Bringing together coworking space owners, advocates, community managers, and a digital nomad from around the world, the Cowork University meetup has proven to be a wonderful brain trust to share ideas and improve coworking.
Did you check out May’s Cowork University Meetup summary?
This month, we discussed:
Coworking Member Engagement, Levels of Membership, and Press
How do we help create members who don’t just treat the space like a gym membership?
Have you ever joined a gym or had a membership somewhere that you never used? I know I have.
So what causes someone to not use a coworking space?
Time. Did life take over? Time is relative. We rarely run out of time; we have just chosen other ways to spend it. Sometimes, a membership takes the back-burner because it can.
Expectations. Did a member sign up for a reason other than using the space? Did they need an address, access to a specific service or network, or a place to work every once in a while? I have seen people leave their stuff on a desk for months and only appear once or twice.
Incentives. Do members treat your office as only a workspace? Do members gain any other benefits from showing up? Do they see friends or go to events?
The most engaged communities have a full schedule of activities that bring people to the space for reasons other than work. Providing a workspace is the number 1 priority, however, keeping people engaged and building connections through events is the best way to retain members.
Have you given your members a reason to come to the space other than a desk? They may show up each morning just to see your smiling face!
As expected, the more events that coworkers care about, the more activity there is in the space.
Whether it is a business-centric event such as 1 Million Cups (the largest one I went to was in Fargo, North Dakota at the Prairie Den), a social event such as a Happy Hour or Beer & Waffles Friday, hack-a-thons, or even health and wellness events such as Yoga on the Roof, these events have consistently proven to engage coworkers.
One space even mentioned that they now had a problem with too many people coming in to work!
If you are putting on events, helping coworkers connect, and still having limited success keeping people working consistently, it is possible the expectations of the space are off or your events are not a good fit for the coworkers.
I loved the suggestion from one space manager to put in the contract that every member is expected to go to at least one event per quarter. This expectation can be a powerful tool for creating a small amount of incentive and ‘pressure’ to drive engagement.
When it comes to events, not all spaces should offer the same ones. Every space is different and can attract completely different types of people. If your business-centric events aren’t successful, try social events. Tweak the formula until you find what works. The coworkers at my home coworking space in Tampa, Florida respond best to social events. We also tend to enjoy startup-type events such as Pitch Nights or Social Media Day.
“In order to engage best with a community of coworkers, we must cater our communication to the differences between introverts & extroverts.”
— Robert Kropp (@robertcowork22) June 22, 2017
Still undecided about how to change the engagement of your coworking community?
Ask the coworkers! Nothing was built in a vacuum and the members have valuable input.
Create a Community Focus Group / Coworking Committee
Give the coworking members a space to discuss, be heard, and suggest changes. Not all ideas are good, but it is best to get a feel for the pulse of the community directly from the source.
Listen, adapt, and grow!
Levels of Membership
There is a large variety of membership options from space to space — 24/7 access, weekday only, weekend only, 40 hours a month, 1 day a week, 10 days a month, pay by the day, etc.
So what are the right membership levels for a coworking space?
This can be different from space to space. The real question is what membership levels will support the coworking space but also fit the needs of the coworker.
I need 24/7 access because I tend to work on weekends or later at night. I also like to be able to get into the space anytime to pick up my things — especially if we decide to walk to happy hour.
I also know plenty of people that only work in the space once a week and that works perfectly for them. They want to stay connected to the community, but are unable to come in more often. Would it make sense to offer them only a 24/7 plan? Or would another type of plan be better?
Having multiple options, whatever they might be, is important. People will fit themselves into whatever level plans you have, especially if they really want to be there.
Coworking Space Press
We discussed press for quite a while. How do you get it?
There is no magic bullet for getting press to cover your coworking space.
To start, press builds more press.
When an article is published by a blog, newspaper, etc, it is more likely to be seen by other members of the press and picked up.
Getting started seems to be the hardest part.
Tell a story. Create opportunities for local and national press by developing stories within your space. Whether it’s a story about the building, one of the businesses, the people, a funny experience, a lot of press is generated when you aren’t focused on selling.
Ask for it. Some of the greatest opportunities were developed by just asking for them. Do you have an amazing story? Reach out to the community and ask them to publish or share it. Who do you know who can help connect you?
Think about the time of year and the marketplace of the city. If you are trying to write press releases and pitch a story, try to think about the time of year and the marketplace of the city. For example, “How Home Based Businesses Can Work in a Coworking Space during the Summer.” The story idea is that while kids are home for the summer, home-based business owners might need a separate space to work.
Write your press releases as a story and not a promotion, and the news organizations are more likely to pick it up.
Thanks again everyone for a wonderful discussion! Looking forward to next month.
What is Cowork University?
We are a supportive, inclusive, and inspiring community that achieves a level of collaboration designed to elevate the coworking conversation. The virtual meetup is an invitational gathering of international cowork creators and managers who got into coworking because they understand and align with the concept of “community first”. We connect on a monthly Zoom video chat and a 24/7 private Slack channel.
The only requirement to join us is that you must apply to become a member of Cowork University and be ready to fully participate.
You can also follow us on Twitter @coworkuniv