Community, not creators, is at the heart of modern media

Community, not creators, is at the heart of modern media
Opinion: Strategy Leaders

In the emerging community economy, brands can serve as the reason and the means through which people connect.


The creator economy has reached a saturation point and a new model is set to overtake it – the community economy.

Right now, we have a surplus of creators. There’s almost too much content to share and consume. Or rather, too much similar content, created for algorithms, and shared with little regard for the context in which it’s received.

Inundated with content, consumers are left feeling “meh.” Creators, too, are exhausted by the constant need for likes and the demand to feed the feed with more and more content.

In reaction to the rise of the creator economy and its rapid takeover of social media, a new community economy model is emerging as the pendulum swings from top-down to bottom-up content and value creation.

This movement has the potential to reorient online marketing around content and experiences that provide value to consumers and creators. This shift will also have profound implications for brands that have built their entire marketing strategies around the creator model.

Creator content fatigue has led to an inflection point

The creator economy still operates in a traditional top-down manner; all it’s really done is widen the definition of who can become a creator.

For the consumer, the value exchange is similar, whether it’s watching an HBO-produced TV series or the latest TikTok video from a teenage video gamer.

While there’s a growing recognition for the need for better content with messages like “Make TikToks not ads,” “Share authentic brand messages,” and “Content is king,” these messages ultimately fall back on the same formula: create content to fuel audience engagement and be rewarded with social reach, brand love and sales.

With even the very best of content only generating a glimmer of engagement, brands are beginning to ask: is creating all this content even worth it?

This opens the door for the next natural evolution of online experiences and a new role for brands in facilitating those experiences.

Modern media is about community building

This shift in consumers’ expectations of value exchange and rewarding engagement has led to a new emphasis on online community building.

Communities are flourishing. Just look at the success of social media apps like BeReal or the growth of personalized, niche content newsletters.

People are still looking for connections, but ones that go much deeper. People are looking for quality experiences and shared values that create connections to brands and to communities.

“Patagonia is a perfect example of this,” says Dentsu X CSO Amy Watt. “Chouinard’s decision to put almost all of his company in trust to fight climate change has won him global appeal, and sales have accelerated. It’s democratic, meaningful, creates a sense of common ownership and is jam-packed with integrity. Obviously this is an extreme action and not all brands can or should do this, but asking the question ‘how can I radically serve my community?’ is the place to start.”

This kind of brand purpose and value interrogation sits at the core of the community economy.

The role of brands in the community economy is to facilitate connection

No longer the mere drivers of content creation, brands have an enormous opportunity to play a bigger role in the lives of consumers and the communities they engage with in the community economy.

In the creator economy, social media platforms and influencers controlled the means of communication. But in the emerging community economy, brands can serve as the reason and the means through which people connect, providing a gathering place for their consumers and followers to build relationships with one another and the brand.

To do this, brands need to quickly shift their mindset away from a focus on content or product production and towards community building.

It’s about a bigger picture, involving shared interests and purpose. Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute to the conversation — customers, publishers and brands — because the value lies in the collective community instead of the individual creator.

Facilitate a community and think of your brand not as a content creator, but more as the host of a party or bar where your target audience will want to hang out.

Rather than static measures of engagements (clicks, views, likes, etc.), the community economy will measure brand value and reach in the trust brands forge with their consumers and the authentic communities they build around them.

Dale Lovell is SVP Advertising Partner Success at digital social engagement platform OpenWeb.

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