Welcome to the second in a series of blogs outlining how Loup Design & Innovation — a social change consultancy, a small start-up, and a distributed team — uses Airtable. Our first post, Baffled by Airtable? Here are five things we figured out, shares some relational database basics that we had to wrap our heads around when we began using this tool. In this post, we’ll share the specifics of how we set up our communications base.
Images are vital to Loup — we have a lot of them and we need to keep them organized. Airtable has become our primary storage and we love it because we can:
- Contain all versions of an image (square, rectangular, filtered) within a single record
- Organize images by license (Creative Commons or otherwise) with the photographer’s credit easily accessible
- Group images related to specific clients and projects
- Find images by theme
An image and its data
This is a photo Loup took as part of our work with PASE and Hive NYC. We took the photo and share it under a Creative Commons Share Alike license. We have an original version (straight from a phone), a square version for Instagram, and a rectangular version for blogs. We need to link this photo to our client, but we also want to make it available when we search for themes like facilitation or Post-its (we do a lot of human centered design and Post-its are a big part of our process!)
Using Google Drive — the go-to file storage many distributed teams rely on — this would have been a nightmare of duplicated files stored in different folders. On Airtable, it’s beautifully simple.
Great for audio, but video not so much
Airtable can store other media like video and audio, but results vary: audio files can be played right in the table, but video files cannot. Instead, videos are stored as “documents” that must be downloaded to play. If your video is hosted elsewhere on the web (YouTube, Vimeo) you can install an embed block to play it, but this is inconvenient, only available with Pro plans, and not a storage solution. A video playback feature is desperately requested, so fingers crossed it is introduced soon.
Making the commitment to store all our images on Airtable was a big deal for us. Like many organizations, our images were clustered in many folders and didn’t follow a consistent logic or naming convention. We also had a lot of photos on Flickr, which we downloaded using Bulkr. We took advantage of the migration process to cull our collection and standardize our nomenclature by using MassReplaceIt to refine metadata (licenses, photographers), Finder to bulk rename files, then bulk upload them using Airtable’s gallery view. Finally, we had our design partner, Daniella Valerio, develop a Photoshop widget to automatically treat, resize, and save our images in all the various permutations required by Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Medium, and Wordpress.
Logos, colors, palettes & more
Additional tables in our communications base keep our non-image assets easily accessible. We have separate tables for:
- Our logos, fonts, and color palette
- Client branding guides (we often create assets with our client’s look and feel)
- Boilerplate text about our organization and projects
In this way, our comms base also functions as a style guide!
Designing a social tracker
In addition to storing our images, we wanted Airtable to organize our social posts. Because you can’t link records across bases (see our first post), we created this social tracker as a second table in our communications base.
Our goal was to create a comprehensive tracker, organized by topic, of every post across every platform. If we posted about International Women’s Day, or about one of our clients’ projects, or even just a silly meme, we wanted an easy way to review the text and images without visiting each individual platform.
We rely on the Gallery View, where each card represents a topic we posted about on one or more social platform. Because this table pulls from the main image database, which links to our clients and projects, we can easily see which social posts relate to which client.
Clicking on an individual card displays the text variations we wrote for different platforms, the dates posted, the images we used, and lots of other goodies. It’s easy on the eyes, and we can compose new tweets/posts right on the card.
Loup’s integrations are a work in progress
This social tracker has been enormously useful to us, but without integrations it is, admittedly, a bit of work to maintain. We love Hootsuite for its calendaring and scheduling, and we know that Zapier offers an Airtable-Hootsuite integration — but we haven’t been able to make it work to our liking. If anyone has solutions for automatically linking content and calendaring on the social platforms with Airtable, let us know in the comments.
Next in this series, we’ll share how we use Airtable for program management, and our hacks for building nested tickets and task checklists. Stay tuned!
Loup provides organizations with operations design and guidance. We bring organizational design expertise and experience rolling out new strategies and change initiatives. We specialize in helping geographically distributed teams, communities, and network-building projects. Learn more about our services.