It is no news that the community is the most crucial aspect of a coworking business. It is the heart and soul of any coworking space.
Building a community, therefore, may prove to be a difficult task. It is not easy to identify the community you are looking to serve, attract memberships, and retain them.
That is why we have come up with the Ultimate Guide for Community Building.
With this guide, you will learn everything about curating a quality community, growing it, community management, and a lot more in no time!
1. What Is Community And Why Is It Important?
2. Identifying Your Target Community
3. The Two Strategies For Building Community
4. The “Space First, Community Next” Model.
- Attracting Memberships
- Retaining Memberships
- Growing Memberships
- Benefits Of This Model
5. The “Community First, Space Next” Model.
- Curating Your Community- Online And Offline
- Building A Quality Community
- Benefits Of This Model
6. The Roles Of A Community Manager
Let’s dive in!
What Is Community and Why is It Important
Community is the driving force for any coworking business, without a community a coworking space does not exist. The building, retaining, and growing community, therefore, should be the number one focus while planning and managing your coworking space.
To understand the importance of community, we must understand the culture of coworking.
Coworking’s culture focuses on the integration and collaboration of like-minded people who want to feed off of each other’s knowledge, experiences, and ideas. It is all about individuals coming together and producing the best results with shared productivity. Coworking, at the end of the day, trickles down to people. People are the driving force to any coworking space. These people form the community. Thus making it the most crucial aspect for the survival of coworking businesses.
Identifying Your Target Community
There is a wide range of audiences when it comes to the coworking business. The most popular of them are:
- Digital Nomads and Freelancers
- Work From Home Professionals
- Office Teams and Groups
It is also important to note that in the context of coworking, it is almost always more than one target audience. If all of the above-mentioned individuals and groups comprise your target audience, then you need to keep in mind that there are going to be differences while serving each of them as they all have different needs.
For example, an entrepreneur who might be frequently visiting will need lockable storage for personal items, frequent guest pass, locked doors with full-time access, and so on.
Whereas a digital nomad might not need permanent utilities, he/she, on the other hand, might be in need of a receptionist’s service who could handle his daily passes, payments, etc.
Similarly, an office team looking to use your space will have needs that are to be met differently than those of individual/ self-employed workers.
Else, you can also focus on only one target audience and extensively invest in your facilities to make your business the best for that particular audience. The choice is yours.
Therefore, your investments in utilities and facilities/ overall investment will also depend on the target audience you choose for your company.
All of your target audiences put together, become your community.
The Two Strategies For Building Community
Before we move on to know the two models, we must know there are three steps to building a community irrespective of the approach taken-
- Curate and attract your community
- Retain your community
- Grow your community
Space First, Community Next.
In this model, the community is attracted, curated, and grown after a coworking space is opened. Launching the space is given the first priority, after which the community is built with the operation of the business.
The community is curated with a number of marketing and advertising strategies. After this, it is retained with a variety of membership packages and plans. Events and workshops are used to grow the community. Keep reading to know about these steps in detail.
2. Community first, Space next.
This model helps a coworking business build its community even before the space is launched or opened. This ensures ready-to-move-in quality memberships.
People are prioritized in this model. Memberships are curated with the help of online and offline communities, from whom inputs are taken to enhance the facilities/layout of your coworking space prior to its launch thereby ensuring direct communication of needs of your prospective clients.
Emphasis is laid on building trustworthy relationships with your community so that it enriches the coworking environment as a whole when it is launched.
The “Space First, Community Next” Model
Once you have opened your coworking space, it is now time to curate and attract your community. Identify the community you want to serve, and then focus on bringing them into your space.
Attracting memberships requires a variety of advertising and marketing strategies.
Good marketing can help attract a quality community into your coworking space. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Create Your Website– A well-designed and accessible website go a long way in your marketing plan. You may use popular service providers such as Wix and WordPress to do the same. Make your website as user friendly as possible. A website that is aesthetically pleasing creates a positive impact on potential clients. Make sure to specify your vision and mission on the website so the viewers understand your brand to its very depth.
All essential information must be included such as pricing, discounts, location, timings, the various plans, your facilities, etc .
- Social Media Marketing– You can either hire an intern to market your company on various social media platforms or do it yourself extensively.
Platforms like Twitter can be used to directly engage with the members and potential future members. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be used to promote your business and regularly update the various events you’re conducting, etc.
You may also consider investing on social media ads such as Facebook and Instagram to expand your reach.
Some tips to consider while marketing in social media:
- Maintain the same theme through all platforms. This might be one solid color or a specific aesthetic.
- Decide the look of your pages– do you want it to be minimalist or over the top?
- Respond to comments and queries on a regular basis
- Keep updating offers and discounts in your social media pages to attract more customers.
- Content Marketing- Hire content writing interns, or generate blogs yourself in your website related to coworking. Provide well-detailed resources to various aspects of coworking so as to attract more viewers to your page. Make sure to be well versed in SEO optimization while doing the same.
- Planning Social Events– Hosting well-organized social events is not only crucial to keeping the culture of coworking alive but can also be a great marketing strategy. If your business is set in a very socially-active locality, then hosting frequent events can attract a lot of new members.
