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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
@maggielmcgYes Both has different challenges! Internal & External :)
Wow, great explanation about the differences between the two. Thank you. Now I know exactly which one I would want to be. And I understand exactly the benefits of having a strong personality and good writing skills!
@HowieSPM Totally agree re: realistic expectations. There are definitely businesses out there who expect to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook Page and immediately see results and/or get a billion followers. If huge numbers are all they care about, you’re totally right–they’d be best served buying an ad.
@Bhanukaran Glad you enjoyed the post and good luck in your new role! Both are challenging jobs but you’ll probably never be bored!
[…] Maggie McGary wrote a guest post on the incredible Waxing Unlyrical blog the other day about “Community Manager” Confusion. […]
Great post and the issue has been explored extensively by folks like Blaise Grimes-Viort – Bottom line is most enterprises/businesses still cannot differentiate between the two – the expectations are, in my experience, either too high or too low. There are too many “experts/gurus” out there – confusing the landscape – and clients are confused, under-budgeting, and not clear on what we do, where and how. In many industries (namely, luxury for example) we are too far ahead of the game to be properly leveraged, much less appreciated. But this too shall pass :)
Hey Maggie, I loved this post. In fact, I am going to play both roles in my new role. One part is managing the existing Social Media platforms for multiple brands. And the other hand, My KPI’s would be driving and humanizing the entire business. Hence, I would be the face for the all the brands in Social Media. This is pretty exciting and challenging too!
Epic post! Love it!
I love this post Maggie. @Shonali and I had some discussions recently on social media which I took a broad Sales view but had not had a chance to respond to her last comment and this is a great place. I will never tell a business not to create a community especially if it means grooming brand ambassadors and learning how to improve products/services etc as long as the return on that investment equals or surpasses in some way (doesn’t have to be dollars) investing the resources elsewhere. I am not very bullish on Social Media Marketing since my observances to date show a low ROI vs other allocation of resources or even vs traditional media. I don’t tell businesses not to market on social platforms but they have to have realistic expectations. If they have to reach a few million people in 30 days they had better start buying radio and TV ads or getting a PR Pro to find a way to get some Press Coverage vs creating a Twitter account and if they don’t have those resources…good luck. But if 500 helps move sales that is different.
But people confuse these things. It is really hard for a business to focus on goals and tools properly. Tools can be platforms or people. So much of the media (because it benefits media like Mashables and Social media book writers and speech givers and the VC/Sm companies themselves who are out for themselves vs their readers or listeners) have blinded businesses with the word Social Media which is not media at all its Social Communication Technologies focused on person to person. So everyone jumped in with the wrong expectations.
I think your 5 points are excellent guidelines. I have gotten to know some young fresh out of school people who think they can just jump in as community managers because they have been on Facebook for 2 years. I was young and headstrong once…I learned LOL