If you were to ask, many small businesses would tell you that their most precious resource is time. Not money - time. Time as an asset is scarce and we often wish that we had more of the stuff. This is why I am always excited to find online tools that can save time - both for me and for my clients.
If This Then That is not a new tool. Indeed, it first came onto my radar in 2010/11.
Don’t ask me why (probably that tricky time thing again) but it took me a few years to get around to exploring this online tool’s potential.
Then I got all very excited.
Fast forward a few years and, last week, I was talking to a few small business owners about how to maximise the time that they have available.
I realised that none of them had heard of IFTTT.
As result, I decided to write a blog post about how IFTTT can save time and increase productivity.
What Is IFTTT?
Back in 2010, Linden Tibbets started to think of ways to unlock the creative potential of existing online tools. He thought that one way could be to build a service that simplifies and also consolidates the ways in which these tools can be connected.
In a blog post explaining the rationale behind his creation of IFTTT, Tibbets states that “even with the recent increase in technical understanding and the divergence of functional applications, the useful properties of software will forever remain abstract when compared to a physical object. This is where IFTTT can help. By providing a simple logical structure, if this then that, along with two fundamental properties that fit into that structure, called triggers and actions, IFTTT enables anyone to be creative in their digital environments. Essentially it’s event-driven programming for the masses.”
In its, simplest form, IFTTT enables you to choose a trigger and then select an automated action in response to that trigger event.
How Can You Use IFTTT?
Starting to use IFTTT for the first time, couldn’t be simpler. First, you will need to sign up:
Once you have created your IFTTT account, you will be asked to select some channels that interest you. These are channels like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Gmail or The New York Times.
You are then encouraged to browse IFTTT’s recipes. Recipes are just the IFTTT commands that have been created by the company and its users. When I first began to use IFTTT I selected a few simple recipes to start.
For example, I selected the Facebook to Twitter recipe. This meant that any time I posted something on my Facebook page, it would be sent as a tweet on Twitter.
There are lots and lots of recipes to choose from including:
Everyday at 6am add today’s weather report to my calendar
Automatically add people who have mentioned me on Twitter to a Twitter list
Tweet Instagram video on Twitter with image and link back to Instagram to see the video
Remind people of a meeting
Save all of my liked You Tube videos into a Google spreadsheet
Send a SMS when an email is received with a specific subject
Copy any receipts, invoices or payments received in Gmail to Dropbox as a text file
Share liked You Tube videos on Twitter
- Get a call if someone specific sends me an email
You can also create your own recipe. For example, I wanted to create a list of all the tweets that I had favourited on my 500 Days Of Film Twitter account.
From the menu of options at the top of the IFTTT page, I selected ‘my recipes’ and then clicked the big blue button ‘create a recipe’. The following page appeared:
By clicking on the highlighted ‘this’ link, I could choose my trigger event. I was then give several options to choose from. I chose 'if I favourited a tweet’.
I was then directed back to select my ‘that’ action - this will be what happens when I favourite a tweet. I chose the Google Drive option and asked IFTTT to add those favourited tweets to a particular spreadsheet.
In a couple of minutes, I was up and running.
I can see so many great uses of just this one recipe. I can automatically collect information over time that I may want to refer back to, use in a collated article or access when I need to curate content.
I can also see that this option could help me as I gather information for my weekly newsletter.
IFTTT has been a tremendous success. As a result, the company has expanded. Now, as well as offering the range of IF options, it offers ‘DO’ products.
Do enables you to take action with a tap of a button. You can create your own personalised button, camera or notepad and run recipes right when you want to. By downloading three apps (both for IOS and Android) you can click a button on your mobile to, for example, turn off your lights, share photos over email or add something to your Evernote ‘to do’ list.
The Dangers Of Automation
This post wouldn’t be complete without a note about the potential dangers of automation. Whenever I automate parts of my business, I always take time to consider the potential ramifications.
I ask myself, will this automation make me and my business seem less human?
This can easily happen when you automate social media posts. For example, if you schedule a tweet or post that asks a question and then fail to respond to the people that engage with your question you can lose followers pretty quickly.
I always aim to automate posts that offer information and then use the time that I have saved to get more social on social media. Oh, and I never automate anything too far in advance in case what I create now is not appropriate in the future.
I love IFTTT and look forward to creating more recipes in the future. What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below!
Thanks for reading!
Take care, Jane x