Audiences, Stakeholders or Community Members?

On Monday morning (weather permitting) I will lead a discussion at the Social Media Breakfast in Boston on audiences, stakeholders or community members. Thank you, Bryan Person and the Horn Group, for having me as your guest.

One of the suggestions in Now Is Gone is to consider approaching social media tool-sets with a community mindset instead of an audience mindset (see Audiences versus Communities podcast). Audiences assumes a mass communication tool where people are primarily receiving a one-way broadcasted outreach. Communities assume interaction is always a possibility, that two way communication can occur in a variety of ways at any time, and that there’s a deeper relationship between parties.

Applying Marshall McLuhan’s theories (you know, the medium is the message), audience approaches are for cold media forms, while community outreach is for hot media forms that are now two-way in nature. The community-based outreach intends to engage people in conversation rather than talking at them.

This is a dramatic shift for marketing minds, and quite frankly because it’s a new approach and attitude towards outreach, many struggle to make the leap. So it’ll be an interesting chat given the many experienced social media minds in attendance.

I’d like to add stakeholders to the discussion, because I feel this contemporary marketing term can also be applied to social media. Stakeholders assumes that the parties you are reaching out towards have a vested interest in the organization, and its outcome. In my mind, stakeholders equates to multiple audiences with different needs, and empowers those audiences to act or express dissatisfaction. I’ve included Webster’s New World College Dictionary definitions for all three terms below as an addendum.

Picture This

To prep us, here are some thoughts. Do you see your social media consumers as an audience (image credit MSC)?


Do you see your social media consumers as stakeholders (image credit: Kentucky Governor’s office)?


Or as a community (image credit: MCNews)?

Construction 27 JCWP

And why do you see social media consumers in one group over another?

Addendum: Definitions

Audience: A group of persons assembled to hear or see a speaker, play, concert, etc.

Stakeholder: A person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something, as a business or industry (from The only definition in Websters was, “one who holds money bet by others and pays it out to the winner”).

Community: A group of people living together as a smaller social unit within a larger one, and having interests, work, etc. in common.