Community Building September 23, 2020

What's the difference between a community and an audience?

Richard Awoyemi @RichAwo

"Community" seems to be the new buzz word - but I'm starting to see more people complain about the term's misuse.

One issue seems to be that people equate community and audience.

How do they differ?

  1. 4

    Audience: People listening to one person/company within a specific context (usually an event).
    Community: People exchanging with one another, often asynchronously.

    Coldplay has an audience.
    Facebook has communities.

    Two very different things, imo.

  2. 4

    To put it simply, I would say that an audience is passive and a community more active.

  3. 4

    Audience is more about a focus on benefit for the person/founder/company rather than the community as a whole.

    The blurring comes when some audiences have 'communities', but really what ends up happening is that these communities end up becoming something to continually market and sell to.

    When you have an audience, you seek to:

    • raise your own voice
    • prioritise your own profile
    • your brand matters over others
    • benefit financially more than anyone else, basically squeezing as much profit as you can out of the community

    When you have a community:

    • it's about listening careful to your people
    • collaborating
    • uplifting each other
    • focus on creating bonds between everyone
    • working towards a shared vision
    • as a founder, often it means putting your own needs to one side
    1. 2

      PS. Part of the reason I love working at Indie Hackers is that my focus is on serving and helping the community. I have nothing to sell them. Everything I think and focus on is how can we create more and better indie hackers.

    2. 1

      This is interesting. But, I can see how things get blurry quickly. Thanks, Rosie!

  4. 3

    Community is many to many
    Audience is one to many

      1. 1

        Cheers. Some other people have said basically the same thing but I think this is the most concise explanation.

        1. 2

          Exactly my thoughts!

    1. 1

      Nice! I just commented with the exact same thing haha. Great minds think alike!

  5. 3

    I'm not sure I'd call community a buzzword, but it's an interesting question to think about.

    To answer simply, I'd say:

    • A community is a group of people who give attention to each other
    • An audience is a group of people who give attention to a single entity

    There's definitely some blurred lines between the two.

    1. 2

      The term is a buzzword insofar as it's being used outside of it's intended meaning.

      Thanks for that, a very helpful clarification.

  6. 2

    An audience listens to someone. A community listen to each other.

  7. 2

    I referred to this in a conversation on Twitter.

    Both are distinct yet one is not better or more ideal to have than the other.

    1. 2

      I appreciate the response, the one you need seems contextual.

  8. 1

    Audience: One to Many
    Community: Many to Many

  9. 1

    How can you monetize a(n acess to a) community? We have built a community with a paid membership so we can support 2 salaries and grow/scale. But sometimes we notice people have difficulty to pay for accessing a (vetted and organised) community.

  10. 1

    Maybe related - what terminology do you use with your audience/community/members? I have a simple discussion board where someone can post something/ask a question and others can comment (Like Indie Hackers but more simple to begin with). Given my market, I refer to it as a Forum because I think most members know what that means. Is Forum an outdated term at this point?

  11. 1

    I once told @csallen about how I wanted to build a community for my product Wise Charlie. He then asked me if I had an audience. This has stuck with me. I don't even think about community anymore because my goal is to build an audience (mostly newsletter, social media followers, etc).

    Just like any other system, you have to nurture your community and it can't be a living system, if it doesn't have basic elements, for example, an audience.

  12. 1

    I think it's more related to the direction of the interests of the involved entities.

    A Community is bidirectional in that sense. So when one is working on a thing and shares it within community, they are actually working so the other one also benefits. And in the process learning from each other about the Pros and Cons of that thing. The focus overall is on 'We'.

    An audience on the other hand is unidirectional in that sense. You may or may not expect anything in return from the audience. And only you as a seller has anything to learn about your audience. Your audience doesn't learn about how you did, what you did. They just like that you did it, the end product. The focus here is 'I'.

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