The difference between audience and community comes down to what you want to get out of it.
Audience and community are terms that are used with some abandon to create the impression that lots of people care and participate in activity that is led by another business.
This article is all about defining what they actually mean and whilst relate to momentum with an addressable audience, both are different. However, one should not be seen in higher regard than the other, it all comes down to how you want to action.
Let’s get down to it.
I looked to answer this in an article from 2013, you can read here. I am now in a better place to answer with more definition.
Defining What Is An Audience And What Is A Community
AN AUDIENCE is people who agree to receive information from you. If it is good enough, more people will come on board. You can monetise, you can connect, you can grow.
A COMMUNITY is people who maintain a shared belief, whether you direct it or not, basically things happen without your control. You can create a deeper sense of kinship if you are prepared to dig and others interact whether you know it or not. You can monetise, you can connect, you can grow.
Why Take My Word For It?
This has been something I have been working on since 2013 with the You Are The Media project.
The reason I take an interest in building an addressable audience is that people’s focus comes to your side, not alongside someone else’s message on the same page, looking for your attention. An addressable audience works in two ways:
– Those people who subscribe and leave their email, so you can direct a one to one message
The ability to create, distribute and promote puts everyone in the same field. It just so happens we can do it faster than ever. This makes ultra-competitive spaces, but whether online or offline, it is all about bringing people together.
Mark Schaefer highlighted (Monday 18th February) the importance of people coming together and referenced this from MarkertingCharts.com and the most successful top-of-the-funnel B2B demand generation tactics bring the ability to get people to come together. This is a prime reason where the return lies.
However, it is the ability to build something first, before you treat the world as one giant lead. Have a read of this article that you can’t treat the world as one giant lead. There is more to counting followers and paying to be seen.
The important thing to remember that glues audience and community together is that it’s about getting people to remain with you. It just depends on what the overall action is.Let me explain.
Having an audience in front of you is a privilege, it is up to you to serve them well.
These are the people who are receptive to what you say and do.
What you create, has a connection with others. These are the people who congregate around a central message that resonates. Whether it is a webinar, a networking breakfast, an email newsletter or an event you put on at the end of the working day, people are in the moment, however long they choose to commit to you.
The reason an audience builds is based around what they see, read or hear and comes from a point of interest. If you can scale an audience, you can direct the conversation to the spaces that you have ownership of (online and offline) and take it in the direction you want, from monetising to actioning, to building.
For instance, back in May 2016, the first You Are The Media Lunch Club started at Steele Raymond, a firm of solicitors, in the middle of Bournemouth. 22 people came because there was some form of familiarity with the Thursday, You Are The Media email and was accessible for them to spend a lunchtime. This was an extension from the weekly email and the content connected and was relevant to someone else (albeit only a small audience at the start). For instance, You Are The Media Lunch Club would probably not be around three years later if there wasn’t some form of connection to the email.
An audience comes down to a common theme resonating with others. On a personal level, this is going to watch AFC Bournemouth and a stadium of people with a common interest, let’s not be too technical, I mean fans. On the business side these are people who subscribe to an email newsletter and from my side, the common interest is around ownership and building spaces.
– People signing up to something that you will send
– Receiving an ongoing message where people are receptive and you direct the message
– The people who read your blog
– The people who come to your event
– The people who listen to your podcast
– The people who read your newsletter and then email with their feedback
– The Facebook Group and the Slack channels where there are ongoing conversations
A community is the deepest form of connection, someone else feels good to be a part of something.
These are the people who have a sense of belonging and encouraged to participate. The thing is it can manifest, take shape and develop without you knowing about it.
This is where it moves from beyond the direction of a message from a person ie. you, but to the network that is built and shared by others.
For instance, anyone who subscribes to the Thursday, You Are The Media email will receive a personal email from me (yes, it is always me, I can guarantee), where the email is titled, ‘Welcome To The You Are The Media Community.’ I use this word, as I want to make others feel a part of something that is up to their discretion to utilise the network as deeply as they want. It is all about creating a sense of identity that stands on its own, within the fringes, rather than just a half hearted message saying, ‘Thank You For Subscribing.’
I originally intended to build an audience ie. subscribers to receive the You Are The Media email, with the intention to use this as a way to create familiarity and connection, so when people approached to work with me, the decision was already made up. They had seen enough and the proof (and interest from my side) was continuously on show.
However, what I started to see was the development of a community.
This is something that goes beyond my control. I had created the You Are The Media project, but it is the contribution of others that makes it stronger.
There are examples of community from the ongoing You Are The Media activity. People are working together.
Let me share with you some examples:
– Being a part of the You Are The Media community means income streams for others, this is beyond my control. People work with each other.
– When You Are The Media made the final of an awards event, it was the people who were part of You Are The Media who decided to book a table for the Dorset Business Awards (and effectively generated over £1,000 for the Dorset Chamber), again this was beyond my control.
– Those who are part of the You Are The Media help co-create the weekly newsletter. Have a read of this article that is about others participating in putting together your newsletter, so you are not on your own.
– People are coming together to make the You Are The Media Conference better when this becomes an event shared and everyone is valued, from Steele Raymond (remember them from earlier) paying for everyone to have a drink at the end of the day to Treehouse Digital supporting with video
– People do things without even being asked. For instance, Gordon Fong visited Andrew & Pete this week and they filmed this video for the You Are The Media Conference, I had no idea, but extremely grateful.
A community is everything about the deeper connections and the collaboration that is encouraged.
Mutual understanding and friendships made can sometimes overpower the short-termism of building an audience in the quickest timeframe (you’ve seen it everywhere else and how to build more LinkedIn connections and more Instagram followers).
The Best Example I Can Give Of Community
Let me leave you with one final example and what I consider to be the perfect example of a community stepping forwards.
People who are coming to the You Are The Media Conference in May, I am sending them their ‘I’m Going To The You Are The Media Conference’ badge for their social spaces.
Hayley O’Shea, Marketing Manager from Talbot Heath School is someone who is more than a subscriber (recipient) but part of the community (participant). Hayley shared her ‘badge’ on LinkedIn.
It was met with some hesitance and from someone who was not too familiar and not a part of the You Are The Media audience. The message was angled around the fact that there is too much choice of events and initiatives that are vying for everyone’s attention at the moment. It was a valid point.
I perhaps wanted to justify the validity a bit too much. Then again, I take responsibility for You Are The Media as I lit these twigs that became a fire (not Fyre). However, when it came to answering one question, I knew it wasn’t my place to answer, it wasn’t for me to justify. I put this to others whom I consider as key people from the community. They responded, not me.
Then it carried on…
This is what community represents, the ability for others to step forward and become accountable.
The audience you build is imperative to how you are efficient with a message you deliver and also how you build your client base. Going deeper, a community means a shared responsibility with others to continually make something better.
An audience is for people to be involved ie. go to the event, a community means there are people who decide to get involved further ie. activity before/after the event.
One of the biggest opportunities you have is building a connection with the right people, whilst others are happy to distribute any message, in any space that steers clear of any meaning.
Whilst a community is something that happens after you have built an audience and connected to longevity and proof, one should not be considered worthier than the other.
An audience is looking beyond the pursuit of clicks and converting someone to a pound sign, it is about creating something that people want to feel connected to and be a part of. When community comes into the picture, there is a sense of pride, empowerment and the contribution supports longevity.
It all comes down to what you want. Both are attainable, both provide huge advantages to your business.