5 Main Differences Between Community Marketing And Content Marketing

“Community marketing” and “content marketing” are two terms you would most likely encounter in the digital marketing world. These strategies can often get mixed up, as both involve creating online content that indirectly advertises a brand.

This article will dissect the difference so you can craft a more comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

First Things First: Definitions

Community Marketing

  • Community marketing is defined as a type of marketing that focuses on the perceived needs of existing consumers.

There are in general two types of community marketing:

  1. The first type of community marketing is known as organic marketing, or “earned marketing”. Here, awareness happens via word-of-mouth, and communities are bonded by a common desire or need. Community marketing helps with the stickiness of a brand and connects customers with one another.
  2. The second type of community marketing occurs with the aid of the company. This can come in the form of corporate social responsibility. Here, the company sponsors an amount of money or time to promote the wellbeing of a chosen community.

The point of community marketing is to identify the natural communities attracted to the brand’s philosophy, products, or services and focus on nurturing this community to grow. Therefore, blatant sponsored advertising that is not very engaging hinders rather than aid the growth of communities.

Content Marketing

  • Content Marketing, on the other hand, involves creating online materials (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that do not explicitly advertise a brand. It is instead used to attain thought leadership by providing prospects content that is of value to them.

Now that we have clarified the definitions, here are the five differences between community marketing and content marketing:

#1: Target Audience

Though community and content marketing do not explicitly advertise the brand, both practices differ in their target audience.

When it comes to community marketing, the target audience of the social media manager is existing customers. The focus of engagement is done with the objective of how to serve existing customers best.

Content marketing, on the other hand, also targets existing customers but has a main focus on prospects. The intention of content marketing is to attract attention and generate leads in order for the company to expand its consumer base.

#2: Community Marketing Is More Intensely Focused on Tribe Building

As opposed to content marketing, community marketing is also focused on building relationships between customers, and not just between a customer and a brand.

The focus here is on dialogue, empathy, and organizing activities to deepen the bonding amongst members of the tribe/ community. Some clear examples of community marketing include the manufacturing and design of merchandise for and by the community, having common events such as hackathons and developers’ outings, and the organizing of meetups to talk about common shared-interests.

#3: The Degree of Selling

As a rule of thumb, direct selling is minimised in both content and community marketing.

However, the key difference here is that a sales funnel may exist independent of community marketing, whereas most content marketers have the sales funnel in mind. This is because, as mentioned in point 1, the goal of content marketing is to convert prospects into customers.

#4: Engagement And Direct Contact With The Biggest Fans

In community marketing, usually, the community manager will have intimate knowledge about the biggest fans of the brand. There is a close relationship between the community manager and the various evangelists and ambassadors of the brand. Furthermore, the community manager usually knows how to best engage and motivate these stakeholders.

While engagement is important in content marketing, its goal is thought leadership. The focus here shifts to establishing the brand as a thought leader and not giving equal empowerment to people who are already in the community. Therefore, strategically speaking, content marketing can be seen as more directed than community marketing.

#5: The Definition of “Free”

In community marketing, “free” is interpreted usually as “freedom”. There is the freedom to express oneself within the community, freedom to join and leave, and freedom to contribute and receive.

Especially in open-source communities, there is the freedom to contribute to product development without any monetary compensation. The key here is the accumulation of social capital, and the desire to be part of something bigger.

Members of the community do not rely or depend on the brand owner to feed them content or information. Instead, there is bigger intra or inter-members contributions.

In content marketing, the word “free” is usually associated with “zero price”– free as in free beer. Ever heard of the term “freemium”? You see, whenever a company offers a “free product”, that can be used as an opportunity to engage people or to upsell in the future. There is usually a sales funnel involved in content marketing, as brand founders seek to establish themselves as thought leaders.

The prospect or customer is likely to benefit from useful content that is free for them so that companies will have the opportunities to sell or upsell products to them later.


Before you decide which type of marketing you want to engage in, consider who the target audience is and the objective of the marketing campaign. If the goal is to serve existing customers, community marketing might be more suitable. If the goal is to convert prospects, then content marketing may be more suitable. In the long run, employing both strategies would make a sound marketing plan, as content marketing can help to gain the customer base, while community marketing helps to maintain that base.

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