The advantage of being part of a group is that it provides an instant community. Anyone you meet who shares the same interests as you will be instantly familiar with you and will probably have something in common with you as well.
However, by definition, every member shares at least one common interest with everyone else in the group. As such, there is less opportunity for personal connections within the group than there would be if all members were strangers.
On the other hand, a community develops more organically out of the shared experience than through a shared background. People who don’t fit into established categories may find their place among fellow outliers and realize they have more in common with them than their peers who fall into the mainstream.
You can build an audience by posting content on the internet, but once you have it, you must be careful what you do with it. Your audience is fickle and will abandon you if you don’t give them what they want. If your business model is based on selling ads to brands, your audience will disappear as soon as a competitor comes along with better offers.
In contrast, a community is loyal as long as it feels it is receiving value from its relationship with you. You can’t just create a community; you must nurture it over time and build trust through shared experiences.
The audience sees only one side of your business: the brand or product you offer. The community sees all sides, your values and beliefs, and wants to connect with you professionally. This makes it easier for them to trust you and feel connected to your brand or product.
When someone joins an audience, they may stick around for a while but not forever. But when someone joins a community, they tend to stay because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves that lasts longer than just a few weeks or months.
There is a big difference between an audience and a community. Audiences are impersonal; they don’t care about what you have to say and certainly don’t care about you. They are not invested in you or your business.
On the other hand, communities are personal and passionate about what you do. They want to learn from you and support your business goals because they’re personally invested in your success. Communities add value to your audience by providing feedback, ideas, opportunities, and referrals, all of which help you improve as a business leader and marketer.
As a business, whether you are a blog, a consulting firm, or any other type of business, your audience is your community. What you do is build trust in that community and make them feel like they can rely on you. You should listen to their feedback and adapt yourself to your customers’ needs. If they feel that they can trust you, or if you have yet to learn what they want from you, then it’s unlikely that your community will continue to grow.