29. Using Technology to Build Community in Coworking Spaces
Welcome to episode #29 of the Everything Coworking Podcast!
Welcome to the Everything Coworking Podcast #29! This episode's guests are Mike Lanni and Colin Bovet. Mike is Head of Key Accounts for Enplug and Colin is Head of Marketing at Enplug. Workspace managers are always looking for technology that supports operational objectives that doesn't require constant 911's to the IT department. Workspace managers are also always searching for communication tools to keep people in the loop and keep them engaged. We’ve been talking a lot recently in our Global Workspace Association content about using technology to level up the member experience in our shared workspaces because we think as the industry evolves, the expectations of the average users are getting higher and higher and spaces will start to compete more on the member experience. I ask Mike and Colin a few questions about digital communication technology in shared and corporate workspaces.
I would love to hear about your technology and what problems people are coming to you to solve: Imagine if you have WeWork scope, you have 77 locations across 23 different cities. They are really looking for ways to communicate with their members that are uniform and can be directed at specific members/locations as needed. So, WeWork turned to Enplug a while ago to get started doing that and it’s being a really great experience and great partnership. They use us both to communicate to the members and help the members communicate with each other within the space.
Coworking is such an interesting space because as an owner you are marketing to the field at large — to all the people who could use your services — who could come to the coworking space. But you are also marketing to all the people within the space and then they too become advocates for your space. How you create community within that space can have a huge impact on how your word of mouth spreads, and how many referrals you get, etc...
There’s been a huge turn in the coworking industry. You are creating this community within, you want people want to come to your space and work there, even though it’s work, they enjoy being there because it’s such a great space. The creation of that is really what we do, we help by providing a tool by which people communicate not just through these instant communications like an email, or an announcements, etc, , but as long-term communication over time.
What are some other examples of things or categories of things people put on the digital signage. We think that most of our members use it for two different categories. The first is going to be communicating to members by sharing things like birthdays that are coming up, announcements in the communal kitchen, opening hours and holidays, and various things like that. The other main category is going to be communication between members. That can be things like featuring the companies in the space by industry. Imagine if you have a listing on your screens in your space that shows who in your company is a web developer or who in your coworking space is an accountant. All these different roles of the people, members in your space, you can show that to everyone else so the next time your members are looking for a new accountant they might just go to your space and find someone within the space to do that. That helps build community within the space.
Some of the spaces that we work with have an internal member portal and there are a lot of different kinds of offers in that portal. We see spaces that will partner with local restaurants and things like that and they will advertise some of their services, different kinds of things that people can use within the workspace.
Another really cool one is a graduated use, so when a business reaches a certain level and is a whole section of a workspace then they may get their own screen. In certain situations we’ve seen where workspace owners, as part of their package for that larger space, have their own screen in the lobby that they can control and it’s just a part of their package.
Does the account owner have the ability to allocate control over a given screen? With a client like WeWork they have control over all these screens all over the world, but then there is local control for people to put up whatever is going on locally, have channels that are local to their location, and can have an account where then you will be able to assign a certain screen or a certain set of screens to individuals. There are all these different levels of access that make it pretty easy for a space to manage it with marketing teams, community managers and their owners.
Talk briefly about how it actually works - the technology piece of it. We provide a small device that you can actually connect to any screen with HDMI cable. You can either use WiFi or Ethernet to link your devices together, connect to the Enplug dashboard, and use cloud management to manage your content. You don’t have to buy a bunch of servers, you don’t run a server room, you don’t need tech people to set it up.
Once they are all connected together, upload a graphic, and just choose which screens you want it to run on. It will be on the screens across the room, across the country, or somewhere in the world.
Where can folks find you if they want to learn more. We will actually be at the GCUC Conference in L.A., so that’s a great opportunity. Otherwise, enplug.com is always great and even if you drop a note that way I’ll be sure to get it.
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