At SPI, weve been all-in on community since the launch of our private membership community, SPI Pro. The growth of Pro has validated our sense that community isnt just an exciting new piece of the business puzzleits central to the future of business.
The COVID pandemic created a lot of isolation, and as we (hopefully) come out of it, were seeing a massive shift toward building and rebuilding communityincluding community-based businesses.
So what does it mean to build a community? Is it the same thing as building an audience? Not quite.
The two differ in a few important ways, and thats what Pat Flynn and Matt Gartland covered in the first session of CX Day, a joint streaming event hosted by SPI and Circle.so on March 23.
In this post, the first of three covering the sessions at CX Day, Ill share the key differences between building an audience and building a community.
The 4 Key Differences Between Audience Building and Community Building
There are four major differences between a business geared toward audience building and one centered around community.
1. The objectives are different.
When youre trying to build an audience, people come to find content (blogs, podcasts, videos, books, courses). Theyre looking for information and answers.
But in a community model, people come with different objectives. Theyre looking for human connection and belonging. They may come for the content, but they stay for the community.
In SPIs case, were quickly moving toward a model where community is the center of our business, and our content leads people to the community.
2. The business models are different.
In an audience-based business model, your efforts are geared around getting peoples attention. And the tactics, tools, and strategies youll use to grab that attention are probably familiar: search engine optimization (SEO), affiliate marketing, paid ads, and sponsorships.
In a community-based model, though, the focus is not as much on gaining peoples attention, but on retentionkeeping people around. The techniques used in an audience-building model may still apply, but for a different purpose. Theyre geared toward bringing people into the fold and holding onto them with subscriptions, memberships, coaching, events, and masterminds.
3. The user experiences are different.
The user avatar also differs in an audience-based model compared to a community-based one.
In the audience model, the users point of view skews toward that of a consumer. They come to you on their own to find and consume your content. They may learn something new, then move on once theyve gotten what they needed. If you do things well, they might subscribe to your email list to continue hearing from you.
In a community-based model, your users are more like members. They come to you to learn something new, but they stick around because youre providing them with a place where they can belong. Youre giving them an opportunity to feel more connected, to find accountability and support, to build relationships with others on similar paths.
4. The operating conditions are different.
The conditions for operating an audience-based business versus one focused on community are also differentin significant ways.
How you staffyou need people who know how to build and cultivate a community!the culture you create, your cost structure will all vary depending on whether youre building an audience or a community.
Theres a lot to think about, and I wont dig too deep into those differences in this post.
Instead, I encourage you to tune in to the replay of Matt and Pats conversation from CX Day!
They go through the differences between audience and community building in a lot more detail, answer community-related questions from the CX Day audience, and share more about where SPI is headed in the future.
(Spoiler: Community is a big part of it!)
Here are a few pieces of feedback just from that first session.
Ready to Launch Your Community? We Want to Help
You could even make a case that people took community for granted before the pandemic pushed us all apart, and theres now a desire to be more intentional about belonging.
We launched SPI Pro in July 2020 because we saw that desire in our space. People want to belong again. Someone needs to step up and offer that space in your niche. Will it be you?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but if youre not at least thinking about building community, youre playing a dangerous game.
Get everything you need to design and foster an engaging community
And if you are thinking of building a community? Its going to need a home. Circle is far and away our favorite community platform, and its what we use for SPI Pro.
And for just a few more days, you can grab a curated collection of resources designed to help you set up your community on Circlewith expert guidance.
Until March 31, 2022 at midnight, if you sign up for a Circle Professional ($99/month) or Basic plan ($39/month)youll receive the Community Experience Bundle as a gift, which includes $2,500+ in bonuses, expert-led trainings, and more!
Get more info and sign up at SmartPassiveIncome.com/bundle.
More CX Day and Community-Building Goodness
Stay tuned for next weeks post, where Ill dive into the second session from our March 23 CX Day event: “How to set up a home for your community,” with Andy Guttormsen and Alexis Teichmiller of Circle.
And dont forget to subscribe to the Smart Passive Income YouTube channel, where well be providing a lot more great community-focused content. Its where we host all our event replays, including last years Open Circle sessions on building and managing successful, engaged communities.