It’s been a while since I’ve talked about the Austin Virtual Workers project, a community of co-workers who want a casual coffee shop co-working setting.

There’s been a few reasons behind this, but as I’ve let my leadership of the AVW project slide, the group itself has started to slip.

Over the last few months I’ve noticed

  • There has been an influx of co-working spaces using the group to advertise events
  • Cross promotion events (with the exception of one) have been ridiculously one sided
  • Events at co-working spaces lead to a net loss of active members
  • People complain because they are sold to when they visit the coworking spaces
  • People have mentioned a lack of coffeeshop variety

And most importantly

  • The large number of events are not inline with the core mission of the group as a whole

Of course, identifying these issues isn’t going to do much good unless I can take action on them, and currently my life prohibits me from spending a full day working from a coffee shop.

Initially we still had an active member base, people who took over the role of hosting events (huge thanks to Tara who moved on to her Two Hives Honey project!). We still have some of these amazing members who are helping keep the vision of Austin Virtual Workers alive. But over time the number of these meetups has dwindled, and along with it, a decline in active users. In 2016, it wasn’t just a bad year for celebrities, for the first time I saw a consistent downwards trend on our active members, despite a strong growth in new members.

There’s three things you can see on the graph below.

  1. At the beginning of 2015 I began working in-house.  Gone were the days of 2-3 meetups a week.
  2. The growth recovers with near weekly meetups
  3. At the end of September we lose our most steadfast community manager
  4. In September 2016 I started a monthly happy hour, which has stymied the flow somewhat

So from complaints from members, lack of core meetups, and my lack of support, the graph tells it’s story pretty well. Despite the overall group growth, despite a relatively good reputation from members I have spoken with, and despite Austin being filled with people working from coffee shops, head in their computers, we are struggling to keep our members active AND happy.

Of course, it’s easy to whine, easy to say that things are wrong, and list out the reasons.  It’s much harder to actually take that to the next level and deal with the problem.

There’s a clear need for more coffee shop-centric regular meetups,  a return to the groups core values. There’s also (I think) a need for regular meetups.  Rob Oller did a fantastic job of running a weekly Monday meetup, which was not only popular, but solidified some of our longest standing members.

Looking to solve this isn’t easy when I have limited direct involvement. But the needs are clear.

  • Establish good partnerships with the local Austin co-working community
  • Build up a regular meetup
  • Ensure variety in other meetups (there’s plenty of Austin coffee shops
  • Re-engage our community manager team

Here’s how I think we can solve this.

  • Work with co-working spaces
    • Assign a flat event fee to list a co-working space event on Austin Virtual Workers
    • Assign a monthly fee for a regular spot to a co-working space + on page and on-email promotion
    • Limit the number of these events to one per month.
  • Use the fee to pay a small stipend as a financial incentive to community managers to…
    • Hold regular (one a week) events
    • Hold longer events, all day drop in/out sessions worked well
    • Explore new venues to host AVW events

Hopefully I can combine both the interest from co-working spaces looking for promotional opportunities with the needs of our members to reverse the declining active member trend.

If you are interested in becoming a Community Manager reach out to me on the Austin Virtual Workers meetup page!