The difference between a Community Manager and a Social Media Manager
In the past, I used to think that community management and social media management are one and the same thing. It wasn’t until I actually started working as a community manager and then later as a social media manager, did I realize that there is actually a difference between these two titles even though the lines do sometimes blur. To help me explain the difference between the two, I asked several digital marketing professionals on Quora and Linkedin for their take on the difference between social media managers and community managers.
Shane Reiser, Director of Marketing and Community at Kohort. Seattle, WA. A community manager specializes in building a community. They have many tools at their disposal to build this community, just one of which is social media (they also do events, send emails, make phone calls, etc). Community Managers existed before Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Back then, companies still needed to build communities of brand champions – they just did so without the help of social media. I imagine that community managers in some industries might not even use social media if their customers aren’t using it either, but in the tech arena we all work in, most of our customer do and so, therefore, do we. Because of that, we work closely with the social media manager, but also with customer service, sales and marketing.
A social media manager specifically manages the social media accounts for a company. They help all the departments fulfill their own missions – they help marketing by doing outbound media, they help customer service by handling inbound questions/complaints via social media, they help brand management by exampling the company’s brand personality in posts and tweets, they even help HR by recruiting via social media. Big companies will have separate teams for each. Small companies (like early stage tech companies) often have the same team/person doing both. If I were to design a hierarchy with one person in each position, I would have the social media manager report to the CMO, the head of customer service report to the COO, and the community manager report to both the CMO and COO equally.
Sandra Lizioli, Marketing Communications Professional. Brussels, Belgium. For me, a social media manager has a helicopter view of social media as a whole in a strategic role: LinkedIn versus Twitter, Facebook, etc. as part of the total marketing communication mix, and how social media integrates with the other channels, both offline and online. The community manager (and depending on the size of the company there may be several) engages with its community so it’s more of a ‘live’ ambassador of the brand. The two work hand-in-hand: one more strategic, the other in real time. Both roles can be one and the same person!
Camilla Koutsos, Community Manager at Sidhe Interactive. New Zealand. I consider a community manager to be a user interface with a face. My community knows that I was hired specifically for them to talk and listen to. I support them, answer questions, give them information, and socialise with them online. When they get mad they ‘shout’ at me by name. When they’re happy they can be very affectionate. They know me, as an individual person dedicated to their care, on behalf of the brands that employ me. Until today I would have thought a social media manager was a different name for the same thing, but it sounds like it’s much more about impersonal marketing and outgoing information from the brand than community management.
Tim McDonald, Community Manager at Astek Consulting. Chicago. CMs are not part of the marketing team at all, so they would be very different in the regard that SMMs are almost always in marketing. There are so many roles that a community manager can play. Some may actually be called a social media manager but still have characteristics of a community manager. In all cases, I think the challenge is for either the person or the brand to make the community feel like they are talking to a person, even if they are just the avatar.
Luke Mccintosh, Quality Controller at LionBridge. Ireland. In my role as a community manager, I and my team mates manage communities of 1000s of independent contractors from around the globe. Our community management focus is on managing the expectations, education, and quality of work of these guys in the cloud. We don’t even touch a social media outlet, including aforums (unfortunately from my perspective). Yet other community managers might use social media exclusively as their means of connecting with their community. Yet still others might be focused on a combination of trying to sell or market their product and managing customer/consumer relations.
I suppose what I mean to say is that as we move more into cloud computing and the digital age, I believe the roles of a Community Manager and Social Media Manager will continue to separate to meet needs. I foresee Community Management becoming more internal, while the traditional community management role evolves into dedicated consumer/customer support and the Social Media one becomes wholly marketing/advertising/product awareness focused.