Building a community can indeed provide a moat. But–I find many companies/brands/creators profess to have community, when they really just have customers or followers.
To have a truly defensible community, I believe the following need to be present: high intentionality, P2P interactions, & UGC content.
Hallmarks of “real” community:
1) Intentionality: Members seek out the community as a destination, not just as part of a broader platform’s feed
2) P2P interactions: Strong engagement and ties between members
3) UGC content: Members contribute content vs. just engaging w/ what’s broadcasted to them
More thoughts on community:
I like this article by Sam Lessin on the future of social, but think there’s a big omission. Namely, one of the major opportunities in social is to first focus on helping creators monetize and own their audiences, then layering in social elements on top.
Companies here may not look like social products at first, but evolve in that direction. Take Substack, for instance: first launched as a paid newsletter tool, then added community features so that readers can engage with the writer & with each other: https://on.substack.com/p/new-on-substack-build-your-community
Creators are the ones that possess user attention & trust, and will be the central players for the next wave of social.