- Building a community of like-minded people before your doors ever open is a way of ensuring you have members waiting to fill your empty desks
- Optix can be used to support the early community-building process by becoming a centralized place for all community communication
- Use Optix to collect sign-ups, drive your communication strategy, and create ongoing value for your digital community
Now is the time to build a community-driven coworking space.
Remote workers are fueling the rapid growth of coworking spaces and they’re looking for a space that can give them what their home can’t: a sense of belonging, face-to-face interactions, and community.
Creating a connected community in a brand new space can feel daunting, especially with a small budget and little to no members.
However, you don’t have to wait until your doors open to start building your community. You can start by growing your digital community before you ever open your doors.
The importance of building a digital coworking community before your space opens
Getting clients for your new coworking space is one of the biggest challenges for new coworking operators.
Building a community of like-minded people before your doors ever open is a way of ensuring you have members waiting to fill your empty hot and dedicated desks. We’ve found the best way to do this is through cultivating a digital community first.
Launching a digital community can help you:
- Build brand awareness: a thriving digital community is a great way of getting your brand out there and can serve as a form of top-of-funnel marketing
- Grow your membership base (and revenue!): the obvious advantage of starting an online community is it can help you grow your analogue membership base once your space opens
- Obtain partnerships with local businesses: you may be able to leverage your online community to obtain valuable partnerships with local businesses that can benefit your members
- Validate your ideas: is there really a need for coworking in your area? Launching a successful digital community can help validate your idea around the need for coworking in your area
- Refine your target customer: perhaps a specific demographic is drawn to your space. You can use this information to refine the customer profile you’re targeting
By building an online community, you’re essentially creating a physical space for your existing community, rather than the other way around.
When should you start building a digital community for your coworking space?
It’s never too early to start building your coworking community.
We’ve heard of people starting their community up to a year in advance of their opening date. With that being said, here are some markers that indicate you may be ready to collect leads and engage your community digitally:
- You have signed a lease or management agreement for your new space
- You’ve decided on a name and branding for your space
- You have a website and coworking management software in place
- You have a target opening date
Having some of these details sorted out can help guide your community building efforts..
How can Optix help in the online community building process?
A coworking management software will become your best friend as a coworking operator. You want a system that will be able to support you throughout the entirety of your coworking journey, including before you open your physical space.
Optix can be used to support the early community-building process by becoming a centralized place for all community communication (more on that below).
You can also use Optix as:
- A selling tool: capture leads on your website using web widgets
- A value add prior to opening your doors: offer your community a digital space to connect with one another, attend events, access members perks and more before you ever open your doors
How to build your digital coworking community with Optix before you open your physical space
Build a community before your space opens by launching it digitally. Then create ways to give these members true ownership over the physical space.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Set yourself up with the right tools
You’ll need the right tools to successfully create a digital community. This includes:
- A website: to capture leads for future retargeting and communications
- Coworking management software (Optix): for CRM capabilities and digital communications
Evaluating and selecting a coworking management software well in advance of your launch date will give you ample time to get onboarded and get it working for you.
Typically we see the most success with selecting a tool 3-6 months out from your target launch date.
2. Collect sign-ups via web widgets
Once you’ve sorted out your onboarding experience, you can use web widgets to help people sign up to your space.
Web widgets are customizable forms that can be embedded onto your website. They are:
- Fully customizable, from font to color
- Linked to your Optix admin dashboard so all information is shared between them
- Completely modular and able to collect whatever information you need
Once a user signs up for your space via a web widget, their onboarding will begin and you will receive their information in Optix.
A web widget can save you hours of dev work creating a landing page, setting up the email integration, and testing the form submissions.
3. Develop your communication strategy
Once you have your tools in place and sign-ups are coming in, think about how you will communicate with members once they join. Will they receive an email? How will you use the community feed?
There are two primary communication strategies to think through: onboarding and ongoing engagement.
This is your members first initial touch-point with your brand. It sets the tone for everything to come. While you may not have a space to give a tour of, guiding people through your digital community is just as important.
Here is one suggestion of an effective virtual onboarding:
- Email #1, upon sign up: overview of the community, how it works, what they can expect, invitation to join the app
- Immediately in the Optix app: Welcome new member publicly via the community feed, send them a private message welcoming them into the community
- Email #2, 3 days later: share deeper information on the virtual community, invite them to add their name on the directory or share an introduction about themselves in the community feed
- In the Optix app, 6 days later: send a direct message asking how they’re finding the community, if you can answer any questions
New communities don’t start themselves. It will often take some effort on your part to get your members communicating with one another on a regular basis.
It’s best to have an ongoing engagement strategy, especially in the beginning. This could include initiatives like:
- Posting daily ice-breaker discussion questions in the community feed
- Direct messaging members bi-weekly
- Holding monthly contests or giveaways
- Giving frequent updates and sharing images on the status of the physical space
You may also want to consider engaging your members by sharing access to member perks that you’ve aligned on with local businesses including discounts to cafes or yoga studios.
4. Create value for your digital community
Your members have onboarded, you’re posting regularly in the community feed, and they’re beginning to reach out to one another and build relationships using the directory. Now what?
Continue to think of ways in which you can add value to your online community. One successful tactic we see is by holding virtual events.
You can make your virtual events into whatever you like, from a simple Zoom hangout to a scheduled keynote speaker. The events app in Optix can help you advertise this event by:
- Promoting upcoming events on the homepage of the app
- Linking your event from an external source (Facebook, Eventbrite, etc.)
- Allowing users to RSVP or sign-up for the event from the platform you’ve chosen to host your event in
The key to creating an engaged digital community in the absence of a physical space is to continue to add value for people. Lean in to the information they want and care about and ensure you’re always putting their needs first.
Bringing your digital community together
Take your community building efforts one step further by bringing your digital community together in real life. This can be a fantastic way to make connections amongst members and give them ownership over the space, so they feel like it’s really theirs.
Here are some ideas to bring your digital community to life and engage them before your space opens:
- Paint a mural together on one of the walls
- Have a re-planting or gardening party
- Hold an “empty space” party before you bring in the furniture
- Organize an in-person meeting at a local coffee shop or cafe
Don’t let opening your physical space hold you back from creating a thriving community. Get started on digital community building with Optix.
Here are a few guides to help you build community in your coworking space: