Fred Cavazza raises an interesting point on the difference between social and community platforms. “Community” platforms allow members to fully engage in conversations, while “Social” platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, are more passive. In the comments, Fred says that blogs are definitely social, as they allow authors to block and filter comments.
Graphic by Fred Cavazza: Community (left) – Social (right)
Using social media is not the same as fostering a community, is what I infer from Fred’s comments. My experience is that communities are much harder to control, can have short lifespans (e.g. most Ning communities) but can be much more dynamic. For instance, there are some interesting conversations and new forums created on LearnTrends that would not have happened on any individual blog. One recommendation for successful online communities is that the founder needs to give up control to get one going and then must stay actively involved, but with a gentle hand, to keep it going. Just like a real community.