Virtual Tribes – Groups that form around a common idea or theme using technology to overcome geographic limitations. Usually a virtual tribe seeks to offer certain benefits to members and also a sense of belonging or camaraderie. They seem to emerge organically from fan clubs, hobbyist associations, political movements, etc. Tools of choice: Eventbrite, Meetup.com, LinkedIn, Twitter, Periodic Conferences
Good Old Boy Networks – Groups that often form around an institution such as a university, company, think tank, etc. A good old boy network may be more grounded in geographic elements, such as the old stomping grounds or headquarters of the institution, a members-only social club, a regular bar or restaurant. Like the virtual tribe, the good old boy network seeks to offer certain benefits to members and also a sense of belonging or camaraderie, usually at a cost. Some manage to hold together long distance if they maintain a fraternal community. Tools of choice: The Country Club, The Yacht Club, the University Club, the Trade Association, the Fraternity/Sorority
Like traditional publishing, the good old boy networks are being challenged on the basis of their value proposition to members – if the same benefits can be gotten for cheaper, without needing to be attached to a physical location, the virtual tribe may be more attractive. If the primary interest is the physical amenity rather than community (golf/yachting/job opportunities), then the old boy network might prevail.
I am not making a value judgement on either. In fact I suspect that both will continue to evolve to incorporate elements from the other as they compete for the loyalty of new members. The key for leaders is in crafting a clear value proposition for prospective members.