The Symbiotic Relationship Between Audience and Community, From an Influencer’s Perspective
An audience passively sits and watches the stage, where the influencer is a headliner
Author Chris Brogan once said, “The difference between an audience and a community is which ways the chairs are facing.”
For the influencers, the chairs are all facing the stage and they’re the headliners.
Influencers are people who have accumulated a following by producing content that captures snippets of their lives. A spotlight beams on their digital presence and audience members have no place to look but straight at them.
Yet, the illusion of an influencer and their pedestal is beginning to wean. There’s a collective understanding that heroism and fame isn’t a viable structure.
Humans are craving relatability. Communication. Growth. A home for their own aspirations and desires through specialized niches. They want a community.
Influencers are beginning to step out of the center stage and instead focus on building their online communities. They too, desire something new. Influencers like Allie Michelle are leading the way, having created the online community The Mystery School where people come together to connect over all things meditation, breathwork, and yoga.
Up until now, an influencer’s whole life revolved around building an audience. How does one transition to community? What are the differences? How do the two relate to one another? What are the different aspects when it comes to monetization?
It turns out that audience and community are inseparable, and must work together.
The Rules Behind Building an Audience and its Monetization
To build an audience, one must follow the unspoken rules of hierarchy. There are two tiers. The first is the audience members, who all stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Then, there’s the influencer perched on top of the stage.
An influencer isn’t only an Instagram model. It could be a brand, a business, or anyone who has influence over others’ buying decisions. In a way, anyone trying to build an audience is some version of an influencer.
Once the audience reaches a tipping point, the account is able to monetize. They could be contacted by advertisers who want to incorporate products into the influencer's digital content. Or, they’ll begin selling their own specialized products or services.
Yet, the energy when selling to an audience is…different.
There’s an air of imitation. When selling a product or service, it plants the idea that if you purchase X, you’ll achieve the Y thing the influencer has. It could either be looks, lifestyle, the illusion of happiness.
Either way, as influencers sell commodities, they themselves become a commodity. It’s a B2C process, where they become a business and their goal is to sell to consumers, who are the end-users of the products or services.
Ultimately, selling to an audience is a means to an end.
The Essence of Building a Community
For an audience, the relationship is one-way: the person on stage talks (and sells) to a crowd.
Within a community, everyone talks to each other. Here, the chairs are in a circle. And in this circle, the community unanimously agrees upon one version of reality. Whether it be for fitness, startups, or plants, there is a unifying perspective everyone shares.
There’s no hierarchy in this circle because everyone has a say. Instead, there are varying degrees of ownership and responsibility. It’s distributed based on the involvement in the community.
The pedestal dissolves. The “influencer” connotation disappears. It was never real, anyway.
Instead, they become something akin to teachers. But no teacher is successful without first being relatable. As such, community founders grow alongside each community member and get on their level. They are both teacher and pupil.
The products or services sold to audiences tend to be materialistic. In communities, founders sell a subscription fee that helps build a bespoke and sacred space. Within this space, they provide the tools for growth. The discourse shifts from “buy this lipgloss” to “let’s all grow together.”
Yet the most amazing thing about communities is their end goal. For the community founders, it’s to teach a skill set to their members. They provide the tools for members to reach their fullest potential and eventually create their own community someday.
With an audience, there is no cycle of life. The mission remains linear and fixed: grow quantitatively. It’s to sell to an audience under the premise that the product will achieve Y thing. End of story.
Communities, instead, come alive. They are a living, breathing ecosystem that helps all individuals reach their full potential. You subscribe, and then the journey begins for everyone to grow together, continuously.
This level of digital intimacy remains unmatched.
How Audience and Community are Connected
The existence of vibrant communities is a special thing. It creates a moat around you, where you become irreplaceable. People can recreate your image or product. But no one can replicate your community.
Yet, we’ve now entered a craze where now every entity wants to build a community. And in this hurriedness, people forget about the importance of audiences. Audience and community are in an obligate symbiotic relationship. One cannot exist without the other.
Building an audience in public draws people in with attention. The social platform acts as a public square, where people can stumble in serendipitously. It’s at this gathering ground that individuals will learn about the existence of a community.
For the marketing funnel, this is the beginning phase, AKA awareness. It’s here that individuals will begin the journey from audience members to community participants. Curious onlookers begin as an audience — those who resonate with the community’s vision find their way from this starting point.
In the Future, We’ll All Find a Home Within Niche Communities
While audience and community go hand in hand, the exponential revolution of social media has a clear leader: communities.
The history of social media has been steadfast and ever-changing. We’ve gone from social networking sites (IG, FB, Twitter), to group chats (Telegram, Messenger, Whatsapp) to small vertical communities (Subreddits, FB groups). In the future, we’ll see paid social apps where people voluntarily shell up to $5,000 a month to join a community. Ad-models are out, paid social apps are in.
At the end of the day, people don’t want to passively sit in an audience and watch a headliner. They want to feel seen, heard, and connected to. And communities are now making that more accessible than ever.
We’ve created a platform that will host this ecosystem of communities, and make it easier than ever to begin or join existing groups. Whether a community member or founder, you’ll have the tools to grow, connect, and monetize. We believe communities will help replace the school system and the way we currently work.
Grateful for audiences. Grateful for communities. Grateful for you. If Allie’s community spoke to you, the Mystery School is waiting for you. Or if you’re just a curious onlooker, and wanna check out our own community, you can find us here.