As working from home and freelancing becomes an undeniable fact of life, so do co-working spaces -- places where people and companies gather to work next to each other, collaborate and share ideas.
My game company, Lunar Giant, recently opened its first co-working space called SpaceLab in the Chicago suburb of Mokena, about 45 minutes south of the city. Though not the first space we’ve started (we also founded the hackerspace Workshop 88), there have been some real challenges and new lessons to learn along the way.
Here, we'll go into the work behind building an online community for a co-working space.
Building an Online Community
An online community is critical to the success of any organization reliant on membership. Building a strong online community generates passive leads and keeps existing members engaged. It also helps you generate buzz for events.
By using these online tools to promote offline events, you’ll bring people together and get them interested in what you’re doing.
People use Meetup to find events and organizations near them. It’s a very passive tool for recruiting new members as well as announcing new events to people who “join” your group. There’s a small monthly payment ($10-15 depending on the plan), but after that, the time investment for maintaining this is rather low. I create a Meetup group right at the outset of every community I build. You’d be surprised at how fast the membership grows from zero to 300.
People sometimes focus too much on the things that don’t matter when they’re starting a business. A website is not one of those things, but building a custom one at the outset generally is. I’m a server management guy myself, but if you aren’t into that, you can grab hosting at a place like Bluehost for about $4 a month, do a Wordpress quick install using the tools they provide and then wander over to Themeforest for a nice looking skin for your new site. Use your blog to announce events, show the things happening at your space, provide information about what you’re doing, and show pricing for signup.
Eventbrite handles event tickets, check-ins and payments. Any time you’re going to host an event, use Eventbrite.
I found out about this tool from the guys at Workshop 88. Talkerapp is a free chat tool that you can use to keep all of the members in the organization talking. Great for creating a sense of community, even when people aren’t at the space.