Social Media, Social Network  and Social Community are commonly used lingo with regard to the web world. The question is “What’s the difference?” Many believe social media is Facebook or Twitter and some think in terms of Blogs or Google.  To make it easy there are two perspectives, relational and social. There are Social Networks and Online Communities.

Hand Drawing Internet Flow ChartThere have always been social networks and social communities long before the computer and internet era. They have both been vital to personal and professional success over the years. Both of which we depend on in so many ways.

So what is the difference?

Social Networks

We all have a social network online or offline. This is your collective friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers and such.  An online social networking site simply makes our social networks visible to others who are not in our immediate network.

So, the single most important feature that distinguishes a social network from a community is how people are connected on these sites. In a social network, people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as family, friends, classmates, colleagues or business partners. The connections are built one at a time. You connect directly with another user. The primary reason that people join a social networking site is to maintain relationships and establish new ones to expand their network. Here we think in terms of Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

One interesting feature about people’s social networks is that they are extremely unique, individualized.  You are sharing with people who know you and relate to the person you are. Its kind of like the old saying “My life is an open book” or maybe today it is “My life is an open page”.

Social Communities

Different from social networks, communities both online and offline are more interesting from a social perspective, because they often consist of people from varied walks of life that seem to have no relationship at all. Yet, as we’ve learned from history, communities are very robust social structures. So what is it that holds these communities together? The answer is common interest.

These interests are usually a broad range; sports, hobbies, projects, clubs, organizations, lifestyle, location, professional and so much more. People join these communities because they care about this common interest that glue members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community.

People are often a part of many different communities held together in strength by commonalities. So let’s think about a community. Flickr is a great example, a community of artistic folks who share their dedication to art with one another.

Social Communities and Networks

In brief Social Networks are pre-established interpersonal relationships between individuals you know and are directly connected to. Social Communities are held together by some common interests of a large group of people. Although there may be pre-existing interpersonal relationship between members of a community, it is not required. New members usually do not know most of the people in the community.

I hope this helps some of you better understand the terminology.  I know for some this is old news but for many it is continual learning process. The reality of the past, present, and future regardless of the media we use is that relationships are our greatest asset. So dedicate yourself to strengthening your network and/or community. Have you communicated with those in your network or community recently? Relationships take time and effort and remember success flows where energy goes.

Penny Jones, is a blogger and social media content writer at WebWorld Advantage. WebWorld Advantage, is a company dedicated to innovation in Social Media, Email Marketing, Marketing Consulting, Training and Education in Livingston County, serving Southeast Michigan and beyond.