EP015 | Shelley Rostlund & Mark Masters

Building a Community vs Designing a Membership

Mar 17, 2023 | Experience

Building a community is not the same as a membership

I know your time is valuable. These show notes give you the gist of the episode, what is covered, any links or resources talked about in the show, and also gives you a few ways to listen, watch or digest this episode.


This episode’s topic, in a nutshell…

We talk about the nuanced differences between the concepts of:

  • community,
  • membership,
  • audience and
  • subscription

I feel like these terms of thrown about by professionals, as well as business owners, without them really understanding the crux of what each of those things are. My experience is that once you understand the fundamental differences between these concepts – you will be better able to work out what it is that you want to do in your business.

And, once you know what it is that you are actually building or creating – you will be able to focus better and do the right things and invest your time, energy and money in the right things.

To help me in navigating this tangled web of a topic, I invited Mark Masters to join me. Mark is a marketeer who specialises in advising brands on how to build a community. (You can find out more about him in my more detailed bio for him below).



In this episode we unpack:

  • The definitions of community vs membership (can you have one without the other?)
  • The top two mistakes that Mark sees brands doing when they are trying to create a membership / community (i.e. while they are working out which one it is that they are creating)
  • I talk about how it’s important to have a purpose in bringing a community together and why I think sometimes the failing on behalf of brands stems from not properly defining their offer (with feedback from their audiences)
  • Mark shares his ethos of what it means to create a community for him, and what he teaches his clients to do as brands, and that is that “genuine influence comes from the collective voice.”
  • Mark also introduces the concept of ‘Community as a Service’ (enticing and I loved listening to this)

If you are even half curious about whether you are building a community or membership – I’d urge you to listen to this episode. At the very least it will give you some insight into the differences between these two methodologies for bringing people together.

For me, a membership is a business model, and involves many, many steps and moving parts to make sure its successful (one of these is crafting a meaningful community brought together for a purpose).

A community…if I had to think about describing it as a concept – I’d say that it is a structured route to engaging and connecting with a group of people who have something in common (and that may be YOU), but end up staying for far more reasons than that.

But, do listen – Mark is terribly eloquent on this subject, you will learn a lot by listening to him.

Also, you will hear the advice that mark would give to him early self when he first jumped ship in 2007. (Urgh -> he almost brought me to tears…I resonated so much with what he had to say.)


Quick ref to resources or links we mention

In this episode we have referred to two other sources in our conversation, and those were:


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A bit more about Mark Masters

EP015 | Mark Masters, You Are The MediaMark is a marketing consultant, content marketing agency owner, author and speaker. He has created and built a community called You Are The Media, a marketing learning environment for micro and small businesses around the world.

His consultancy and agency work is highly focussed on helping his clients to become a trusted source in their industry through clearly articulating their purpose and value, creating content that is linked to that and sharing carefully crafted value-based messaging consistently. One of his specialisms is centred on building community.

Find out more about him on his website at youarethemedia.co.uk connect with him on LinkedIn.