Communities vs Audiences - Tom RossCommunities vs Audiences - Tom Ross

Communities vs Audiences

Community vs Audiences

Do you know the difference between communities and audiences and which one you should try to build? This blog will teach you just that!

If you are in a rush, here are the key takeaways from this article:

Audience vs Community

I speak on audience vs community in my new book, but today want to dig deeper. Let’s start with a basic definition of audience vs community:

Audience: One to many. Broadcast medium, you talking to your audience (think social media).

Community: Many to many. A space where members can interact amongst themselves (think forum, Slack group, Discord server etc…).

Both the data and multiple experts featured in my book suggest that there is an increasing shift away from audiences, towards communities.

Even down the pub today, my non-entrepreneurial friends voiced a fatigue towards the one-way nature of social media. Comparison syndrome. Highlight reels. Insecurities. I feel like social is increasingly becoming regarded as a toxic place to devote our time. It’s losing its magic. People aren’t feeling the benefits or enjoyment they once did. Documentaries such as The Social Dilemma support a growing public mistrust and fatigue towards these platforms.

If consumers on social media are fatigued, creators are frustrated


The algorithm – an excuse or a genuine issue?

A lot of Instagram experts will tell you that the algorithm doesn’t matter. That if your reach is down, it’s on you. Level up your content. Stop complaining. Be better.

Whilst I agree that it’s on us to evolve as content creators, the algorithm is very much real


I’ve had the privilege of speaking with some of the biggest names in social, and they all recognize the issue of ever-declining social reach. Savvy marketers have long syphoned their social audiences onto email lists, but increasingly are funneling them into Telegram channels, Slack groups and other private spaces.  

I’ve felt the impact of the algorithm myself, I would work for months to double my following, and still reach the same number of people as when I started. My organic reach would remain plateaued, despite a vastly bigger audience.

Returning to social after 3 months off, I feel like there’s been yet another shift. Organic reach and engagement seems to be dramatically down for everybody. Sure, there’s the ‘Instagrammers teaching Instagram’ folk who are getting healthy engagement, but I also recognise that those folk are mostly full-time on that platform, engaging manually with hundreds of folk daily to ensure their comment numbers are always packed. Whilst I respect their work ethic, I’m increasingly reading up on comments/engagement being the new vanity metric – an inflated engagement number to feed our ego. If something requires frenetic engagement at scale to keep it propped up, it’s not exactly self-sustaining is it?

Could community be the answer?

I genuinely believe that this will be the decade where we witness the rise of the community. 

People seem to be yearning real connection over mindless scrolling. They want interaction. They want relationships. They want to converse, rather than passively consume.

Virtually every big-player in my industry is shifting towards private communities. These communities often contain a fraction of the people of their wider social platforms, yet showcase dramatically more engagement volume/quality.

The value and ROI of communities has been proven to increase exponentially over time. The organic reach of social audiences has been proven to decrease steadily over time.

I know where I’m placing my bets!

I’m going on record to say that my core focus will be shifting towards a private community and this article. Social will be a secondary focus to these.

Interested in joining my community?

As ‘the community building guy’ it’s only right that I have my own community space for this personal brand, rather than just relying on sharing lessons in community building from my company.

I’ve thought long and hard about the right platform, the right structure, the right model…

Here’s where I’m at, and why:

I’m going with Circle

Circle is an awesome community platform. It’s really intuitive to use, and provides a closed space where members can chat, help one another, share content etc… Some of my favorite communities (including Teachable and Ness Labs) are built on Circle.

Premium vs free

Possibly the biggest question of all. Following in the footsteps of communities I respect, such as Ness Labs, I’ve decided upon a paid community, but at a low cost of $10pm. Here’s why… quality. If I open the flood-gates to a free community, it comes with all kinds of issues. Spam, low commitment, poorer quality of content… Yes, I know these are all the reasons marketers give to charge you extortionate amounts of money, but this isn’t about money (if it was, I’d charge a much higher fee!). It’s about creating a barrier to entry. It’s about filtering out the dedicated community builders in my community, who want to be part of a movement, together. 

Suffice to say, I’ll continue to bring massive amounts of free value across my social platforms, website, blog and this newsletter. 

What will it involve?

I’m still toying with ideas, but at the very least it will involve:

  • A monthly live session with me, answering questions, teaching and providing a ton of value for members
  • Replays to all monthly sessions
  • The Circle forum for daily discussions, help from other members, and of course me
  • Me featuring community case-studies across my content primarily from members of this private group
  • Probably appearances and AMAs with experts I bring into the community
  • This core group having the most say in where I take my personal brand in the future. I want to build WITH you.


I’m not ready for launch yet, but if you’re interested, click below to join the waitlist. I have also included a few questions to understand how to provide maximum value for you all.

Click here to register for the waitlist

I’d also love to hear from you personally, so please hit ‘comment’ to this article and let me know your thoughts. I respond to every comment and love to chat.

Join the discussion!

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