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#2 Mastermind: Authentic Coliving Experiences — PART 2
Written by Laura Henke
In the current Community Manager Mastermind Series organized by Co-Liv and powered by Sowebuild, 35 coliving professionals from all over the globe came together in order to connect, interact, share and discuss all things coliving, working and community management.
Customizing your services creates the experience we call ‘Coliving’
We’ve seen how coliving brings about the next level in real estate. “It first builds on the idea of turning real-estate into a service to be consumed, rather than an asset to be bought. And then adds the element of personalisation by involving the user in the delivery of the experience.” says Gaetan. What are the two layers that must be considered not only within Hmlet, but for any successful coliving community project?
Level 1: Basic set of services
“Whatever you do, a good solid base of services is essential. You can’t build a community if your toilets are constantly broken or tickets are open and not answered on time by your staff. Also there should be some services that exceed the bare minimum and add a little gusto to it — pamper when you can” — Gaetan de Dietrich
Level 2: Customization of services to create an experience
“The next step up would be customizing your experience through engagement. Do something that at least the very least involves the members in the delivery. Once you are able to create any kind of interaction or reaction from the members you find yourself in experience-building territory. This is where the bar should be for coliving and community: getting members actively involved. Pushing the envelope is managing to help members not only create connection to others, but to yourself and to the world.” — Gaetan de Dietrich
Customizing services through member involvement did not only remove the potential for small annoyances ballooning up within the community but also helped create memorable moments. While still keeping the balance between customization and fulfilling the needs of the business itself, Gaetan and the Hmlet team were able to facilitate and monetize their communities.
How community management prevents pits and stages peaks
The core mission of coliving operators is to make life easier for their members so that they can take on more: connections, aspirations, change and fulfilment. This comes in both preventing issues from arising (pro-active service) and creating memorable moments that will get the members to associate positive emotions with the space.
Seligman’s PERMA model is a very good framework to create a buzzing coliving community and create unforgettable moments together with the members. PERMA is mainly focused on the characteristics of a flourishing individual and the Wellbeing Theory (WBT). Each dimension works in order to give rise to a higher order construct that predicts the flourishing of groups, communities, organizations, and nations. In this case of coliving communities.
Sprinkle the above into your programs and member experience planning, do this before an experience starts, during and after and you’ll notice a huge difference in effect on your coliving project.
“People will continue to increasingly ‘buy’ from others what they once did for themselves, but they in return will also seek that what they buy reflects who they are and who they aspire to be in relation to how they perceive the world” — Gaetan de Dietrich
Community Management is a spectrum:
The role of the community manager is — as stated in my earlier article regarding its definition — not an easy one. They are easily overworked and underappreciated, because their tasks are so varied and with constant responsibility weighing heavily on their shoulders. In order to prevent community managers from burning-out and create flourishing coliving communities, Gaetan states that community managers must be comfortable with the full spectrum of community management: from steering, to engaging and finally, the end-goal: facilitating.
Community managers or facilitators at Hmlet mainly stay within the engaging or facilitating end of the spectrum when interacting with their coliving communities. “Sometimes we need to come in steering, though”, Gatean mentions.
But where is the line for a good community manager to take action, as there is no hierarchy in the community?
- Obviously when there are issues regarding the safety (emotional, physical etc.) of the community.
- When members come and speak to you and request help, there is a need to act, not on behalf of the members but to make sure that the situation is addressed by the members.
- When 3rd parties are involved, partners, neighbours etc to make sure that there is one streamlined and effective point of contact.
It is important to know and set the limits of what the CMs should deal with as part of their scope of work. Remember: CMers are not therapists, but they will listen and care.
In order to build and maintain a successful coliving community, all three states of the spectrum need to be entertained. Each coliving project needs to ask themselves how they want to handle that spectrum: are we full-scope managers or facilitators only?
