The terms network and community are often used interchangeably in social media, which is probably why some people struggle in their effort to make an impact online.

A network is an interconnected system. It functions as a channel through which information, ideas and opportunities can travel, reaching tuned-in members along the way. A community is an ecosystem which depends on the interactions and contributions of participants who are invested in the strength and prosperity of the community and the people who make it possible. Communities also have some form of nucleus, where networks are decidedly more distributed.

It’s possible to be a member of multiple networks and a participant in multiple communities at the same time, and tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others make both possible. However, it’s important to know your level of interest and commitment so you can make your role work best for you and allow the network or community to function to its potential – particularly if you are the originator of either.

By the way, when I was looking for an image for this post, I found a very cool photo called Human Synthesizer T-Shirt Design. The design by D. Kim is for a Threadless shirt. I didn’t include the image in this post since it has to be seen in a rather large size to appreciate the concept. I credit the title of the design for the title of this post.

Photo: My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and MyBlogLog posted to Flickr by luc legay.