Microsoft Flow Will Revolutionize How You Craft Your Content

What goes into writing a blog post? What is the workflow behind your content?

Every week, my manager and I will sit down and outline what content we believe we need to craft for the next few days: SEO pages, blog articles, and eBooks. Once we’ve agreed on due dates, word counts, and formats, it’s my job to create a draft that my manager will edit and pass back–so on, and so forth.

For most content marketers, the process of writing posts and designing guides is a basic reflex–a system with which they are intimately familiar. Depending on the size of their team, there may be more users involved than the scenario I laid out, but at the end of the day the basic procedure is old hat.

Still, for organizations churning out massive amounts of content across multiple channels, using myriad tools, this process is more complex and multi-faceted than it might appear. Especially for large marketing departments, it’s essential that content be delivered, edited, and posted in a timely fashion, and that social media marketers are consistently aware of new content that they can promote across the various platforms on which an organization has accounts.

In short, the orderly creation, perfection, and distribution of content touches on far more than those who have become veterans at it might recognize. The stages of the process–while taken for granted by those embedded in it–is more sweeping than initially meets the eye.

Microsoft Flow Empowers Content Creation

As Microsoft’s premiere workflow tool, Flow provides numerous benefits for businesses who are working and collaborating within Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud environment. By allowing users and teams to automate processes containing multiple applications and integrations, Flow makes it easier to manage projects both simple and complex, ensuring that users no longer have to fret over minutiae that could otherwise be regulated by the tool. As Microsoft puts it: Flow helps your applications talk to one another, and the resultant workflows allow every department from marketing to engineering to streamline and simplify the essential procedures that make the organization successful.

What does this have to do with content creation? Everything.

Say that you’ve been assigned with writing 5 or 6 pieces of content, which will ultimately need to be approved by your editor or manager. You’re under a tight deadline, and you want to make sure that everything is edited in a timely manner. When you add these pieces of content, one by one, to the SharePoint Site that you and your manager use, you could build a flow that automatically emails that manager that a piece has been added and needs editing. That same workflow could notify you once the new edited version has been added for you to look at.

In this way, your team no longer has to worry about going back and forth via email or Slack, letting team members know when a piece has been uploaded for their approval. It allows you to automate these tedious mini-steps that take time away from content creation, and perhaps even jumble communication within a large team.

But the capabilities don’t stop there. Once that piece is posted to your site, you can design a workflow that instantaneously sends out that necessary “Check out our latest content!” tweet. You can even expand that workflow to ensure your account automatically follows the users who engage with your new content via “likes” and “retweets.”

Adding a Twitter connection to Microsoft Flow

Via Microsoft Flow, content marketers are able to simplify the process of creating valuable posts, and deepen the possible uses of those posts once they are deployed. For larger pieces of content, teams can build workflows that automatically add due dates to their calendars based on emails or IMs, while building processes that notify them when a given user has completed their own portion of the project. Rather than trying to juggle the many stages of massive undertakings or the range of tools they require, Flow suggests that automation can be the route to new levels of organization and success.

Setting up triggers in the Flow interface

How Do I Build a Flow?

Part of what makes Flow so powerful is its unparalleled ease of use. When you’re looking to build a flow, getting started is incredibly straightforward:

  1. Are you building your own unique flow or do you want to make use of a template?
    • If you want to use a template, select “Templates” from the tool bar. You’ll be directed to a long list of templates which you can sort by categories-such as Productivity or Social Media-popularity, or recently used.
    • If you want to craft your own flow from scratch, go to “My Flows” on the sidebar, and-once you’re redirected-select “New.” From here, you can also import flows you’ve previously created.
  2. Creating a new flow-even from scratch-is remarkably simple. Once you hit “New,” you’ll be directed to a page containing:
    • Connectors: the applications and tools that can be part of the flow. These will vary based on what you’ve integrated, but the standard options include SharePoint, OneDrive, etc.
    • Triggers: The events that occur in one of your connectors, initiating the flow.
    • Actions: What happens when the flow is triggered.
  3. From here, all you need to do is choose the pieces that you want to make up your flow. Using the content example from the previous section, you could select “SharePoint Online” as your connector, then create a flow that says “Whenever a file is modified or added to x-SharePoint Online site (trigger), send an email to my Outlook notifying me (action)” Similarly, you could use these simple building blocks to say, “Whenever a post is added (trigger) to my blog spot (connector), post a tweet (action).”
  4. To ensure that everything you’ve saved is functional, simply select the “Flow Checker,” which will provide you with an errors or warnings that are likely to derail your flow.
Checking the flows for errors

Flow is a Friend of Good Content

For the years I’ve worked in content marketing, I’ve grown accustomed to the various stages in the life cycle of a blog post–the boxes that must be checked before any article is published, and the steps that must be taken afterwards to promote that same article. Familiar as they are, there have certainly been moments where I’ve felt frustrated with the tedium: of sending emails asking for a piece to be reviewed and waiting for responses; of logging into the five or six social media accounts on which I need to write near identical posts promoting whatever piece of collateral I’ve just finished.

Microsoft Flow recognizes the necessity of these steps, and simultaneously recognizes that that tedium needn’t be part of them. Flow allows marketers and content creators to look at their creative process, look at their responsibilities, look at their toolkit and build workflows that automate the granular tasks, allowing them to pursue the more complex and more creative elements of their duties.

With Flow, content creators are empowered to do more with their content by doing less wherever possible. For creative marketers in the cloud, it provides a chance to refocus their energy, and not exhaust themselves with the day-to-day tasks that automation could just as easily complete.

Cloud-based workflow tools may be a dime a dozen in 2019, but Flow is expanding the idea of what these tools can actually do. When it comes to creating content, writers and designers can feel limited by timing or resource constraints. Flow suggests that the only limits should be the ingenuity of the creator.

It’s bringing that closer to reality.