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Rocket GTM 🚀 - Media vs Community

Alfie Marsh
Alfie Marsh
Media vs Community: What's better?
Each week I dedicate two hours to meet with entrepreneurs, operators, and students to discuss all things go-to-market. I love these calls. It gives me a chance to meet interesting people, answer your questions, and learn from smart people.
Last week, on one of these calls, I was asked:
“What’s better: building a media empire or a growing community?”
A great question.
In short, one is not better than the other. They serve different purposes.
(If you want to learn more about a media strategy specifically then check out my previous newsletter “Media is the New Marketing”.)
Media companies master frequency
Startup marketers are able to contact a lead approximately 1.4 times per week (Profitwell). Increasing your touch points however will start to feel spammy and get you on the “🚫DNC” list. It’s a good thing that startups tend to be pretty good at monetizing this level of interaction.
On the other hand, media giants are able to engage with their audience up to 5x more. Bloomberg engages with their audience on average 5.2 times per week and The Skimm 4.4. The downside to media companies is they suck at monetization.
So, how come media companies can engage their audience 5x more?
They create content viewers want to consume.
Frankly, most startup marketing isn’t that good.
The brands who are doing a good job tend to have media strategies. The likes of Profitwell, Wystia, Mailchimp, and Moz. They create episodic, binge-worthy content that their audience can’t wait to consume.
Not only does building a media strategy increase the number of touch points, but it’s also highly scalable.
You record once. And distribute a thousand times.
This is something that communities can’t do.
Communities don’t scale
Communities don’t scale.
Well, technically speaking they can scale. But the bigger they are the less value they provide.
Interactions between members become transactional. Members find it hard to forge real relationships with one another. Salespeople infiltrate the slack channel and start to push their products.
Communities that grow too big have more people taking from the community than they give.
They become a cesspool of self-promoting interests.
The only way to keep a community high quality is to religiously guard the quality of its members. That usually means keeping people out. Not ideal if your goal is to reach scale.
Media assets scale better than community.
But community does foster far higher audience participation.
The Three Levels to Audience Engagement
Encounter. Interact. Participate.
  1. First your audience must encounter your brand
  2. Then they must interact with your brand
  3. And finally they participate with your brand
Imagine you just produced a new Star Wars movie. Your audience first encounters your brand through Facebook Ads. You can burn a lot of money and get enormous reach doing this, but if no one watches your film there is no interaction with your brand.
On the other hand, let’s say a million people watch your film, but no one talks about it. There are no fans queuing up to get pictures with the actors. Disneyland never licenses your brand to build a new attraction. You’ll have a lot of interactions, but little participation.
You always want reach, but the magic happens when you turn passive observers into active participants.
Community is just one form of participation
Community acts as a powerful tool to promote participation. People get together and talk about your brand. They ask questions amongst each other. Search for information. Provide support to their peers and so on.
But communities aren’t the only way activate participation within your brand.
Victoria Secrets sell women’s underwear. They have a large reach and plenty of interaction.
But it’s The Victoria Secret’s Fashion Show that built formidable brand participation.
The fashion show becomes a talking point. Viewers engage with each other over the spectacle.
News channels report on it. Celebrities share photo’s from it. Youtubers critique it.
The fashion show became a focal point for people to engage over.
Business conferences: Spendesk hosted our first CFO Connect Summit this year which brought people together for live panels, workshops, and networking. Instead of just watching Spendesk content, they are now engaging with the brand. A brand transforms from a static media asset into a living breathing ecosystem.
CFO Connect Summit 2021 powered by Spendesk
CFO Connect Summit 2021 powered by Spendesk
Spendesk also promotes active participation from community members through the “Faces of Finance” series. Where members of the community are given a platform to shine on, sharing their past experiences and helping them build a personal brand. Members transform themselves from passive observers to active participants. They’re actively involved in something.
Gong has a page dedicated to their ‘Raving Fans’ sharing social media mentions from their beloved users.
You may have thousands of people using your platform every day. But how many are engaged enough to share their love on social media?
SpaceX recently launched four civilians into space on a mission called “Inspiration 4”. There is a complete documentary following the mission on Netflix.
The Netflix documentary is a media asset which people interact with, but SpaceX got their audience to actively participate in several creative ways:
  1. They created a competition where one civilian would win a ticket to go on the mission
  2. They raised over $210M for charity through public participation
  3. They made millions of people from around the world feel a part of history by participating in the launch event live
Wrapping it up 🌯
The question we started with at the beginning was this:
“What’s better: building a media empire or a growing community?”
Perhaps a better question is this:
“How do we create an engaged audience by using media assets and then promote active participation with our brand”
We can now build a marketing strategy that helps people encounter our brand through various distribution channels, create media assets that people interact with, and create compelling occasions where they actively participate in.
Brands with an actively participating audience have loyal followings and large revenues.
Whether you run a competition, a conference, a fashion show, or a public space launch: what other ways could you turn your passive audience into active participants?
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Alfie Marsh
Alfie Marsh @alfieisamarsh

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