- Community is the future of work and the future of your brand.
- Coworking spaces are perfectly positioned to build brand communities; the raw potential of all these people in the same space is limitless, driven by the power of community.
- These days, we want to know what brands are about, who is behind a brand and what they stand for.
Let’s talk about community. More specifically, community and your brand.
And if talk of community is a little too woo-woo for you — if it feels fluffy, or unnecessary in the business world, stick around, friend. We have some catching up to do.
Community is nothing new to humans. Connection to a group of people is baked into our DNA. We could not survive without each other. For as long as we’ve been around, we’ve been hanging out in shared areas, collaborating on work, joining forces against threats, keeping each other entertained with stories and pushing our species forward together.
But what does community have to do with your brand?
Welcome to my favorite topic — and one I’m excited to dig into with you twice a month for the foreseeable future as part of the Future of Work Voices.
If you’ve been following along with all the Cat Johnson Co activities, you know I have a long-running weekly email that goes out to 3,000 coworking space operators and community builders. I create content across numerous channels to support coworking leaders and community builders; and I frequently teach, speak and present on coworking, content and community building. I also host Coworking Convos, a monthly event series for workspace operators and I run The Lab, the club for indie coworking space operators.
So I’m pretty much all-in on this community thing, and coworking is the aspect of community that lights me up the most. Because, no matter how you slice it, office rental is nothing new. Even hospitality-focused office rental. Even fabulous spaces with high-end amenities and membership rates to match. Even smart buildings and automated everything.
What is fresh and exciting is the human element of shared workspace: the communities full of individuals who support each other, cheer each other on, collaborate on projects, learn from each other and share what they know. Whether remote workers, teams, solopreneurs, small business operators, independent professionals, corporates, freelancers, creatives, digital nomads … the list of who coworking now serves goes on and on. And the raw potential of all these people in the same space is limitless, driven by the power of community.
Community is the future of work.
It’s also the future of your brand and, by extension, your business.
Things have changed. We are not who we were three years ago. The pandemic forced us into our homes and forced the work world to quickly figure out this whole remote thing. I once heard someone speculate that the pandemic accelerated the remote work movement, which was already well on its way, by 10 years. Sounds right to me. Companies of all sizes were forced to adapt or die.
So we did. And we’re not going back.
The pandemic also pushed us into social isolation and, unlike the remote thing, we collectively did not like that. But, as humans do, we found ways to adapt and survive. We gathered online to play games, to problem solve, to cry it out, to talk about trending topics, to chat with family members on Zoom, to make—and listen to—music (the daily DJ sessions by D-Nice were a pandemic bright spot for me), etc. We were simultaneously navigating cultural upheavals and reckonings, with Black Lives Matter, climate marches, the MeToo movement, the spotlighting of hate groups and Stop Asian Hate.
It was a lot, y’all. We have been through some stuff.
And, through it all, we have been changed.
We’re not going back to top-down, business as usual, everyone fall in line. We looked death, ourselves and each other in the eye and decided we want more.
We want more than jobs we hate working for faceless companies; we want more than commuting for two hours a day; we want more than a few throwaway hours for our family and friends; we want more than one or two weeks off a year to decompress.
We want quality of life; we want autonomy; we want flexibility. The best encapsulation I’ve heard of this moment was from a friend who is working toward becoming a digital nomad: “I just want to live free and run my own shit.”
We also want each other. We want connection; we want belonging; we want to be seen and appreciated. Even the most introverted among us need to feel a sense of community.
Smart, visionary business leaders understand this and are already building brand communities — circles of people who can connect with a brand and each other around shared ideas, passions and interests.
Coworking spaces are perfectly positioned to build brand communities. But there is no company or brand in the world that couldn’t do this and wouldn’t be better off for it. Think I’m exaggerating? The top brands in the world are leaning into brand community. Nike has the Nike+ Community, Sephora has its Beauty Insider Community, Harley-Davidson has its Harley Owners Group (HOG), LEGO has LEGO Ideas, where LEGO enthusiasts can submit their own creations.
Do you think these companies are building brand communities because they’ve suddenly gone woo-woo? Billion dollar companies don’t do such things. They are building brand communities because that is what we, as consumers and brand supporters, want. And increasingly, we are aligning ourselves with brands that align with our vision and values.
A study by Razorfish found that 76% of respondents say the brands they buy make the world a better place; 67% say the brands they buy make them a better person; and 82% stated that the brands they buy stand for a greater mission or purpose.
These days, we want to know what brands are about, who is behind a brand and what they stand for. The era of brands broadcasting one-way messages to the masses is over. Communication is now a many-to-many situation. And I think we’re better off for it. It forces people and brands alike to figure out who they are and to share that with the world.
Doing so allows us brand owners, leaders and community builders to attract our perfect-fit members, whether in a coworking space, a group of sneaker enthusiasts, a fitness community or anything else.
Brand community is the future.
So what does that look like and how will we get there? Let’s find out.