This article was written by Terry Van Horne from Telsec
Over the years I have started and been a member of several public and private online communities. In 2003 I founded the SEO Pros Community (first organization for SEOs) and later David Harry and I founded the SEO Training Dojo. My experience with these communities and participation in email groups has taught me that they can foster the same networking and collaboration opportunities as a coworking space, however, it is amplified many times over because there are no physical limitations to the size of the community or event!
What is Virtual Coworking?
Virtual coworking is similar to a physical coworking space in that its end goal is to enhance collaboration and networking among members. The difference is that the networking and collaboration activities take place in an online, private community.
Some, if not the majority, of flexible workspace providers already provide an online coworking community in the way of platforms, online groups or discussion boards.
The Benefits of Virtual Coworking
- Better control of “bad members” by the user using the technology included in most community software
- 24/7 365 days a year access to the community
- Community can be reached from anywhere there is an internet connection
- Provides networking and collaboration opportunities to virtual office and address clients
- In an online community the members decide what content and resources are available
- A more diverse membership due to lower cost barriers to entry
Better Management of “bad members”
It is no secret every coworking space has at least one member with lax coworking etiquette. These members are a little harder to block or ignore in person, however, in a virtual community most of the software enables a method to block/mute a user. In other words, the users have direct control over messages/content from any other member.
Increases Access to the Coworking Community
Many coworking spaces have restrictions over when you can access the coworking space to receive the networking and collaboration opportunities they provide. In a virtual coworking community there are absolutely no restrictions on when the community can be accessed!
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In addition to better hours of access, the virtual coworking community doesn’t require you to leave your home to get all the benefits of the coworking experience! You can access the community anywhere there is an internet connection.
Extra Benefits for Virtual Office Clients
A virtual coworking community can provide virtual office clients with an added value service that can increase loyalty and engagement. For many virtual office clients the virtual coworking community provides the same networking and collaboration opportunities as a traditional coworking space for a fraction of the cost!
Members Decide the Content and Resources Available to the Community
Most community/membership software includes messaging and forums. These are the perfect places for collaboration, networking, asking questions, sharing resources or, for that matter, almost anything you can do on most social media platforms. The users are able to create or add to any resource they wish.
I watched a request in an SEO community for input in designing automation software for SEO’s turn into a leader in outreach prospecting software and local citation finder. Because people could add their input anytime during the few weeks the post was open, there were a lot more people who were able to contribute to the resource, which in the end had some incredibly good Google hacks for finding outreach prospects.
One plugin I really like enables users to “Ask an Expert”. This solves the “who do I ask” part of any question and tells the user who wants to answer the question based on their expertise.
More Diverse Coworking Community
Even though flexible workspace is much lower in cost than traditional office space, cost it is still a barrier to entry for many small businesses and fledgling entrepreneurs. The lower cost of virtual coworking removes the barrier for even more businesses to enter the coworking community. These growing businesses will require new services as they grow and when they are ready, they will often look to the community to fulfill these needs because they are familiar with the vendor from their participation in the community.