A Network Isn't A Community.

Over at Forrester, Chloe Stromberg has a great post on the distinction between network and community that many people miss (especially in marketing and advertising). Communities are bound by emotion and passion. Networks are simply communication linkd among people with something in common. Communities are a special kind of network (perhaps the most important in terms of branding). I’d argue that communities are passionate and emotional.

Chloe points out that companies that assume that any kind of online network associated with their brand is a community. And they assume that the community is favorable to their brand Maybe. Maybe not. There are tons of pro-Apple communities out there. And there are a number of anti Wal-Mart online communties out there. There are lots of runner networks who don’t want anything to do with any particular brand of running shoe. And there is the Nike+ online community.

Here is her list of types of online networks:

Emotive networks (e.g., CarePages, PreludeDriver.com) — Commonality: a powerful emotional experience, like being diagnosed with an illness or loving a particular type of car. Motivation to connect: find people to share your experience with.

Advice networks (e.g., Berkeley Parents Network, del.icio.us) — Commonality: you’re trying to do an activity like parenting in the Bay Area, learning about emerging technologies. Motivation to connect: get suggestions from someone whose perspective you value. Dating networks (e.g., Match.com, Yahoo! Personals) — Commonality: you’re single, maybe you share similar social values. Motivation to connect: meet a sweetheart (not a community).

Blog networks (e.g., Micropersuasion, Greg Mankiw’s Blog) — Commonality: the ideas that you’re interested in. Motivation to connect: affect the public dialogue about the ideas. Wiki networks (e.g., Wikipedia, CarGurus) — Commonality: you want the unvarnished, comprehensive truth to be free and available. Motivation to connect: get the whole picture.

Linkedin — Commonality: you want to leverage business relationships. Motivation to connect: get a sales/deal contact, recruit someone, find a job.

Facebook — Facebook is a tool, not a network, although that may be changing. Existing offline networks use Facebook to socialize. Commonality: having gone to the same college. Motivation to connect: Socialize or build relationships with people of social standing. (I’m going to dodge the class bullet on this one — Dana Boyd has kicked off the discussion here:http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html)

Myspace — There is a strong commercial dimension to the networks forming on Myspace. Commonality: anything. Motivation to connect: be found by anyone, share. This open-door, hello-world atmosphere is especially conducive to small biz commercial activity (e.g., if I’m an unsigned band, I want anyone anywhere in the world to find me, buy my music, and come to a show).

It’s takes serious analysis of the world of social media to build or connect to a community that is favorable to your brand.