Nothing beats in-person communication, but these online tools come pretty close
- The latest Cat Johnson Convo brought together five coworking experts to share their proven communication strategies for fostering a vibrant workspace community.
- The expert panel shared tips on how operators can keep their community humming along happily even when they can’t be together in person.
- Different tools work for different people and different spaces; it is important for operators to determine what works best for their community.
Every coworking and flexible workspace needs a way to communicate with its members. The good news is that there is an incredible, if slightly confusing, range of technology tools available for community managers and members to stay in touch.
Why is this important?
A healthy community culture is fueled by connections and conversations; it’s the glue that keeps workspaces running smoothly. As Cat Johnson noted in her last Coworking Convo, “It’s hard to activate a community if people can’t connect with each other,” and that’s why it’s so important to give members simple ways to keep in touch with each other.
In addition, spaces must also provide an open communication channel between their members and their community manager. Because when the coffee runs out, you have to know where to turn.
Cat’s latest Convo brought together five coworking experts to share their proven communication strategies and how they keep their community humming along happily even when they can’t be together in person.
The Convo hosted:
- Anne Kirby – The Candy Factory
- Bruce Montgomery – The Entrepreneur Success Program
- Renee Sánchez Leal – Company 204
- Joshua P. Jané – Percolator
- Sarah Athanas – Earthworks
We’ve summarized their top takeaways below.
One thing we’ve learned is that while different tools work for different people and different spaces, one constant is in-person communication. Even with the best tools and the most dedicated community manager, nothing can replace this person-to-person relationship; what these tools do is supplement these connections by turning the wheels of conversation, at least for a little while.
Here’s what those five spaces do:
1. Anne Kirby – The Candy Factory
Anne Kirby has used many different tools in the 11 years she ran The Candy Factory, but one has been particularly effective: Slack.
“We live off it,” she says. “We have been using it for several years, it is very important for all our internal communications.”
This goes for connecting members with each other as well as contacting them with community managers. Through Slack, members can learn about events, report issues, find interesting clubs or groups, receive email notifications, and pretty much everything else.
During the onboarding process, the team trains new members on how to use Slack and connects them with online groups they might be interested in – “our crossword channel is one of our most popular – which strengthens internal social ties.
“Some other tools have failed miserably for our community. We’ve learned that if it doesn’t work, don’t waste your energy and time, move on. But when you find something that works, run with it.
2. Bruce Montgomery – The Entrepreneur Success Program
When The Entrepreneur Success program was forced to go virtual during the pandemic, Bruce Montgomery tried Slack to keep his online community collaborating, but it just didn’t work.
In an effort to connect members with each other and introduce them to local government programs and funding, Bruce began producing a weekly show called “Rebuilding Chicago.”
It spread and became a valuable resource for members and local businesses. Their Facebook group has also become one of their most popular communication channels.
“Our members use it as a vehicle to cross-pollinate their services with others. It’s not just a one-way street. The community works when it’s two-way, and that works really well for us. »
Another big hit in its communications toolkit is a weekly e-newsletter. This is popular because it provides succinct and relevant information for the community, but more importantly, members recognize that the information in it is carefully curated by Bruce.
It is so precious for the members that they are listening and ready to receive it, every week: “When I don’t send it, I hear about it!
3. Renee Sánchez Leal – Company 204
Renee Sánchez Leal was in the process of moving her community into a bigger space when the pandemic hit. Although they remained open as an essential business, Renee was already transitioning to a virtual community while their new home was being built.
“I’ve tried them all,” she says. “We had a Slack channel that nobody maintained, Facebook, WhatsApp, everything. We found no one gravitated to one platform except Facebook, but even that was hard to come by.
Renee continued with the Facebook group and worked to build engagement by posting daily posts. During this period of confinement, she also organized Zoom calls several times a day. But what really works for the 204 Society is in-person engagement.
She has been dubbed the “Business Relationship Cupid” because she knows all of her members personally, what interests them, what they want from coworking and what they need. This allows him to establish useful individual links between members.
“Some people say a virtual community works, but I stick with what I know works, and that’s human interaction.”
4. Joshua P. Jané – Percolator
Joshua Jané comes from a background in software development. Now that he is in the “people business” of coworking and entrepreneurship, he is working to bring several worlds together.
He tried various communication channels including Slack, but for them it didn’t work. “It was like whispers in the wind, no one was using it.”
Percolator has social media channels, but it recognizes that it requires a dedicated person to keep it going and maintaining engagement.
For day-to-day interaction, they use an in-house tool that was built by a member who works in healthcare – it was born out of a need to communicate more effectively with patients, and it also works with the community of Percolator.
It is a web application interface that works similarly to SMS and is designed to allow easy group text conversations. “We can send broadcasts to our members, get responses via email or text, and connect with our community. It’s a great way to communicate information like email notifications and events. »
5. Sarah Athanas – Preparatory work
What is the most valuable form of communication? A consistent.
This is Sarah’s key message, and she explained some of the ways Groundworks releases regular, planned and consistent communications on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
“Establish a consistent communication rhythm,” she said. “Planning is extremely useful, especially for coworking community managers who are pulled in 1000 directions. Consistency helps with this.
At Groundworks, they’ve established a schedule that every month ‘wind or high tide’, they send out a newsletter at the start of the month, to give members a preview of what’s to come.
This is followed by a weekly email and daily engagements in their Slack channel. For those not active in their online channels, they also have a physical calendar and whiteboard.
Finally, Groundworks holds a quarterly town hall meeting. This, perhaps surprisingly, is one of their most popular events. It’s hosted in a cohesive format, with pizza and drinks, and provides members with information about what’s happening at Groundworks and invites feedback.
“Polls are great, but when you get people to town hall, they really engage and provide great feedback. It’s unbelievable to me, but it works!
Don’t miss the next Cat Johnson Coworking Convo on September 24and: Grow your business with Instagram.