- Create Membership Plans Wisely– Attractive discounts and coupons can pave the way to new customers. Plans curated specifically for freelancers, etc- can reach out to set target audiences and prove to be profitable in the long run.
- Advertise in Common Places– Based on your budget, advertise in public places like transportation hubs or popular hotels. Choose to invest in posters, etc if you are looking to advertise in frequently visited public places.
Softwares That Help With Marketing:
MailChimp – Email marketing
Croissant – Helps find workspaces in different cities
Hubspot – Marketing
Canva – Design
Hootsuite – Social media management
Good membership packages and partnerships help retain your members.
Your Unique Selling Points (USPs) are another crucial aspect of retaining your members, they prevent them from leaving your space for another. Focusing on that can go a long way.
You can curate a variety of membership packages that cater to every need of your community. The key here is to interact with your members, find out what their needs and expectations are, and create your packages accordingly.
1. Membership Fees For Renting Desks And Offices- This includes the revenue you get from renting out desks, private/shared office spaces, conference rooms, etc to an individual/team. This revenue is rather lucrative and unstable because unlike a set package that has a specified duration, this does not. This means the expected target audience for this particular revenue stream could be freelancers, digital nomads, and other self-employed workers.
2. Membership Packages– For members who want more frequent use of your services or perhaps a longer duration of a non-lucrative commitment, such as entrepreneurs or even regularly visiting freelancers for that fact, may benefit from membership packages. There are a few things you must keep in mind while curating these packages:
- Grouped Amenities- You may want to group the amenities you have into separate membership packages and price them cheaper than they’d cost when purchased separately. A light membership package may have access to coffee and snacks along with passes for events, whereas a premium membership may include amenities such as gym, a small theatre in your space perhaps, passes to events, beverages, and snacks, conference room privileges, etc.
- Payment schedule– The membership may be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually, each having different amenities and price ranges of course
- The magnitude of benefits– This goes hand-in-hand with grouped amenities, you may classify your membership packages as “basic”, flexible” and “premium”, with amenities and prices increasing respectively.
You may choose for the Flexible Membership Package to be customizable, if you have a software through which potential members can use your website or app to customize the amenities they need, and have it adjust and show the pricing accordingly– that may attract a lot of new customers.
3. Group Memberships– This could be specifically for office groups or teams, entrepreneurs who are looking for a more permanent usage of your space. In such a membership, they may thus need access to more private spaces and conference rooms, discussion spaces to communicate as a team, amenities that support them working longer hours, etc.
4. Shared Memberships– Coworking is all about integrating ideas. Like-minded people who want to share a part of your space to brainstorm different business ideas and to expand their network might be interested in this membership plan. It typically brings together different workgroups who are open-minded to hear and produce novel ideas. Including amenities like shared discussion spaces, open desks, snacks and beer-on-tap, coffee machines, etc can strengthen this membership.
5. Social Memberships– This is more of a light-weighted membership without conventional commitment. It is a great way to bring in more people into your community. These people are less committed to your space, they may not be looking for a dedicated desk or but they are still looking to be a part of the community. Amenities for social members may include passes to events being conducted in your space, access to open desks for every X entries made into your space, etc.
Social membership is a great idea because you are not only using it as an on-and-off revenue stream, but you are also promoting your business culture, your space, and what it has to offer without completely investing in offering it. Most importantly, you are allowing the time and space to build trust with these members so that, with time, they opt for a more permanent membership plan and become a constant part of your community. You are thus directly serving prospective members through a social membership plan.
These are a few different membership plans you may provide.
They will help retain your community, the process of interacting with your community to find out what best membership packages you can provide will also help build trust and form a relationship.
It doesn’t stop with just curating and retaining your community, to have your coworking space progress your community must grow from time-to-time. This also means you must frequently update your core product, add on new amenities, host new events, etc.
There are two ways with which you can grow your community.
Forming strategic partnerships is key to opening your space to new members and growing your existing community.
As a coworking business, you may partner with:
- Local cafes and coffee shops
- Fast food joints and restaurants
- Local breweries (All of these promote your members to further socialize which strengthens the coworking business model)
- Gyms and yoga studios (perhaps for a select few membership packages so they can benefit from physical exercise after long hours)
- Spas & Massage centers for your members to relax after a long day of work.
Good, long-term partnerships may save you on a lot of costs whilst providing for your customers the best of amenities.
Most of the time, partnerships also prove to be cost-cutting methods, thereby helping you grow revenue. For example, instead of having a restaurant in your coworking space and having a section of your revenue regularly go into maintaining and running that restaurant- you may choose to partner with a local cafe near your space and have them supply and promote their food, snacks, beverages, etc. Not only does this provide room for socializing and act as an add-on amenity for your customers, but by offering discounts exclusively for those who use your space, the local business grows too and is therefore a win-win.
Such partnerships add value to your space and, therefore, help retain as well as grow your community.
Add New Amenities
Think of how you can upgrade your space to better collaboration. Perhaps including beer-on-tap or a small game room where your clients can socialize after a long day of work. Every day there’s a new idea for upgrading amenities, and doing so frequently within your budget, may help grow your community.
