Are you building an audience or a community?

As a business owner operating in a world where everything is considered “community,” you may be confused about exactly what yours means. Building a community isn’t the same as building an audience. In fact, I often say that you must build an audience before forming a community. The key difference is that you send messages to your audience, but a community talks to each other.

Audience versus community

  • Audience: People who follow our buy from a business communicate with them through one-directional messages.
  • Community: A group of people who can communicate with each other.

To build an audience, you create content that gets pushed to your customers or followers. Maybe you use an email list, host a podcast, or run a YouTube channel. Either way, this is a one-direction communication. What it isn’t is a community. Instead, a community is an intentional group meeting for a specific purpose.

Another point I want to make is that social media is also not a community. Social media is a means for people to create and share content, but it’s not the same as the kind of community I help my clients build. Social media is often created to serve a platform or business needs, but a community helps members meet their needs. When built and maintained intentionally, communities create calm. Consider the last time you logged into Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. If you’re anything like me, the experience usually brings distraction or comparison — but not calm.

According to Hivebrite, a community software, social media isn’t ideal for community building. They say communities built off of social media provide fewer distractions and less spam. When you choose a place to run your community dedicated to your sole purpose, it “facilitates authentic self-expression and a feeling of belonging. Members are more likely to reach out to share ideas, opinions, and best practices, ask and answer questions, and take action.”

Another reason to avoid building a community on common social media platforms is that you have little control over the experience. When Facebook and Instagram went down for several hours in October of 2021, some business owners received a gut punch.

“While the IG outage was mildly stressful, it did reaffirm some of the concerns… namely, that IG rarely rewards us for the time we invest and that relying on a 3rd party to mediate our relationships with customers is risky business,” said Rachel Jones, founder Jonesey.

Of course, all online communities rely on tech to work effectively. But my point is that social media can remove, delete, copy, or take ownership of any content created on their platform. This is why I encourage you to consider hosting a community other than social media.

About Deb

An experienced writer, photographer, designer, consultant, strategist, podcaster, and facilitator, I have a lot of “tools” in my toolbox. Since launching my business in 2020, I’ve helped over 50 entrepreneurs build, launch, and grow their businesses with an online community. My experience as a writer, creator, and designer for 20 years transformed into a business to help business leaders, creatives, entrepreneurs, leaders, speakers, authors, and executives take the “guesswork” out of community building. Learn more about working with me at



Deb Schell, Author and Community Strategist

Community Strategist, Author, Podcaster, Designer. Find Calm Here, where community strategy meets intentionality.