You may have heard these two terms used almost interchangeably in the past, and you may have concluded that they are the same thing, or you may have gotten very confused about what the duties and responsibilities of the respective positions actually entail. Individuals serving in both positions were consulted for the preparation of this article, so while this may not provide you with the definitive answer on the subject, the thoughts will at least have come from authorities in both areas.
What is a community manager?
Some of the daily tasks of the community manager typically include moderating conversations across community platforms, writing various prompts to help spur individual’s engagement, providing responses for direct messages originated by community members, and staying abreast of all information relative to the community itself.
A typical day for a community manager might start by reviewing all responses and comments made on articles and posts which occurred overnight, to ensure that all participants receive a response. While this may involve a tremendous amount of reading and responding, it’s not the only responsibility the community manager has.
In addition, the community manager also seeks to identify trends in conversation, recognizing sensitivities of community members, as well as keeping an eye peeled for hot topics around which fresh content can be created. A community manager must have the capability of empathizing with how community members feel, and where they are coming from.
With regard to a community manager’s responsibility toward the company, this individual always has to be prepared to promote the product, advertise when it’s appropriate, create high-quality content to disseminate and maintain his focus on promoting the brand. If a social media manager can be said to bring prospects to the table, it’s the responsibility of the community manager to welcome them all in and to encourage them to engage with each other.
The community manager should know everything there is to know about the community, including what makes them happy or angry, what their wants and needs are, and what the hot topics are which are trending at the moment in the community. A social media manager is much more concerned with being a company advocate, and extending company reach to customers, as well as engaging frequently with whatever forms of advertising are deemed appropriate.
To provide a formal definition of community management, you might say that it’s the discipline of building social environments as well as technical environments, in a way that allows individuals to easily collaborate and organize themselves, for the purpose of achieving some kind of objective. Most industry experts acknowledge that a community manager is a person operating from deep within a company, for the express purpose of managing customer relationships with the company brand or the products it offers, as well as with each other.
The community manager is also focused on the flow of knowledge and information, the promotion of useful collaboration, the strengthening of solid relationships, and moderation of events on the company’s designated community platform. In terms of the situation for a community manager on an organizational chart, the position is generally to be found in such areas as product development, business development, or on the editorial staff.
What is a social media manager?
In contrast to the community manager, the social media manager generally operates on the fringes of the company, managing the company’s reputation and its brand recognition from outside of the scope of the company website. This individual listens and evaluates brand perception on the social media, and plans campaigns, along with promotional material or initiatives, so as to more effectively disseminate the company’s message. He will also build and leverage some social networks on all platforms which the company decides to make use of, so as to facilitate advertising and to increase sales. On the organizational chart, this individual will generally be found connected to public relations, sales, or marketing.
Why the difference is important
One of the reasons that the distinction between these two positions is so important, is when a company actually needs to hire one or the other individual because they can have a dramatic impact on how efficiently and how effectively work gets done. As an example, if your company needs a community manager but instead hires a social media manager, it’s very likely that your communities will simply not have the kind of conversations you want them to.
Someone who is actually a social media manager but serving in the role of community manager, may not be effectively able to moderate conversations and to engage with users, nor to facilitate engagement between the users themselves. The kind of conversations that your community members have can be extremely important to the company. If your social media manager is posting articles and content which are thinly disguised sales pitches, that’s not likely to do anything to generate conversation among community members, and it will fall well short of achieving what your business is really aiming at.
The bottom line
In a nutshell, a community manager is a person who simply builds relationships. This individual will be very engaging himself and will have great respect for every member of the community, nurturing them along and engaging them in meaningful conversation. From the company standpoint, they tend to humanize the company and give it a personal touch, and from the community side, they serve as advocates for the customers.
By contrast, social media managers are more like strategists. A manager of the social media creates and aligns all those strategies relative to the social media across company departments so that a united front can be issued, and a consistent message can be delivered. The social media manager constantly tracks successes and failures on the various platforms and makes good use of metrics and analytics to ensure that social media strategies are constantly being improved. A social media manager also is constantly involved with the creation of and the curating of, various types of content for the platforms used by his company.