People often believe that they need to choose between building an Audience and building a Community, but the reality is that these two activities are synergistic and doing both in parallel will yield the best results.
This false belief might be driven by the platforms that creators use. Platforms tend to naturally fall into the two categories of Audience platforms and Community platforms. For example, YouTube, Instagram, and Substack are all considered Audience platforms, as creators communicate to their fans in one-direction (i.e. one-to-many communication). Other platforms, such as Discord, Telegram, or Facebook Groups are considered Community platforms as they allow for fans to communicate multi-directionally with each other (i.e. many-to-many communication). While this distinction makes sense from a platform perspective, creators don’t need to apply this distinction to themselves as they are not tied to any single platform and can easily leverage multiple platforms at the same time. For example, a YouTuber can direct their fans towards their Discord community. In fact, as we will now discuss, building both an Audience and Community exponentially improves your attention accumulation.
This flywheel or growth loop is conceptually simple, but requires a talented Creator to pull off (e.g. Lenny’s Newsletter comes with a highly engaged Community). A Community requires participants, and a Creator can leverage their audience to develop Community participants. Once a fan is a regular member of your Community, there is a sense of belonging and identity beyond that of a regular Audience. Further, a Community is inherently more scalable than an Audience as the Creator is no longer doing all of the content creation. Instead, content creation occurs organically from interactions between fans. This scalability of content creation then feeds back into and supercharges Audience building, which then brings additional Community members. With each cycle, the flywheel spins faster and faster, leading to exponential growth.
There is no choice between building an Audience or a Community, Creators that want to remain relevant need to be doing both. Once a critical-mass Audience is achieved, creators should double-down on Community building to kickstart an Audience-Community flywheel and exponentially grow their attention accumulation.