Benefits Of This Model:
Prioritizing space first, before building your community has several benefits:
1. Ensures Stability– Knowing that you already have a space that is ready to occupy once your members start flowing in, ensures a sense of stability and security. The fear of putting all the effort to curate a community only to realize your space couldn’t launch due to various reasons is avoided, unlike in the “Community first. Space next” model.
2. Instills Confidence in Prospective Customers– While marketing and attracting your community, people are more likely to feel reassured if they come to visit your space, or at least have the idea of a launched space they would consider to be a part of. With building community first and then space, prospective members may lack this sense of confidence
The “Community First, Space Next” Model
Curating Your Community- Online And Offline
When you have decided to build your community before your space, your main and only priority must be- marketing. You will focus on online and offline marketing to create the perfect community that will be ready to move in once your space launches.
This becomes more important than ever when you are placing the community first. You must frequently update your social media handles, perhaps set up a platform where you can communicate with prospective members, answer their queries, etc.
We have already discussed the different ways to form your online community in this blog. Create hype around your business. Make sure to convey your aim, vision, mission, and goals through all your social media platforms, this way your future members will understand your culture and like-minded people will look to join your community.
Offline Community- Workshops and Events
Another popular way of extending your community is by hosting events and workshops in your space.
You could include passes to such events as a part of certain membership packages so as to increase participation. Update your social media handles about the upcoming events in your space, this will help bring people outside of your existing community.
Some events you can host to expand your community are:
- Opening Event– what you’d host when you first launch your space.
- Skill- Development And Training Workshops– upon asking existing customers the skills they expect to develop.
- Group-focused Workshops– this might be specifically curated to certain individuals/enterprises, providing resources on how to grow their business, such as workshops specifically meant for freelancers, digital nomads, etc.
- Team-building Workshops– The essence of coworking is integrating ideas and experiences. Team building workshops enable active socializing that better the culture of coworking.
- Fitness Classes– If you have a fitness center in your space, this might be useful. A Zumba class every now and then or perhaps an aerobic trainer who’ll prove useful to your members. This can also be included as a part of your membership plans, that would be an innovative way to attract members.
- Counseling Sessions– Working together might prove to be hard at times, to overcome the challenges of socializing and bringing together ideas and different people, you may call an Organisational Psychologist to come and lecture your members on successfully overcoming these challenges. These classes also promote motivation and teach your members methods of productivity and concentration.
The benefits of hosting such events are multifold:
- You can grow revenue by selling tickets.
- Your networking expands, easy marketing for your coworking space
- You get to meet prospective members one-on-one, talk to them about their expectations they need so you can plan and upgrade your space accordingly.
- Such events also act as fundraisers. If you pitch the vision and mission of your coworking space convincingly enough, you could find investors through events like these
- Hosting events and workshops bring in a large number of people who are briefly let into your community. You could meet architects, business executives, interior designers, and more of such people who your space could benefit from.
- You can find partnerships through such events.
Building A Quality Community
Wanting a ready to move in community, shouldn’t only focus on quantity, more importantly you must ensure you build a community of quality, waiting for the launch of your space.
1. Be Transparent About The Culture of Your Coworking Space
Individuals who identify with your culture and vision are most likely to wait for the launch of your space if you are transparent about it from the beginning. Remember, coworking is all about people, the more you give, the more you get.
2. Learn When To Say No
There will be several instances where you will have to turn down people due to various reasons. Building a quality community includes that you know when not to say yes to people who needn’t necessarily identify with your company’s culture. Keep in mind that community is your priority, and building a quality one needs you to put your foot down sometimes.
3. Interact With Your Community Extensively
Building trust with your community is extremely important to both retain and grow it. Have a relationship with your members, know their expectations, and understand their needs. Interacting with your community both online and offline plays a huge role on how the culture of your company is perceived by your prospective members.
Benefits Of This Model
The “Community first. Space next” model has several benefits:
- You are guaranteed a ready-to-move-in community once your space is launched.
- You have spent quality time building a relationship with your community, this trust developed while curating your community will do wonders to your business.
- Due to extensive communication prior to launching your space, you know exactly what your prospective community requires/expects, you can curate your space accordingly.
- People are the most important aspect of coworking. Without community, there is no point of coworking- focusing on that first, strengthens the model of coworking and enriches its culture.
Today, the role of community managers has created quite a buzz around the coworking market.
A community manager is typically someone who handles the A-Z duties that involve curating, attracting, retaining, and growing the community of coworking spaces.
The Roles of a community manager include:
- Creating and managing an online community
- Communicating with prospective members extensively
- Attracting new customers into your space
- Organizing events and workshops to expand community and increase networking
- Finding ways to retain community
- Building trust with prospective and existing communities
- Coming up with new ways to grow the community.
After a brief introduction about what is community building and why it is important, we saw the two models that can be adopted to build a quality community- Space First, Community Next; Community First, Space Next.
We analyzed each of these models separately by focusing on how to curate, attract, retain, and grow a community.
We then briefly saw the role of a community manager.
I hope this blog gave you the required insights into community building.