…healthy communities are essential for sustaining vibrant market democracies. This is perhaps why authoritarian movements like fascism and communism try to replace community consciousness with nationalist or proletarian consciousness.
― Raghuram G. Rajan, The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind
As a data engineering venture, we have observed the significant benefits of precision. In today’s post, we will highlight the important difference between two commonly used terms considered pretty much interchangeable- audience and community. The second part will talk about the role of tech in building communities.
Audience is based on interests, while communities are built on shared goals and practices.
Social media driven audience engagement has made putting out a word or passing on an information unbelievably easy. Building massive audiences in a short time requires a stream of easy-to-understand content and investment in distribution. Rightly done, you can amass millions of ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘followers’. The only issue being that it is literally that easy.
Anyone with a good team of content creators and enough investment can evoke interests, attract people and recruit audiences. This approach works excellent if your aim is to sell products or Saas software. Not that easy, if you want to build a community of people who are invested in promoting an idea or a value system.
Community compared to audiences stand out for their resilience. The durability of community emerges from the Aristotelian understanding that- “Man is a social animal”. Community fulfills the human need to relate, depend, and grow together. It includes transactional relationships, but is not limited to them. Community is essential to reinforce the humaneness of the individual- as Aristotle maintains, without society, the individual is either a beast or a god. Social media– driven audience– building measures can be immensely useful, but not in itself enough for nurturing communities.
The difference as you can see is notable:
Audiences need to be constantly engaged and stimulated, while driven communities engage with you on their own. A committed community is self-sustained- they amplify issues, build narratives and devise convictions.
Audiences tend to be passive consumers. Frequently complained for being dopamine reactors. On the other hand, communities value originality from individual members.
Audiences as participants are ruthless. As Arvid Kahl observed, “Audiences are focused on you…”. A misstep by the leader or the brand and the audience is inclined towards extreme steps. The audience’s entire experience depends on that they are told to expect. Now, communities are entirely different in this issue. Due to a sense of belonging and joint ownership, the values that bind the community together tends to exist beyond the leader or the brand. For this reason, communities are forgiving and supportive.
Communities are resilient, while audiences are fickle.
So how does one build a community?
Old metric of trust:
The foundational parameter has to be building trust. In a recent PWC report, a brand marketing leader reminded the readers of a simple truism- “If everyone could ask what’s right for the consumer, the industry would be better. We’ve over- complicated the model versus setting industry standards as we build.” Do what is right for your stakeholders and reap the benefits of a trust-based relationship.
Engage and not promote:
Language plays a role in shaping participants into audiences or community members. Promote yourself and you will be left with audiences. Choose to engage with them about what matters and gain a community.
Irrelevance is largely a sign of being self-obsessed. Use tools such as polls and surveys to learn about your community member’s concerns and motivations. Highlight your learnings and tweak communication to be on point.
Show you are human:
Authenticity builds trust, and to err is human. Community building exercises should include discussions on mistakes and lessons learned. Communication and data driven strategies should include highlighting weaknesses to encourage resolution from community members. A community should be designed to work towards common success and not to expect it.
A crucial area of community building is physical engagement. Door-to-door visit, events and gatherings are central to this approach. Modern day location intelligence tech can increase these interactions by several magnitude to achieve both heightened interaction and accuracy.
Hire a team that cares and prioritizes community building:
Communities, by nature, tend to outgrow their leaders. Such communities need support teams that care for the community values and goals as much as the leader does. They should be able to go the extra mile on behalf of the leader, to continue building loyalty, and enrich community goals until the community ultimately sustains itself.
As a data engineering firm, we are very aware of the significant benefits of precision. Meradesh Platform was built to quantitatively support the qualitative needs of community building. Our eco–system of survey tools, location intelligence products, and visualization dashboards backed by our data strategy consulting services was deliberately collated to strengthen electoral campaigns that are voter centric.