- The recent furore over mishandled data by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica led to a mass exodus and brand boycott.
- Behind the #DeleteFacebook movement, there is a lesson for workspace operators.
- A breach of trust could turn a member, or even your entire community, against your brand.
“Recent reports regarding the use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica sparked enough outrage that the hashtag #DeleteFacebook began trending. As a result, major names like Apple CEO Tim Cook have spoken out against the company. Even a former Facebook executive, the Whatsapp cofounder Brian Acton, tweeted, ‘It is time. #deletefacebook’, which sparked the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, to remove his companies’ presence from Facebook.” – Ben Gilbert, Business Insider
Simply said, Facebook breached the trust of its users, which turned a significant percent of its community against itself.
Communities are based on a sense of trust, of mutual understanding that we put the other above the self. At the core of the flexible workspace industry is the concept of community, of collaboration, of shared resources. In order for this to work, people need to trust each other and they need to trust your brand.
Behind the #DeleteFacebook movement, there is a lesson for workspace operators.
Back when Facebook first started, people trusted in it; so much in fact that they were willing to share personal details, photos, thoughts, and whatnot for friends and connections to see, and even comment on. At first, most, if not all, were oblivious to the fact that these platforms were collecting our data, not just for ‘verification’ purposes, but also for marketing purposes, for business purposes.
People didn’t mind it so much when it meant that that information was used to better target ads and customize your newsfeed (or at least that was what was claimed), but when it meant and it came to light that it wasn’t only selling information, but also actively manipulating an individual’s thoughts and behaviors, Facebook crossed a line. It breached the trust of its users.
As a flexible workspace operator you have access to private and personal information of your members. Similarly, your members are privy to information that other members may discuss or work on while in your space. In order for your community to work, it must be built on a basis of trust, on tacit and written rules of behavior and expectations. Because of this, you need to be extremely careful on how you use and for what purposes you use each members’ information; whether it be an email, number, or payment record.
In order to prevent your community and members from turning against you, you need to be proactive about how you protect them and how you build a strong community. The stronger your community, the more trust they will endow upon you.
One way to do this is by leading a transparent business. Iris Kavanagh from Coworking with Iris says that “there needs to be transparency with your practices and your decisions. And if you make a mistake, you need to own up to that mistake as quickly as you possibly can.
“You also need to have a legally binding agreement with each member. The agreement should include all relevant information, expectations, services, how information will be handled, how people are expected to behave and privacy policies about what they are privy to within the space. Take for example if you have an entrepreneur working on proprietary tech or a new app project and other members hear about it, they need to be sure that it won’t be leaked, that the information will be kept confidential.”
Speaking about confidentiality, you need to make sure that your space has a robust and strong IT infrastructure that won’t be easily hacked, compromising all of your stored information. The same goes to basic security, like accessing your space.
“Most spaces don’t have an alarm system. But what happens if someone breaks in? That would be a huge breach of trust for members. You have to know at all times who is coming in through your door and for what purpose. Back when I worked as a workspace manager, we had to temporarily hire a security guard as our front door was not locking property and was easily opened.”
While some members might be willing to let small things go, others aren’t. And “it’s not easy to know at what point a member or the community itself will begin to actively campaign against your policy or brand altogether.
“Something as small as a dog policy can turn some members against you. I know this from first-hand experience, when several members of a coworking space I used to manage threatened to leave if we didn’t allow one pet to keep coming to the space after breaking our no barking policy.”
Luckily, Kavanagh was able to mediate the situation and retain the members. Nonetheless, the chance was there that the space would lose a total of 7 members. And while losing several members might not take you out of business, it will definitely affect your community, which in the long-run, if you aren’t able to recuperate, might indeed affect your numbers enough to take you out of business.
Sometimes it might not be a breach of trust that turns a community against you; it might be a change in management, especially if your space is acquired or merges with another brand.
In the end, it all boils down to customer service, to hospitality, to treating your members well, at all times. If you want your members to be loyal, you need to be loyal to them first and establish a sense of trust and support; otherwise, they will run out the door at the first sign of disagreement or trouble.