What Small-Business Owners Should Know about IFTTT

by Kevin Casey on September 6, 2012

Is your digital life a disorganized mess? You may want to give IFTTT a try. The free service could help you manage that growing swarm of stuff you do online.

IFTTT stands for “if this, then that,” which is the service’s basic formula for automating common web-based activities. Each “recipe” contains a trigger (“this”) and a subsequent action (“that”) for connecting two different applications, such as Instagram and Google+.

The right collection of recipes could help you better organize your small business’s online activities and save you time. For example, you could use this recipe to automatically thank your Twitter followers for retweets via Buffer’s social scheduling app. For a complete list of sites and tools that work with IFTTT, click here.

“IFTTT is a helpful tool in a business context, not only for personal organization and efficiency, but also for group collaboration,” says Nick Narodny, co-founder and senior VP of business training at Grovo, which offers an IFTTT class.

Narodny notes that IFTTT can reduce technology clutter for busy small-business owners. “A big killer of productivity can be disorganization, especially in email,” he says. “By creating a couple of recipes using, say, Gmail and Evernote, you can create a filing system that runs with minimal effort on your part.”

This can be a critical time-saver if you find yourself overly distracted by your inbox, social media accounts, file-sharing, and other technology-related tasks. “The advantage is the automation — you can set up recipes to run automatically, so the system doesn’t take away your attention at hand,” Narodny says. “If you’re constantly moving documents from Gmail to Dropbox, there’s a recipe for that.”

The same principles can also work well for teams of employees and other stakeholders by helping them work together effectively without getting bogged down by routine tasks.

“[Recipes] can funnel information to one place for a group to view more efficiently. Have your team use recipes that connect a Dropbox folder or an Evernote notebook; you could send tweets or an RSS feed or Gmail files [there],” Narodny says. “The information you want to share will always be there automatically as long as the recipe is running, and everyone on your team is in the know.”

3 Helpful IFTTT Recipes

Some IFTTT users share the recipes they’ve created, so you may not need to create any from scratch. (You can browse shared recipes here.) Narodny named three that he likes for business uses:

  • Star a Gmail, send it to Evernote. This recipe is “great for keeping track of important emails outside of your mailboxes,” Narodny says. “You can also use this for collaborating on outreach emails — send [email replies] to a shared Evernote notebook, so that your team can see what kind of responses you’re getting to pitches.”
  • Gmail ‘Important’ label to a push notification. “Set up a rule in Gmail that automatically labels certain messages with ‘Important’ — maybe from a certain person or emails with certain keywords — and have IFTTT send a push notification to your phone,” Narodny suggests.
  • Break time! Narodny likes this recipe as a way to help ensure you’re not overdoing it at the office: “Set up a timer to remind yourself to take break from a project you’re working on.”