An offline social network mostly consists of members who are directly connected such as friends, family and other society members, whereas, an offline community consists of members in a particular geographical location sharing the same interest and ethnicity.

Social Networks and also Online Communities are very much similar to their offline versions. But it becomes very challenging for a company to identify whether they need a social network presence or they need to join an online community. It all depends on how well-defined your goals are.

But how to identify it a social media is a social network or an online community?

The classification is done in 3 ways:

  1. Functional Classification: In this classification method, social media platforms are classified or differentiated by how they work. For example, Facebook is a social networking site, Twitter is a Micro-blogging site, Wikipedia is Online Community, and YouTube is a content sharing platform.
  2. Conversational Classification: Here, social media platforms are identified by what type of conversations happen on a particular platform. Such as, on Facebook, casual interaction happens between closely related individuals, but on LinkedIn, interaction happens because of professional reasons between a business and customers, companies and employees, etc.
  3. Social Anthropological Classification: Here, there are only 2 types of social media – Social Networks and Online Community. This classification is done mostly by identifying how members are related to each other.

In this article, the third classification method will be our focus, i.e. Social Anthropological Classification and we will try to differentiate Social Networks and Online Communities.

Social Networks:

Very similar to Offline social networks, people invite closely related members to connect and sometimes even invite those who are in immediate connection, such as a friend of a friend. In this network, the connections are made based on pre-established interpersonal relationships. Unlike meeting in a social gathering, the members connect individually one-by-one.

  1. There are 2 objectives of joining a social network –
  2. To maintain old relationships
  3. To expand the network
  4. Since there are discrete social networking sites with different objectives, hence, a person can be on more than one social network.
  5. A huge array of people can exist on a single social networking site with different areas of interests.
  6. On social networking sites, using members share personal information such as birthday, family members, holiday pictures, etc.
  7. Examples of Social Networking sites: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter

Online Communities:

Unlike social networks, individuals on an online community can be a total stranger to each other but are together on one platform because of shared interests or a common goal. And similar to social networks, a person can be part of multiple communities at the same time.

  1. Members joining a community have 2 objectives:
  2. To contribute and share knowledge with the community members
  3. To get benefitted from being part of the community
  4. Social networks are established by peer-to-peer connections, but communities provide features to search and establish their own connection.
  5. Usually, online communities are built with members with similar interest or same cause.
  6. In most of the online communities, personal information sharing is usually not the case.
  7. Online communities need not have to be on a social media site. It can be on a company’s website too. Such as, GoFounders have a well-defined community which shares company achievements and goals and use Company provided AI-driven marketing tools for automating a business.
  8. Examples of Online Communities: Wikipedia, Yelp, YouTube and Flickr

Hence, companies need to define their goals to identify whether an online presence on a social network is enough for increasing the visibility of their business, or they need to create or join an online community to earn the trust of their customers. You can check this article to understand different types of online communities and if you want to know how you to build a community, then refer to this article. We hope these articles help you to achieve your marketing goals.