Email List vs Community

I have had an email list ever since I started creating content online. And, I’ve seen every other online content creator or marketer use one too. For a long time I used to have an opt-in form on my website that read:

“Join a community of over 5000+ creators”

I did it because I saw many other online marketers do it too. They called their email list their community. It was awkward, but I just thought it’s just the way it is in this online world.

But now that I decided to carve a little niche for myself and build this personal brand, I have started to question everything. EVERYTHING including my EMAIL LIST. Because I don’t feel like an email list is a community.

In many ways, my email list is like me sitting inside my ivory tower and giving sermons to people gathered outside. And that’s crazy.

Yes, some people do care about my emails and a tinier sum make the extra effort to respond. But that’s just 1-1. No one else knows about this, unless I choose to disclose it. 

What is a community?

A community is a social unit with commonality such as norms, religion, values, customs, or identity. Communities may share a sense of place situated in a given geographical area or in virtual space through communication platforms. 

Wikipedia

Communities have existed for thousands of years, and an email list is the worst way to represent a community online.

So, are Facebook Groups the equivalent of communities online? What about Forums? No. None of them are communities. They are just tools to help communities communicate and congregate.

Here’s what communities are made up of:

  1. Communities are still made of people like how Wikipedia defines. Once people come together as a community, they will communicate and congregate in any way or means possible.
  2. Members inside communities communicate with each other.
  3. Communities sometimes have leaders and facilitators. Sometimes they don’t.
  4. Some communities have a shared set of internal dialects or protocols.
  5. Communities have status roles.
  6. Many communities have a shared symbol. This could be a logo, a flag, a song, or something that helps them identify themselves.

Clearly, email lists don’t do any of this. Email list is just a tool to communicate with people 1-1. Communities need something else.

PS: I do write a newsletter, and I’ll be excited if you decide to signup. It’s not my community. But it’s a place where I share my unfiltered thoughts, bounce-off ideas, and share updates. It’s free, and if you’re on a similar journey as mine, you’ll enjoy reading them.

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