The roles of the community managers: modest tasks for a critical role
“Community managers are the connection nodes between the business’s stakeholders and it’s users — constantly trying to optimise for both. Our mission [at Hmlet] is to create conditions for an environment that fosters positive human interaction.” — Gaetan de Dietrich
Some of the core functions of the community manager / community facilitator are the following:
Bridging stakeholder’s and member’s needs. This is where a lot of the magic happens (at least at Hmlet):
→ Start with values and rules: the community managers need to be the voice of the brand. Their whole personality needs to radiate that energy. They are brand ambassadeurs with a gatekeeper function.
→ Screening: — your CMs need to be gatekeepers to the community, helping set who’s in and who’s not. Being vocal and consistent about your intentions for the space is a good natural shield against members having the wrong mindset.
→ Onboarding: Creating a welcoming atmosphere. How can you make members welcoming towards new people and changes (again after bad experience).
→ Getting started: Help members settling, i.e. with providing support in getting work permits, a new neighbourhood etc the less stress they have the more they will integrate.
Fostering authentic human interaction and a sense of belonging within their communities on all levels:
→ Service and feedback: the more the sales and real estate teams speaks with the community manager the better -they know what members want
→ Forming partnerships is an effective way to buff up your value propositions and to easily integrate your community’s neighbours and local businesses.
→ Hosting, event hosting is a skill that needs to be trained for, but done properly it will boost the community feel
→ Storytelling: providing people with good pictures (i.e. pre and post experience) is a powerful way to bind people together in your space. This might sound trivial but does a lot.
→ Facilitate conflict: conflict facilitation, not mediation. Hmlet thinks nonviolent communication is a good technique, however it is not easy to teach to especially young CMers. And sometimes this means being the firm hand of the community: “if there are any incidents in Hmlet, we move the person to another unit (extra room)” Gaetan states.
Creating unforgettable rewarding moments for both the business and the members:
“It is quite simple: rewarded behaviors get replicated, so find the right way to reward the right behaviours.” — Gaetan de Dietrich
Find ways to identify and reward behaviours such as:
→ Loyalty to the brand: anniversaries, returning members
→ Showcasing of the spirit: members that take self-motivated action that reinforce the spirit of the brand
→ Pro-social behaviours: members going out of their way to help another members
→ Community Stars: members that decide to take in on them to help create memorable moments for the group.
Your ‘community stars’ (activators or ambassadeurs) could reward the communities or could be rewarded themselves with workshops or events that can take place within the accommodations easily and are either paid for through the operators or can be attended with only a small amount of their own money. However it is important to not reward in ways that come across as steering. Community stars are not unpaid CMs. The goal should be to help build even stronger relationships between the CMers and the members by helping members create these rewarding moments themselves.
Now that we discussed a lot of the Do’s of the community manager’s role within building successful coliving spaces. Here are some of the most important tips from Coliving expert Gaetan de Dietrich regarding the Don’ts:
- Don’t blur communal and commercial lines:
“I believe CMers have a revenue generating function. They are some of the most defining contributors to your marketing there is. But be mindful, your community is not a marketing tool, they are people living their lives. Don’t advertise your members — let them do your advertising.”
- Don’t expect more than engagement:
“By making the engagement of your members as your KPI, you will see customer satisfaction increase. But do not try to please all your members all the time — this denature the role of the CM into a service role and prevents the positive emotions that only getting involved with something, can generate. You can’t make members happy but you can make them active, and that’s the surest way of having a chance of making them happy”
- Don’t think you are done:
“You are never done, there is no final state of achievement in community, like us, community is a process of constant creation.”
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Co-Liv — Global association of coliving professionals
Co-Liv is a non-profit think and do-tank focussed on creating valuable content, events and initiatives that help foster the coliving industry. With 300+ worldwide members and 35+ ambassadors in five continents, Co-Liv helps its members through networking events, educational tools and resources to achieve faster business growth. Join Co-Liv today!