You’re used to multitasking and moving a mile a minute every day at work. As a community manager, you’ll never find a shortage of work to do. But that doesn’t mean that you should spend the bulk of your time on tasks like data entry or other work that isn’t directly related to connecting your community. Instead, you can use tools that help you work faster and make the tedious tasks of measurement, reporting, and planning easier. Then you can get back to the fun stuff.
If you’re looking for tools to expedite your workflows, look no further. Here are six tools that will save you time, make sharing your work a breeze, and make you look even more professional while doing it.
Xmind: Zen is a tool that will help you brainstorm early ideas, conversations with your boss, processes you are planning, and more. I’ve used it for everything from creating first drafts of moderation escalation flows to planning for difficult conversations with coworkers.
To mindmap, you start with a goal or idea in mind, and then you allow your mind to free-associate. You can read more about mind-mapping how-tos via LifeHacker.
How to plug it into your workflows: Here are a few places in your daily workflow that you might find Xmind useful:
- Feeling stuck? Use it for any idea that you’re not ready to commit to a project plan or proposal. Let your mind wander over what you might need to think through to bring the idea to life.
- Feeling overwhelmed? Use a mindmap to record everything that’s on your mind. Then work to prioritize and move forward.
- Writing a blog post but the idea is still unclear? You can put the topic in the center of the mindmap and organize the different arguments you want to make inside
- Map simple escalation flows for moderators inside a mindmap, like below.
How it saves you time: Instead of spending hours agonizing over ideas, commit them to a mindmap and get creative. Mind mapping helps you unleash your creativity without feeling hindered by linear thinking.
Cost: Free for the trial version, though it puts the Xmind logo on all your flowcharts. If you only use this for yourself (as I often do), that is sufficient. Desktop + Mobile package is $4.99/mo.
Airtable is an extensive database tool. You may start out using it like you would an Excel spreadsheet, but you’ll quickly find that you can integrate it with many of the apps you already use to create forms, track community member activity, and get work done. You can use Airtable for any kind of database for your community (a member directory, community dashboard, speaker list for an event, or even a content calendar).
How to plug it into your workflows: Airtable has a number of direct integrations, from Twilio (to send SMS texts to contacts right within your Airtable base) to Google Hangouts. Airtable also integrates with Zapier, so if you use Zapier, you can do things like connect Airtable to member signup forms to create a member database. You can also use it to run your content approval process, tagging members to assign them tasks as needed. You can use it to run quick member surveys via an Airtable form and gather insights in one place. I’ve used it multiple times to run member interview projects, gather insights inside an Airtable, and then analyze findings in pivot tables, without any advanced Excel maneuvering.
How it saves you time: Instead of switching between multiple tools for surveys, CRMs, content calendars, you can centralize all your work with Airtable. If you need to do advanced data analysis, Aritable has you covered.
Cost: Free for databases with fewer than 1,200 records. Starts at $10/mo for paid plans.
Note: Smartsheet does many of the same things that Airtable does, so that is another tool to explore.
If your team uses OKRs, I have a beautiful gift to give you. It’s called Weekdone. It helps you set strategic objectives, create quarterly OKRs, and break them down into weekly plans. For ongoing projects, I often refer to my quarterly goals at the start of each day to keep my focus honed.
You can use it either with your entire team or individually if others on your team aren’t so keen to share their progress publicly.
How to plug it into your workflows: If you use OKRs, this will come naturally to you. You plug your strategic objectives, and then your key results for each. Then you can create weekly plans to move forward. Weekdone reminds you of your goals and pings you to update your progress. If your team uses it, you can encourage and congratulate your other team members as they make progress too.
How it saves you time: Tracking OKRs can take hours each week, especially if you need to share back with your team all the progress you’ve made. Track them here and invite your team to see you make progress over time. If you do this manually right now and spend just 4 hours per week communicating your progress, this would save 200 hours in one year!
Cost: Free for up to 3 users. Starts at $10/mo per user for teams of 4+ and includes graduated reduced pricing thereafter.
If you work remotely, Miro may be a strategic lifesaver for you and your team. Miro allows you to gather remotely to run digital whiteboard sessions, brainstorm ideas, create low-fidelity wireframes, vote on ideas, and more. You can also use Miro for feedback sessions: invite members to a video meeting and share a board with them where they can give you live feedback and vote on ideas.
If you are a creative thinker who needs to bounce ideas back and forth before moving ahead, rather than a solo planner, this will be a big help.
How to plug it into your workflows: Use Miro as you develop strategic plans with your team. You can use it to brainstorm KPIs, create a mission statement for your community, or strategically step back and align programming with your goals.
Here's an example of a strategic brainstorm board:
How it saves time: If you’re working remotely and can’t get together with your team in person, this can save endless back-and-forth in strategic decisions or planning.
Cost: Miro is free for up to 3 boards. Starts at $12/user per month for more boards and access to collaboration features.
Asana or Trello
If you’re not already using a digital task manager and your team is wondering what you do every day (#communitymanagerproblems), Asana or Trello can help you not only prioritize your own tasks but also add followers to tasks so others on your team can gain visibility into what you do.
Asana and Trello are task management tools (for when you get to work and ask, “What do I need to do today?”), but you can leverage Asana Premium or other plugins to use Asana as a project management tool as well for when you create big plans and wonder “What will the team need to complete to reach our milestones and goals?”
How to plug it into your workflows: Use Asana as your one source of truth for all tasks you must do. For recurring work you do each week, create recurring tasks. Assign work to colleagues. Plan projects from the start using the plugin Instagantt.
How it saves time: Instead of planning your day each day, sit down at the start of the week and look at the work you have in front of you. Prioritize it and get down to business. Many community managers spend hours each day not only planning their tasks but getting derailed by shifting priorities. Asana or Trello can get you back to focusing on what really matters quickly.
Cost: Asana and Trello both have free versions that are robust. If you need more robust features, both Asana and Trello start at $9.99/user per month.
Hubspot CRM and Marketing Automation Software
Using a CRM tool can be extremely helpful for tracking communication with members. If your team uses another software for marketing automation or CRM, you should likely stick with what the rest of the team uses instead of going with Hubspot. That way, you centralize all contact information.
How to plug it into your workflows: Instead of manually tracking emails you send back and forth with your members, you can begin to track them inside of Hubspot (keep GDPR regulations in mind if you plan to communicate or track folks using Hubspot). Adrian Speyer, Head of Community at Vanilla, walks you through how Hubspot can work for you.
How it saves time: Hubspot CRM automates tracking of your member communication and allows you to pull quick reports about your communication with members each week.
Cost: Hubspot CRM is free forever, but to use Hubspot for marketing, sales, or service, it starts at $50/month.
Most of the work you do actually building community cannot be automated, but so much of the tracking, reporting, and planning of community can be accomplished with tools like these. Try a few that meet your needs, and you could save hundreds of hours each year to dedicate to building connection rather than spreadsheets.