A classic quote from George Eberstadt, CEO of TurnTo Networks:
[Good social media is the] difference between teaching a class and hosting a party.
In both, all the participants are in the same room, but the dynamic could not be more different. In the classroom the teacher (the brand) dominates the conversation, and the flow is hub-and-spoke, with the teacher at the hub. At the party the guests (customers and prospects) may or may not interact directly with the host, spending most of their time with one another. But since most of the guests know and like the host, when the discussion touches on the host it’s likely to be favorable. Even though the host can’t control exactly what is said, the guests at the party are every bit as likely to go home with positive feelings toward the host as the students are to go home with a positive view of the teacher. As you say, it’s not that one model is right and the other wrong; the challenge for brands is to use the right model for each context.
(Emphasis mine. From Harvard Business Review, January 2011.)