Automating the Web
I have to admit. When going through my files to pick which digital product I would review this week, Zapier popped into my head and I immediately flung the idea away. Why you ask? Well, Zapier has been a jealously guarded secret. It’s affordable, efficient, and makes the perfect secret weapon for wowing clients. But, if I am going to hold true to my mission, I had to test my mettle and tell you – oh reader – about this service so you can utilize it for yourself. Even if I don’t get to take credit for it.
What the hell is an API anyway?
API stands for Application Programming Interface. There are many types of APIs, and really, getting into the technical details isn’t really the point of this digital product review series. But an API is a way of ordering data through code so it can “communicate” or at least “transfer” with another program. Like data pipes (think Unix Pipes which Zapier self-professes its based on). So, as you can see from the very clever and very clear branding, API development is at the heart of Zapier (zAPIer). But, Zapier takes the “development” out of it and simply leaves you with connection options (244 and counting) between a wide range of popular applications and services (Basecamp, Quickbooks, Gmail, MailChimp, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Foursquare for example). Called Zaps, these connections are one click away (you simply connect your account usage from each service). Many of you have probably set up an automated connection between Facebook and Twitter though Facebook’s official app (application! gasp.). Well, you’ve used an API-like Zap..because the data was being pushed from Facebook to Twitter in an order way as to be understood by both and it only took a click. Capiche?
So I can make a connection, so what?
It would be hard for me to really go through all the possibilities that you could use Zapier for. But, just like Zapier’s tag line says, its about automation. It’s about building your own ecosystem of applications and services that communicate with each other. These connections or Zaps at the very least take a away the need for remedial tasks, such as redundant data entry and at the very most, create an automated system that helps you run your business more efficiency and more effectively…with better leads, better sales, and more profits.
Ok, Ok. So what’s your favorite Zap?
Recently, a client approached Southern Tide Media to make an automated connection between an emailed web form (SurveyMonkey) and give them the ability to upload document files, which when submitted would send the results to a Google Doc spreadsheet and the attached files to Google Drive. And Voila, we did it all with Zapier.
Take a moment to imagine the same scenario described above without the Zap automation in place. A user would submit the form with attached files. A WorkerBee would then have to log into their Survey Monkey account and grab the data and files. Upload the data (by hand, point and click) to the Google Spreadsheet, and then upload the files to Google Drive. And there would need to be some kind of manual filing system in place so the WorkerBee could associate that file back to the user who submitted the form. Ugh. I’m already confused and disinterested. Poor WorkerBee.
But, with the automation in place, it’s all pushed, stored, and filed. Nice and neat. There’s even a link in the Google Spreadsheet to that User’s submitted files in Google Drive.
One final thought
If I were you and all of this is confusing, I would simply go over to Zapier.com and start exploring their existing connections (Zaps!). It’s fun actually. It’s an affordable service. They actually have a free tier. Go check it out.