In the world of social media, the words “network” and “community” get used frequently—and also interchangeably. People often think of social networks and online communities as the same, when in reality, they possess slight variations that result in different experiences and value to the end user.

Social networks and social communities, or online communities, are two distinguishable types or subcategories of social media, although they sometimes coexist on the same platforms. Whether you are already using both on a daily basis or not, here is a closer look at their defining qualities, as well as how you can use them for a successful social media strategy or to interact virtually with your important connections.

Social Networks

Your online social network replicates the one you’ve developed in the physical world in that they both revolve around connections you’ve already made or people you’ve already met. Your social network is unique based on your friends, coworkers, relatives, and acquaintances, or whomever you choose to interact with in a virtual space, and you are bound together by preexisting interpersonal relationships.

As the name implies, you can utilize this technology to network with other people in your life, whether it be for personal or professional reasons. You can communicate, collaborate, and strengthen your connection online, with interactions being mostly visible to other members of your network. There also is a web-like component to the social networking structure in that you occasionally make connections with your friends’ friends or a relative’s acquaintance, consequently growing your own, unique network one person at a time.

LinkedIn and MySpace are a few examples of social media platforms that exemplify the social network subcategory. While the same goes for Facebook during the early years of its foray into the social media world, the platform has since evolved to incorporate community elements alongside personal networking.

Online Communities

Online communities, on the other hand, revolve not around individuals but around common interests, professions, hobbies, or objectives. People who have never met but share a similar lifestyle or affinity for a particular event, activity, or social cause find themselves mixing and engaging in a virtual space. Social communities are characterized by a more complex overlapping structure, wherein smaller subgroups are nested partially or fully within a larger network.

From a user perspective, there are several reasons why you might decide to join an online community. If you’re into travel and food, you can learn more about restaurants and attractions and find reviews and recommendations on Yelp. If you consume content from a certain blogger or publication, you subscribe and become part of the online community that follows, shares and comments on articles. Facebook now hosts innumerable communities, and you can find one through which you can interact with others over nearly any shared interest. The key distinction is the origin of your connection to fellow community members.

If you are the host of an online community and want to use it for your business or for fun, keep in mind that it’s easier to bring people together than to keep them together. An effective online community compels members to stay by giving them the opportunity to contribute to the community and because they receive, or at least perceive, some benefit from being part of the community. You’re not looking for a passive audience of users, but rather active participants who engage the content and bond with other community members over shared experiences. If you’re running a community, you must ensure opportunities for purposeful connection exist.

Social networks and social communities both have their place in the social media world. From a brand marketing perspective, it’s crucial to create a robust community of engaged members rather than mere fans or followers since you are trying to establish new relationships. Your social networking site, on the other hand, can focus more on you as an individual as you’ve already bonded with the people in your network in some way.

Connecting With Your Go-to Community

When it comes to connecting with social groups comprised of your most trusted individuals—whether that be friends, relatives, coworkers, fellow parents, or your children’s teachers and coaches—you want a safe, secure, and convenient platform. Go2s is a social media platform that provides you with the tools you need to connect with individuals as well as groups of people to form new support systems and communities based on mutual interests or objectives.  Go2s groups are flexible and designed to allow members to become more effective in their activities and coordination.