Are you building an audience or a community?
It’s easy to assume that an audience vs. community doesn’t have many differences. However, 67% of community members are loyal to the brands that have communities they participate in. For your firm or SaaS business, it may make sense to focus on an audience, community, or both.
I know this concept can be confusing at first, but you can think of it as a “me vs. them” approach to building your brand.
Me vs. Them
Lindsey Schwartz has a knack for explaining audience vs. community building. She notes the distinctive difference between these concepts in her latest Instagram post (click here to watch it).
- Audience building focuses on getting people to connect with me.
- Community building changes the focus to people connecting with each other.
An audience that connects with you allows you to build a brand that is easily noticed, but when communities are built, it goes even deeper.
Communities can have a multitude of relationships occurring in one space. For example, if you have a Facebook group for your SaaS company, group members may form relationships and explain how they’re best using your new feature.
When someone has a question about one of your features, the community can come together to help the person with their question.
In essence, there’s a sort of shared identity with a community, while there’s not with an audience.
Defining Audience and Community
Defining an audience or community is something that can be a little tricky the first time or two. However, I’ve narrowed these definitions down to make it easier for my clients, friends and business partners to understand.
- What is an audience? An audience is the following of a creator or a brand. You can view Elon Musk as a personal brand with an audience.
- What is a community? A community is social. It’s filled with interesting personalities that often share the same interest and goals. Members of your community are helpful and dedicated. They want to help others solve problems.
Let’s look at some examples of audiences and communities.
If you follow Intuit on Twitter and other social platforms, you’re part of the brand’s audience. You consume their content and may leave comments, but that’s the extent of your relationship with them.
The Apple Support Community is a great example of a brand community. Along with offering peer-to-peer support, the community provides a place for users to hang out and share their experiences.
An audience and community can coexist, but brands may build them separately.
Your firm can have an audience and community co-exist on:
- Dedicated community platforms
When a portion of your audience becomes very engaged, they’ll naturally start to build a community. A strong community can have a lasting impact on a business, but it’s also important to know the distinct differences between the two.
Audience vs. Community Building: What’s the Difference?
While audience and community building are similar in nature, there are some fundamental differences between them, such as:
The Way Connections are Formed
One of the primary differences between audiences and communities is how relationships are formed and sustained.
- Audience: The relationship is strictly between the creator and the audience. For example, a creator posts content as part of their social media marketing, and the audience consumes it. The audience may leave comments, but the creator doesn’t consume content created by the audience.
- Community: The relationship extends beyond the creator and the audience. Audience members also connect and interact with each other. Research has shown that online communities can improve brand engagement by up to 21% because members have the ability to ask questions and seek advice from each other as well as the brand.
Remember that audience building is all about getting people to form connections with you, and community building is all about getting people to build connections with each other.
How Voices are Heard
With audience building, you may engage with your followers on social media, but you’re not really building a community. Yes, other users can comment and send messages, but ultimately, your voice holds the most weight.
In a community, everyone’s voice is heard and given equal weight. Those who organize the community may have a little more influence, but having just one voice isn’t the overall goal of the community.
When you post content on your blog or on social media, you control the narrative, and your voice is amplified compared to those of your commenters and followers.
How Messages are Communicated
Another key difference in audience vs. community building is how messages are communicated.
- Audience: Messages are communicated in a single direction – from the creator to the audience. You post a video, and your followers consume your content. They may comment on your post, but that’s the extent of the communication.
- Community: Everyone is free to contribute. You may post content, and the community can interact with it. But they are also free to contribute their own content.
With audience building, communication is linear. With communities, everyone is free to engage and interact with each other and contribute to the discussion.
Different End Goals
Audience building and community building have different end goals.
- Audience building focuses on growing your reach. Your goal is to provide value to whoever consumes your content, but ultimately, you want to reach as many people as possible.
- Community building focuses on helping the overall community and individuals to reach their goals.
For example, firms may want to help their community prepare for uncertain times. They may provide some helpful tips, but each member of the community can contribute to the discussion and help others ensure that they are prepared for whatever may come.
With audience building, the focus would be simply to provide valuable tips on preparing for uncertainty and ensuring that content reaches as many people as possible.
What Do YOU Want to Build?
Building audiences and building communities both have advantages. But as a business owner, it’s important to consider what you want to build.
Maybe you want to build both. Maybe you don’t have the resources or need to build a community. Either case is fine. The key important thing is to understand the differences between audience and community building so that you can focus your efforts on the right tasks.
Do you want to learn more about audience vs. community building or to supercharge your marketing in 2023?
We’re here to help.