Automation Rules: Getting Started

Introduction to Email Rules

1. Decide which rules you want to implement, and in which order. We designed the out-of-the-box automation rule templates to appear as if they're coming from the community manager him-or-herself. However: if you implement them all at once, you can accidentally send certain members a barrage of emails! We recommend coming up with a staggered plan for deployment. Decide which rules are most simpatico with your goals, and start with those. With our community management clients, we usually assess their organizational strategy and recommend an automation rule implementation plan based on their long-term plans, but it can be as as simple as saying, "we really want more people to upload profile photos, so let's start with that." If you're feeling extra-cautious and just want to dip your toes in the water, here are some ideas for where to start.

2. Review the associated email templates, making changes as needed. The email templates that are sent via the rules live in your Admin area under Communities>Email Templates rather than in the Automation Rules tool area. Go and check a few out now. You will most likely want to tweak the language in order to better appeal to your demographic. Go for it! Just note that the templates utilize mail merge variables; some of these must be set in the configuration area (see #3 below). We cannot recommend enough using the "Send to Me" button next to each template to check your work before going live with a rule. It's easy: just click the blue dropdown menu to select it! BONUS: We now have a link to the associated email template within each automation rule itself—making it even quicker.

3. Double-check the Automation Rule configurations. Be sure to set these before sending any messages out. Here is where you set the community manager from whom the emails are sent, as well as how frequently and when the system sends the emails when they are scheduled, a link to an "Introduce Yourself Here" thread, etc. Access the configuration area in Admin>Tools>Automation Rules>Configuration. It's simple and should only take a few minutes. Important: Your email rules will not send until you do this.

4. Implement the rules selected in #1 and their associated conversions. You will see that alongside our selection of prefab email automation rules, there are "conversion" rules. These are fantastic, because they will help you to see whether or not that automation rule inviting your members to perform a specific action has been effective. We have special reporting tools just for this, and they are great (check Reports>Automation Rules>Converted to see)! It gives you the opportunity to get tons of useful data on which rules and which rule templates work for your members and which don't. So just remember--when enabling an email rule, enable it as part of a pair. This is done in the Tools>Automation Rules menu in the Admin area. All you have to do look for the "Edit" button next to each rule and select "Add to Schedule" from the dropdown as needed. You can also toggle a rule on and off the schedule in the individual editing screen for each rule.

5. Do It Now--or don't. In addition to saving a rule and having it run automatically according to the time period set in your configuration area (there's #3 again), we have a "Save and Run Now" feature. Because our server can only handle so much data, "save and run now" will enact the rule almost immediately, while maintaining a pace that isn't going to time out. A handy guideline--if a rule is supposed to go out continually instead of only once or twice, schedule it instead of "Save and Run Now." Just use the toggle in the user interface for the individual rule!

6. Need a list? Use Data Sources! Because the automation rule criteria are so powerful, we also created a way to use them in a querying tool. If you go to Admin>Tools>Data Sources, you can create a list of contacts who fit certain criteria, just like with an automation rule, without taking any action. You can also use this function to build out more complex rules by compiling contacts into a single list, and then incorporating that list into a rule with other criteria.

Higher Logic Academy Webinars:

Automation Rules 101 -- Email Edition

60 minute webinar covering the out-of-the-box campaigns built into the system, as well as the process of setting up an email template, automation rule, and conversion tracker.

Click here to watch.

Automation Rules 102 -- Ribbons & Badges Edition

60 minute webinar covering how to configure your ribbon and badge designs, and then how to assign them based on security groups, community membership, activities, and more.

Click here to watch.

 Automation Rules 202 -- Let's Get Creative

60 minute webinar covering how to In this webinar, we'll cover how to configure your Automation Rules to do anything that a Community Manager can dream up.

Click here to watch.


Additional Resources

Automation Rules Quick Start Guide

Use this handy Quick Start Automation Rules Guide to assist you with scheduling and configuring your first automation rules.

Automation in action: Success stories from fellow HUGgers

We recently chatted with the community teams at EdTA and AARC to hear about how they’re using automation to improve the member experience (and save themselves some precious time).

Blog Post: Suggested Automation Rules for the Faint of Heart

The above blog post gives you an idea of some of the easiest, simplest, and most successful rules to start out with. If you feel overwhelmed, try some of these!

List of Automation Rules Criteria

Want to see all of your options when it comes to Automation Rules criteria? Then check out this list.