Guest post by Maggie McGary

Are you confused

about what the difference is between “community manager” and “social media manager?” Or whether the two terms are synonymous? I know I am – and I am both a community manager and a social media manager!

With the explosion of social media over the past few years, more and more companies are hiring…well, someone to manage social media. But there seems to be a lot of cofusion both on the part of employers and job candidates, and a lot of jobs that actually entail managing a company’s social media marketing efforts are being billed as community management positions.

Likewise, a lot of job seekers who want to “do” social media for a company are thinking that they want to go into community management.

The two jobs, while they have some similarities and there is some overlap, are not the same.

Furthermore, hiring one when you actually want the other – or accepting a position thinking you’re going to be doing one thing then being tasked with another – could be a costly mistake for both the employer who ends up hiring the wrong person and the employee who finds him/herself in a position s/he hates or doesn’t understand.

How do I know this? Because I live it.

My title is “online community & social media manager.” I do both jobs, and I can attest to the fact that they are two different jobs. Overlapping jobs, to be sure, but different jobs requiring different skillsets and different expectations both on my part and the part of both my employer and the members of the communities I manage.

I belong to a peer group of community managers, The Community Roundtable, as well as a number of online communities about either social media management or community management. Among more traditional community managers, there is talk about how Facebook and Twitter are “ruining” community management, and that companies seeking community managers should avoid looking for candidates on social media job sites.

Then there are communities where the conversations tend to be more along the lines of how community managers can use Klout as a tool to build community.

I suppose you can tell from that last link to my blog post which camp I’m in.

Here’s the thing.

The whole concept of online community is evolving. So here are a few tips to help clarify the differences between the roles of social media and community managers:

  1. Job postings for Community Manager that start with “Do you live on Twitter and Facebook?” are misguided. If you’re looking for someone to manage an online community, Twitter and Facebook use are irrelevant to the skillset you should be seeking.
  2. Are you looking for someone to drive sales via Facebook, Twitter, a blog, and other public social media sites? That’s not a community manager. That’s social media marketing.
  3. Do you want to host an online community with a goal of driving interaction between community members over the long haul, or enabling customers to support each other, reducing your company’s need to provide customer service? Don’t hire a marketing person.
  4. Are you looking for a “rockstar” to represent your brand and make a name for your company? That’s not a community manager. A community manager is someone who is comfortable behind the scenes and isn’t looking to upstage community members.
  5. Similarly, if you’re looking to hire a community manager to manage a private community or a users group, steer clear of hiring a “rockstar” interested in building a personal brand. He/she will quickly become frustrated in a behind the scenes role.

What have your experiences been with regard to the subtle but real differences between community manager and social media manager?

Have you sought to hire one and gotten the other? Or accepted a position thinking it was one and it turned out to be another? Please share via a comment!

Image: Kristian D. via Flickr, CC 2.0

Maggie McGary is an online community & social media manager for an association in the DC area. She blogs about social media (mostly) on Mizz Information and you can almost always find her on Twitter.