24. Social Media Tips for Coworking Spaces

Welcome to Episode #24 of the Everything Coworking Podcast!

Thank you to the Global Workspace Association for producing this episode.

Welcome to the Everything Coworking Podcast #24! Today I spoke with Aalap Shah. Aalap is the founder of SoMe, a Chicago-based digital marketing company. He has worked in the online, retail, and service sectors, and knows what it takes to market and succeed in our increasingly digital world.

Tell us a bit about your background and your company before we get started: I started out as a CPA for Deloitte, before realizing-- as all entrepreneurs do-- that I was working 80 or 90 hours a week. I was a cog in a machine. I segued into owning two toy stores at the age of 23. Most of my success at the toy store is what we do is the same as coworking spaces. We build a community, connect the members to resources, and ultimately make people smile at the end of the day. After selling both toy stores, I freelanced for business to business communities, got a desk at Enerspace Coworking, and focused in on social media and digital marketing.

Tell us what your perspective is, and how your company helps shared spaces: It’s a hard concept to create good content. I like to take a step back and think about the reason you chose the location of your shared space. Focus on your community. There’s content all around you that doesn’t necessarily have to be shared-space specific. Your content could be everything from hot coffee spots near your location to local child care, gym, and transit options. Also focus in on your members-- not just their testimonials, but what their business is and why they’re there. If you’re going to spend all this time creating content, we want people to learn from it and distribute it.

Promoting others in the community: Often, the businesses in your space have wider networks than you-- they’re your best promoters of content. Create content that speaks to them. Ask what your passion is, and curate content from that angle. Having a point of view will help differentiate you from everyone else. As far as platforms go, I’d stick with Instagram and Twitter. Pick one or two platforms you like and feel comfortable on, and own them.

Instagram or Facebook? I love Facebook as a distribution channel, but it’s more of a friends and family channel, not one people will use to find and do business with your space. Facebook is becoming less relevant because it’s purely pay-to-play now. SoMe Connect doesn’t have a Facebook page. It didn’t provide any ROI for our business.

Finding your passion and its platform: Sometimes I’m asked about LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a career platform, and the ads cost a lot of money. Are we going to reach entrepreneurs here, or someone that’s making a mid-career decision to launch their own business? There’s a lot of variables. I think it’s a good platform. Some of the game in SEO is to be on as many channels as possible, but at SoMe, less is more. I’d rather you win on one or two things you love, because you’ll attract those types of people to your business. You’ll be happy to spend 10 or 15 minutes maintaining your channel each day, and an hour to research your posts and posts of other businesses in your community to see what they’re talking about. Decide on your intent for each channel of social media, and focus in on that.

How social media drives business: Being in the industry for five years now, I’ve seen social media contribute very little to business’s bottom lines or top lines. I’ve come around to thinking of social media as a PR and brand awareness outlet, and a media relations opportunity. It doesn’t drive business, but it does assist business. You check out a company’s social networks to seal the deal after googling their reviews and looking at their website.

Ad spending on social media: There are three avenues of social media. One is content creation. That’s something you can outsource without breaking your budget. Another avenue is community management. It’s one-to-one combat against other spaces to draw in business. The third and most prolific area is ads. You can now examine your customer and seek out similar customers for your space. I absolutely recommend it, but encourage powering it with great content. Use top ten lists, member spotlights, and quick videos of your space. Tell me about the successes of the people at your space. Think beyond the ‘free pass’ ads.

Outsourcing vs keeping in-house: I think the biggest tradeoff to consider is authentic communication. Areas of opportunity you can outsource are content creation and strategy. These are areas you might not have expertise in, and need help with. I’d strongly advocate retaining community management, like day-to-day communication and identifying who to talk to. Keep it in-house, or do it yourself. It’s often the most expensive part of social media engagement. If you are considering outsourcing community management, ask how soon they’ll respond, what hours they’re online, who they’re looking to talk to, and how they’ll respond to questions or queries.

How we measure success and return on investment from our time and money: Ask how much engagement and how many shares your posts get. Focus on creating content people will share and engage with, rather than posting for the sake of posting. Have great analytics tools. We can measure impact on Google Analytics to see whether social media helped people to make the decision to engage with your company.

Using content to drive traffic to your site: My rule on content is to spend 20% of your time making it, and 80% promoting it using things like Buzzstream, for example. You can isolate influencers that have talked about the topic of your post and interact with them one-on-one to promote that content. Having two pieces of great content each week is fine. It’s better to go slower and really promote than to just churn out content. You don’t want to make people unlike or unfollow you. It’s not easy or intuitive to build a community online. You’re going to have to go out and find your fans or followers. It’s going to be a lot of work in the beginning to get an audience to talk to. If you can think of two or three key content opportunities and find 10 or 15 people to reach out to, you’ll feel a lot of growth faster than with you would with just paid ads.

Content should be relevant to your local area: Unless you’re a national organization, your best approach is to embrace your local community online. The chambers, the local government, awesome businesses-- there’s so many people to partner up with and co-promote. I also think

Creating content without becoming overwhelmed: People get overwhelmed by trying to create great content. Focus in on a few short articles or blog posts about things you like to do in your neighborhood. Maybe it’s restaurants or gyms or festivals and activities that you can cover. Use that as your baseline content, and fill in the rest of your week with photos of your space, member spotlights, and thoughts on local news. There shouldn’t be pressure to create content every single day. Try to focus on four solid pieces every month, and fill in the rest with other content. It gives you time to promote, helps your SEO, and improves other marketing efforts.

Tools you might not know about: To start with, there’s Buzzstream. I love Skitch and SocialBro. Skitch is a great tool to highlight, take screenshots, and annotate. SocialBro is great for analytics and timings on when your audience is online. I love traditional tools like SproutSocial and Google Analytics. I try to stick to this set of core tools, because they have everything you need. If you have these five, you’ll have a good toolkit to be successful.

Where can we find you online? You can always find me on our LiveChat, or visit us at SoMeConnect.com for more information.

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PodcastJamie Russo