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Zapier Tips and Tricks to Optimize your Zaps: For Intermediate and Advanced Users

A few helpful tips and tricks I commonly use to level up my Zapier game.

By Robby TalPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 5 min read
Zapier Tips and Tricks to Optimize your Zaps: For Intermediate and Advanced Users
Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

I've gathered some of the most helpful tips and tricks I've come across to help optimize and enhance your Zapier workflows.

Insert the date and time a Zap runs without using additional tasks

There are a number of Zapier action steps that require you to include the time that your Zap runs. A simple trick you can use is inserting the {{zap_meta_human_now}} command into any action step of your choice. This variable will print a human-readable date/time field formatted like this: MM/DD/YY hh:mmAM/PM (e.g. 05/29/11 :05AM). It's date and time will default to the timezone selected in your profile settings, or will default to UTC, if no timezone has been set in your settings. You can also specify your desired timezone in the variable, like so, {{zap_meta_est_iso}} (EST).

Use Cases/Benefits: Your Zap trigger may already include a "Created At", or "Updated At" date/time field already, but it may be formatted incorrectly, in Unix Epoch (1622300081 as I'm composing this story), for example, or in the wrong timezone. If you needed to use either of the above as your input, you'd need to add an additional Formatter step to convert your date/time field to your desired format or timezone. Adding this additional step creates micro tech debt and room for error, e.g. the date/time field used in your initial trigger is updated to a different time zone, and your formatter step was adding (+) or subtracting (-) X hours to reach your desired time, creating an incorrect action value. It also creates additional steps in your workflow, which can increase your monthly/annual bill, as Zapier charges users by their task usage.

Send Slack notification from a SQL Database

Creating events and user segments off of your db, and pushing that data out to other platforms can be taxing on engineering resources. Zapier has a number of available native database connectors that can trigger events based on rows added to a db table, or using custom SQL for more flexibility.

At Vocal, we use Postgres as our primary db. Zapier has a Custom SQL option for Postgres that can be used to trigger events, creating endless flexibility around the type of data alerts that can be built around.

After choosing your trigger (Step 1), simply add a Slack "Action" step. Choose the Slack channel of your choice, and customize the message using the data generated from your "Trigger", as variables to input into your Slack message.

For example, If I wanted to alert our Vocal Top Stories Slack channel whenever a published story was chosen as a Top Story, I could set up my Postgres "Trigger" to pull from our Stories' and Creators' tables in our db, each time a Story's isTopStory field is updated to equal True. Every time that condition is met, the Zap would run.

Note: If you're using the Postgres trigger specifically, you'll notice it is not an "Instant" trigger. What this means is the Zap will only run as often as your Zapier plans' polling allows it. The fastest polling option that Zapier provides publicly is 1 minute polling. E.g. if your Postgres db triggered new events that met the conditions you defined in your Zap every 10 seconds, your Zap would theoretically run every minute and push 6 Zaps at once, each minute.

Use Zapier Webhooks to push data out

There are limitless ways to create data flow within Zapier, through triggers, lookups off of the data pulled from your triggers, different apps you've connected, and so on. Taking this data and pushing it into applications that don't have native integrations with Zapier can be cumbersome.

Zapier's Webhook feature has been the answer for me, more times than I can count. If you're looking to have Zapier catch your data sent from a marketing automation tool like ActiveCampaign, or push data into a product analytics tool like Heap, you may not find the answer in Zapier's native app integrations. You'll need an alternate method, such as, utilizing a webhook to complete these tasks.

If you're not familiar with a webhook, a webhook has many similarities to an API (or a reverse API more realistically), but can be simply understood as an automated message sent when something happens. Webhooks POST data to a specific URL every time it sees something new, but is more easily done than said using Webhooks by Zapier. Webhooks by Zapier essentially acts as a native webhook integration, that allows its platform users to create a webhook, without the heavy lifting.

Email platforms like Sendgrid and MailChimp provide users with a unique URL that users can send email action related event data to, such as, any time a recipient opens an email, click on a link in an email, or unsubscribes from an email list, and allows that data to be pushed elsewhere. Zapier captures these data points via a webhook, and enables users to push them out to different applications, like Google Sheets, Slack or Heap. Zapier's video "Using Webhooks with MailChimp" (embedded below), provides a nice visual, and dives deeper into the MailChimp use case.

The Sub-Zap

If you've ever noticed yourself building out 20+ step Zaps with repetition throughout, you're probably not being as efficient as you could be. In March 2021, Zapier released a beta feature called the Sub-Zap. Sub-Zaps allow users to create a single workflow that can be used multiple times in a Zap without having to rebuild the individual steps each time. It relies on the creation of a separate Zap to model out the repetitive steps only one time, and gives users the ability to call that Zap (Sub-Zap) whenever needed. It provides a more scalable and efficient solution to those who have built Zaps with 10, 20, or 30+ steps. While it may be difficult to understand its use case at first, you'll absolutely see the value after you effectively cut down a 30 step Zap to less than 15, or by watching Zapier's video on the subject below.

I hope this story provided some added value to the more advanced Zapier users, and at least opened the eyes of newer Zapier adopters, beginning to understand the platforms' robust capabilities. I look forward to updating this story in the near term with additional tips and tricks.


About the Creator

Robby Tal

Chief Information Officer @ Creatd ($CRTD), the parent company of the Vocal platform.

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Comments (3)

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  • Chris Riggio5 months ago

    cool story

  • Gina B.9 months ago

    This is so informative. I need to up my sub-zap game.

  • JBazabout a year ago

    Ok, a little over my head . BUT the video additions were excellent I now understand. Thank you.

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