In my book Think Like a Rock Star, I make the point that the rock concert is probably the greatest marketing tactic ever created. The beauty of the rock concert is that it gives fans a way to see and connect with their favorite rock star in a way that they can’t get from buying their albums or merchandise.
But more than that, it gives fans of that rock star a way to connect with each other. The importance of being able to connect with like-minded people that love the same rock star cannot be overstated. When you put a group of people together that share a common interest, it gives them a chance to connect with each other, and to become a community.
You hear so many content marketers talking about the importance of building an audience for your content. They talk about how to tailor your content so that it finds and grows an audience.
But what about building a community around your content? And what’s the difference between an audience and a community in regards to your content or your brand or your idea?
Meet Tim and Jason
Tim and Jason are both fans of Alabama football. In terms of our discussion here, Tim will be your audience, Jason will be your community. Let’s look at how they differ:
Tim – Tim has been a fan of Alabama football since 2010, right after Alabama won its first National Championship under current coach Nick Saban. He has an Alabama cap and a couple of shirts, which he likes to wear on gameday. He tries to watch as many Alabama football games on TV as he can, although he does miss a few due to work and other activities. If Coach Saban retired and Alabama football had a losing season, he would probably start cheering for another team.
Tim is what you would call the ‘audience’ for your content. He will stick around as long as you are giving him useful content, and he’s just here for the content.
Jason – Jason is what you would call a ‘die hard’ Alabama fan. So are his parents and all his friends. Jason attended his first Alabama football game when he was 12 years old. He grew up watching Alabama football lose under Mike Dubose and later Mike Shula, which makes him appreciate even more how successful Alabama football is now. Jason is a season ticket-holder, and prior to last year, he attended every home game. He loves being on campus and each trip to Tuscaloosa was a day-long event. He would arrive on campus around 6 am, and tailgate for several hours prior to the start of the game. He enjoys meeting other Alabama football fans, and knows all the fans that tailgate around him for each game. As he’s gotten older, he spends more and more time on campus, he loves seeing all the sights and meeting other Alabama football fans and sharing stories about past seasons.
Jason is what you would call the ‘community’ around your content. He loves your content, but he also loves communicating and engaging with other people that also love your content.
As you read these personas for Tim and Jason, note the main difference: Jason is far more invested in your content, because he’s part of a community that loves your content, and he loves connecting with other members of that community.
Here’s another way to think of the difference:
The term "Community" is thrown around a lot today, especially in creator circles.
Let's be clear about one thing — if you're not fostering connections between your readers, you don't have a community, you have an audience. pic.twitter.com/G3Xg2bayii
— Ethan Brooks (@damn_ethan) January 17, 2021
Members of your community are actively engaged and invested in the community that they are a part of. They will devote more resources, whether its time or money (or both) to you and your community and seeing both grow.
So consider this when deciding if you want an audience for your content, or a community. And some people only want an audience, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They just want to create great content, and have people appreciate it, and that’s it.
But some people want to have a true community around their content. They want to create content that is found to be valuable with an audience, but they then want that audience to be connected with each other and become a community. They are willing to put in the extra time and energy to get to know the people that enjoy their content, and help those people connect with each other.
A community is more invested in seeing that community, and the things, ideas and people they support, succeed.