An audience is a group of people brought together by a common interest.
The difference between an audience and a community is relationships. Community members have relationships with one another, audiences don't.
On social media channels you build audiences, the focus is on disseminating information. In communities the focus is on facilitating interactions between members.
The benefits of building communities are high. You can increase spending from existing customers through up-selling, increase in repeat purchases, higher levels of retention. You can attract new customers and improve lead conversion %. You can reduce marketing/customer service costs.
For organizations that have built big audiences on social media platforms, the next step should be to turn this audience into a community. Yet, at the moment, this rarely happens. Too many stop at building a Facebook page or Twitter following and fail to gain any measurable benefit.
We put together the table below to show the key differences between developing an online community and creating a profile on a social network.
Social Media Audience/Following
Focus on engagement
Focus on growth
High interactions between members
Low interactions between audience
Develop products for the members
Develop audience for products
Content about community
Content about topic
Share control with top members
Members wants info about other members
Audience wants info about the products
Commitment required by members
Less investment by audience/followers
Regardless of your platform, building an audience should not be the end goal. Moving from communities to audiences is to move backwards. Push towards cultivating genuine communities on community platforms. It's far easier to build a community when you have an existing audience; make sure you're making the most of it.