how things work, right? 

Not for everyone. 

For some members, onboarding is unnecessary and even annoying at some point. It’s a fact that showing new members how things flow in the community could be a great start, but it also might pressure other members who want to take it with calm.

Read the full conversation on Rosie Land.

Therefore, when thinking about automating an onboarding process we need to be careful to understand how many new users need to be introduced and guided in your community. An alternative to onboarding is investing in a good community design that makes its inner spaces accessible and easy to use from the first interaction. When done right, new people get into the community and can explore the community by themselves, without the need for you to walk them around. 

Having said so, when you do decide to onboard new members, automation is an ally. Your options might vary according to the community platform you’re using. But still, here are some ideas you can steal and adapt to the space where your community lives. 

Let’s say you have a paid community running on Slack, which is one of the most popular community platforms nowadays, and a new member comes in. Now you have the chance to show your new member how to make the most of the community spaces and participate in activities. 

How to do it on Slack? Simple, you can connect your community with Zapier, and use the “New User” trigger to send a welcome message using the event “Send Direct Message” 

Your Zap will look like this:

The first message is key for user retention and very useful to boost engagement. And as community builders, It’s hard to design the onboarding process without feeling scared about overwhelming new users. Especially if you plan to automate these messages.

Here’s when the concept of “minimum viable onboarding” becomes very helpful to make people feel welcome and help them find value in your community. There’s a great resource published on Rosie Land that I suggest you read if you’re designing your community onboarding experience.

2. Newsletter

In 2022, email marketing is still standing. According to the HubSpot marketing industry trends report, marketers believe email automation campaigns are one of the most effective email marketing strategies. But when it comes to community building, a newsletter can also be a magnet to grow an audience and scale. 

But, what exactly does email automation means? Well, you can’t automate the content you write, of course. But you do can automate certain emails to feed a newsletter community with high-quality content. 

For example, you can automate repetitive messages, whether they repeat once a year, once a month, or even once in the member acquisition cycle. To illustrate this idea better, here’s a list of types of emails I’ve seen a lot in newsletter communities and are easy to automate:

  • Welcome message
  • Weekly event invitation
  • Review of past Q&A session
  • Top forum contributions of the week
  • Most voted comments
  • Weekly job opportunities

Let’s break this list down to understand how to automate it. 

So you started a new newsletter community and had your first users who decided to join. The first step would be to welcome them to your community and show them how this place can be helpful for them. 

Chances are you end up sending the same welcome template over and over again. Thus, automating this first message could be a great idea.

If you decide this is something worth automating, your options change according to your newsletter platform 👉 Here’s how you can make it using Mailchimp.

3. Events

Whether you run Q&A, meetups, accountability sessions, or any other recurring event, you probably know this involves a lot of work. Recurring events can be hard to manage, but they are part of the essence of many communities that rely on these spaces to keep the group alive.

One way to automate recurring events is using the automation built-in features included in Circle, which has invested a lot to provide a unique experience for attendees and event managers.

👉 Check out how to set up a community on Circle step by step.

But beyond creating events, you can also automate event invitations with Circle and Zapier by sending direct messages on Slack to the members who sign up for your event:

This Zap invite community members to the event (adding the event to Google Calendar) and send a direct message on Slack to all attendees.

You can also add an extra message to remind attendees 60 minute before the event starts, as it’s explained on the Circle automation playbook.

4. Data analytics

Collecting and analyzing data is an important part of running an online community, as it can help you understand your community’s needs and preferences, identify areas for improvement, and track your community’s growth and engagement. 

And although there are a lot of options to choose from when automating data analysis, I’d like to recommend Burb because it is community-focused and you can connect your favorite community platforms. Burb integrates with a variety of popular tools, including Discord, Slack, and Circle.

Burb dashboard.

In Burb’s dashboard, you can set up data tracking to collect and analyze data from your community. You can choose which community KPIs you want to track, such as engagement metrics, user demographics, or content performance.

By collecting and analyzing data from your community, you can gain insights into your community’s needs and preferences. They’ll send a weekly email report so you can stay updated with what’s happening in your community.

Also, you can set notifications when new members sign up, schedule posts, and send automated messages when members are dropping off to help you improve member retention. Awesome!

5. Moderation

Moderation is an essential aspect of community management, as it helps to ensure that community guidelines are followed and that inappropriate or spammy content is deleted. Automation tools, such as bots can help community managers to enforce these guidelines and maintain a positive and welcoming space for members.

For example, on Discord -which is one of the most popular community platforms, you can easily set up a bot to moderate your community. There are a lot of moderation bots that can help, you just need to find the one that fits the needs and guidelines of your community.

On the other hand, Circle also has moderation features. Although it doesn’t delete members’ contributions automatically, it does have automation features to manage flagged posts and deal with toxic users.

This article was written by Sofia Terlesky.

Sofia Terlesky

Sofia Terlesky

I'm an SEO content manager with over five years of experience planning and writing for blogs and social media, helping small and mid-size businesses grow organically. Now, I'm responsible for planning Unita's content calendar—ensuring we are offering valuable content for community builders and founders.