• It’s Time to Bring Coworking Communities Online!

    Just as online tools allow teams and individuals to stay connected, they can also help communities to stay connected. Let’s take a closer look at how.

    Coworking spaces used to be filled with freelancers, entrepreneurs, startups and the tech industry. To this day, it is increasingly relevant for a broader range of people and organizations. (Harvard Business Review, 2015). So, why are more people moving into coworking spaces? What makes coworking so popular?

     

    1. It’s cheaper (mainly due to the shared facility costs).

    2. It’s more professional to meet clients at a coworking space than a home office or cafe.

    3. It provides a place for potential interactions with other like-minded professionals. This may be one of the most important reasons for joining a coworking space – to be part of a community.

     

      

    The Role of Communities

     

    A great coworking space is more than just a place to work. It is a space that provides countless opportunities for people to interact. It is somewhere members can share knowledge and experience, socialize and participate in the community. Being part of the community lets members identify with the coworking space. That they belong. 

     

    As ever more coworking spaces pop up around the world, they have come to realize the need to differentiate themselves. How do they do that? By building and strengthening their community by providing more and better facilities, services, or events. This post doesn’t argue that coworking spaces lack communities. They don’t. Rather, I am going to discuss how online tools can be a powerful way to further strengthen existing communities. 

     

    "The key to attracting people may lie in branding, but the key to retention is in community" – Steve Glaveski, Shareable (2014)

     

    How online tools can strengthen the community

     

    When we work remotely, we often rely on online tools to stay connected with coworkers. We have great online applications to facilitate remote working, such as Skype and Google Hangouts for video calling, Slack and Asana for online teamwork, and Dropbox and Google Drive for cloud storage and sharing. It is clear that these online tools are helping independent professionals and teams to stay connected wherever they are.

     

    How can you participate in a community and join groups, when you are often on the road? You don't always have the chance to join community events and activities in person. You also miss out on the daily opportunities to interact with other members and be part of specific groups. Yet you want to be part of the community and stay connected with other members. So how can you do this?

     

    Event

     

    Events and Groups

     

    Every event – not only those hosted by the coworking space, but also by its members, should be promoted in the most effective and efficient way possible. They should of course be advertised on notice boards, but should also be communicated online.

     

    As an event host, promoting your events online boosts your reach and makes it easier to manage the event itself. Questions such as, “Can I invite some friends?” “Can I bring my children?” or “Where can I park the car?” can be answered just once online for all to see so others with the same question won’t have to ask you again! It’s also easier to share all information, pictures and videos with a larger audience.

     

    As an event attendee, having events promoted online makes it easy to know who’s attending, get instant updates, share or view pictures and videos, and have your questions answered more quickly by someone in the community or the host.

     

    “If you’re participating at an offline event, make the most of it by promoting your participation” – Elias Jabbe, Mention (2015). 

     

    That’s not all though! The main benefit of events is the opportunity for people to get together and interact. An additional benefit is what you get out of events: perhaps a new business connection, a new idea, a new discussion topic, or even a new friend. However, as mentioned earlier, you don’t always get the chance to attend events in person. Yet, you may wish to be able to enjoy the benefits. 

     

     Online laptop

     

    This is where online tools play a role. Discussions and ideas raised from events can be communicated online, especially beneficial for those who were unable to join in person. It is also beneficial as a follow-up for those who did attend the event. New connections are not limited to be made only in person; it is still possible to connect with others before and after each event through online means. 

     

    Groups are one way for all discussions and ideas that are brought up during social meetings and events to be continued online. You will have a set place with all ideas and discussions written down for future reference, and you can save time by not waiting for the day of the event to talk about your ideas with the community. Plus, as mentioned before, you don’t have to worry if you can’t make it to an event in person as you can still contribute to the group online.

     

    Groups essentially foster stronger ties to coworkers with similar interests and ideas. Imagine the conversations you have with other coworkers that you meet by the water-dispenser, in the cafeteria, or during a workshop. Now imagine these conversations taking place in an online group. More people can get in on the conversation and contribute their ideas. Discussions become more fruitful. 

     

    That being said, it should be emphasized that offline events and interaction opportunities are still the key to building tighter relationships. You can’t beat physical presence. However, online tools that support offline events, interactions and shared interests among members will have a strong and positive impact on relationships and the community. 

     

     Network People

     

    Network

     

    The core essence of events and groups lies in the network of entrepreneurs, startups, and freelancers that participate. Joining these communities gives you access to new ideas, partners, and potential clients. However, it is not easy to meet every member in a coworking space. This is especially true for coworking spaces with a large number of members. Some members may have less time to attend events or be more comfortable making contact online first. In cases like these, members can really benefit from being able to find each other, connect and communicate directly online.

    Use online tools as a starting point for offline communication and as a way to stay connected after meeting. Members can also be part of the community without being physically present. 

     

    “Online and offline complement each other, and together they are more valuable.” – Alex Hillman, co-founder of IndyHall

     

    Together in one place

     

    Lastly, a major benefit of online tools is the ability to organize everything in one central place. A place specifically catered to community-based communication, where it is possible to promote and view events hosted by the coworking space or other members, participate in groups and discussions, and find and connect with other members. With everything on one single platform, managing online communities becomes easier and more effective.

     

    “The community is much stronger when we bring online and offline communities together.” - Bisner

     

    Bisner helps coworking spaces manage and activate their community, promote their coworking space, and interact with their members. Coworking space members are also able to stay engaged with the community through the platform, even while they’re away from the space! 

     

     

     

    Bisner: The Virtual Coworking Platform 

    Tweet us @Bisnercom

     

    Sources:

    https://hbr.org/2015/05/why-people-thrive-in-coworking-spaces

     

    http://www.entrepreneurship.org/resource-center/how-coworking-spaces-lost-their-buzz.aspx