18 February 2010 ~ 13 Comments

What's the difference between a Community Manager and a Social Media Manager?

back to back Following on from my series on Community Management and Social Media templates for job descriptions, I wanted to go into more detail on my assertion that they are two distinct roles, albeit with some overlap.

Rachel Happe kindly commented on a previous blog post about how she saw the distinction, which is a nice summary:

The way I see it social media management is more responsible for content creation and interacting with a broad network – often this is seen on the marketing end of the spectrum and in the B2C space where the goal is not so much to encourage relationship development between network participants as it is to respond and produce content people want to share.

Community management is typically more focused on a more discrete group of people (even if relatively large) and developing and encouraging relationships is a bigger emphasis.

For me, Community Management is generally a more internally facing role, feeding back into the organisation from brand-hosted communities (although this can include managing groups based within social media tools such as Facebook pages). You can read my job description template for a Community Manager here.

Social Media Management is externally facing, building and leveraging connections with “customers” to facilitate broadcasting of a brand message or ethos. You can read my job description template for a Social Media Manager here.

There is of course some overlap, and a Community Manager can be expected to operate in Social Media spaces, just as a Social Media Manager will find themselves getting involved to an extent in customer service tasks. With this in mind, here are two deeper definitions of both roles and their scope:

  • Community Manager: Operates from deep within the company, managing customer relationships with a brand or product, and each other. Potentially she can be a fully Enterprise Community Manager, involved in facilitating efficient inter-team and staff communication and collaboration. She is focussed on the flow of information and knowledge, strengthening relationships and promoting productive collaboration, which may include moderation and hosting of both micro- and macro-events on the company’s community platform. Placement within the Organisation chart is more likely to be connected to Editorial, Product development, Business development, and Marketing.
  • Social Media Manager: Operates from the edges of the company, managing brand recognition and reputation outside of the scope of the brand website. He is focussed on listening and evaluating brand perception, planning campaigns and promotional material or initiatives to promote the company’s message, building and leveraging social networks on social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to facilitate depth of communication. He will usually be found within the Organisation chart connected to Marketing, PR, and Sales.

Social Media and Community Managers position within company

The personal traits and skillsets for both roles remain similar however; a need for strong communication skills, advocacy and an instinctual ability to listen and interpret public feeling.

That’s my take on how a Social Media manager and Community Manager can co-exist and operate side by side. What do you think? Is there room in an organisation for both, or are the roles too similar?

You might also me interested in my templates for Online Community and Social Media Job Descriptions.

[photo by Mr. Stabile]

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  • http://www.2old2play.com/ Dane Tullock aka Waterborn

    You have made some very interesting and valuable distinctions Blaise (though I was a bit thrown off by your differential use of the personal pronouns “he” and “she”). One component of the discussion that affects me personally is that of fiscal support, particularly given current economic conditions. My role as Community Manager at 2old2play, much like those of many of my peers who support various online communities, is one in which I am not financially compensated for my work. I support my community through my role as CM because I strongly believe in the principles that 2old2play was founded upon – that mature gaming enthusiasts (in our case those over 25) need a place where they can meet and interact with people who not only share their love of video games, but also many of the life experiences. In such a situation, one must become a “Jack of all trades” in an effort to create as much content and community focus as possible on a non-existing budget.

    Even in the commercial realm (where I currently serve as the Market Outreach Specialist for a major outdoor company), resources are often very limited and many organizations simply do not have the fiscal bandwidth to support separate Social Media Manager and Community Manager positions. I definitely feel that, in a perfect world, there is room for both roles to work independently and together simultaneously to support Community and Social Media needs. The reality is that most Community Managers are Social Media Managers, and vice versa, by necessity.

  • http://twitter.com/jeannabarrett Jeanna Barrett

    I think the rolls are too similar – in smaller orgs, the “Community Manager” or “Social Media Manager” will do all of the rolls mentioned above, just depends on how the company wants to name that roll.
    For instance, I'm a Community Manager at a mobile tech startup, but I believe my roll encompasses all of the above.
    Thanks for the insight! I'll bookmark your blog – I've been searching for good blogs on Community Management.

  • blaisegv

    Hi Jeanna, thanks for taking the time to comment!

    I agree with you that at a startup or small company, splitting the responsibilities would be overkill. Having worked at a couple, I used to do both, and even now as a corporate I still oversee both. However, what I see in my current role is burnout on the part of my staff, overstretched and often slightly out of their element in one or the other role. Either they are fantastic community builders, or they are great saleswomen, but rarely both. It's from this viewpoint that I wrote this post – if money or resource was not an issue, would it be viable/beneficial to create two roles with different focus.

  • blaisegv

    Hi Dane!
    Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience and situation, very interesting insight.

    Sorry for the confusion; I was trying out Tara's suggestion to mix up pronouns in her “15 things you can to disrupt the system” article: http://www.horsepigcow.com/2010/01/15-things-yo

  • http://www.twitter.com/chloe254 Chloe254

    Great post. Too many job descriptions are written by people who do not know there is a difference between these two – or who do not know exactly which one they need.

  • http://mathew.blogactiv.eu/ mathew

    Like the previous commenters, I think the distinction is theoretical for most organisations, who won't/can't afford to have many people with such similar skillsets filling these separate roles. Moreover, separating them would then require information exchanges between them, which si avoided by having the same person doing both.

    Having said all that, it's extremely useful to have clearly defined roles, even if the same person ends up doing both jobs. Being able to mentally “swap hats” between roles ensures that you don't end up treating your cherished community as if it was just another Facebook audience, and vice versa.

    Besides, things will change. Does anyone remember when they were just a 'webmaster'?

  • http://blaisegv.com/ Blaise Grimes-Viort

    Thanks Chloe!

  • http://blaisegv.com/ Blaise Grimes-Viort

    Funnily enough, I know a few people who'se job title is webmaster, and the workload they have is insane – usually expected to write copy, maintain backend and do all the social/community management too, along with marketing, newsletters etc… Fine if it's a small site, but one I can think of is for a medium sized charity – I'm amazed at her energy!

  • Jon

    Mixing “he” and “she” in the same paragraph may be politically/socially correct, but it's terrible style :-)

  • http://blaisegv.com/ Blaise Grimes-Viort

    It doesn't read well does it! Worth a bash though – I'll edit it for clarity.

  • Ann

    i want to know the difference between community development and social change

  • Elenishable

    I don´t agree. I think Community Manager is a function that can be integrated in Social Management. And, by the way, the gender of both of them, it is completely irrelevant.

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