Do you know the difference between a social media manager and an online community manager*?
If you’re thinking this is a trick question, you aren’t alone.
It’s not uncommon for our community management agency to receive queries like this:
“So … since you’re managing our group, you’ll do Facebook and Instagram for us too, right?”
“Oh, we don’t have a community. We’re looking for someone to manage our social media accounts. It’s the same thing, right?”
Community management IS NOT the same social media management, but the two are often mistaken as interchangeable. And that means the professionals who specialize in each function often get mistaken as well.
The confusion comes from the fact that social media is critical to the success of each business function even though a social media manager has an entirely different focus and set of priorities than a community manager. And if you don’t understand the differences, you will never be happy with the social media managers or community managers you hire because your expectations won’t match the reality of what they deliver.
This article defines each function, explains its purpose and describes how social media managers and online community managers are different-though-complementary roles in an organization.
What is Social Media Management?
At a surface level, a social media manager runs a brand’s public-facing social media channels. They do this by analyzing social media audiences and creating a strategy to strengthen the brand’s digital reputation across social media platforms, which may include professional accounts on:
- Facebook (Business Page)
A social media manager takes on the persona of the brand, creating content in the brand’s voice while listening and responding to engaged followers. To be successful, they must know the ins and outs of each platform they manage, the tools used to manage those platforms, and advise you appropriately.A social media manager takes on the persona of the brand, creating content in the brand’s voice while listening and responding to engaged followers. Click To Tweet
Social media managers are the ones who are monitoring analytics and letting you know what type of content performs best, when to post, how often to post and whether you should consider adopting a new platform or ignore it altogether.
Depending on the size of your brand or scope of active social media platforms, you might have a single social media manager or a social media management team with different people fulfilling your strategic and creative needs.
What is Online Community Management?
Community management focuses on developing a community surrounding the brand and prioritizes people over policy.
Where a social media manager focuses on the effective use of various platforms to promote a brand, a community manager is platform-neutral. They focus on the principles that foster safety and connection in an online space.
Most professional community managers don’t care whether they are working in Circle, Slack, Facebook, Mighty Networks or a proprietary community platform. How they do their work might need to adapt according to the community platform, but what they do and how they approach the work is the same.A successful community manager is equal parts strategist, concierge, mediator, cheerleader, event planner and welcome wagon. Click To Tweet
A successful community manager is equal parts strategist, concierge, mediator, cheerleader, event planner and welcome wagon. They are paid by the brand to represent the community and its interests. In addition to handling the proper online care and feeding of their groups, community managers might host virtual events, in-person meetups, and staff booths at conferences.
When community managers create content, it’s rarely branded or polished. It’s responsive to the community’s needs and relevant to the culture of the group.
The Key Difference Between These Roles
A social media manager’s job is to BE the brand on social media. They develop your brand persona on each social media channel in alignment with your values and goals, creating, curating and scheduling content that best reflects the brand’s voice and interacting with the audience as the brand. Whether a brand has one social media manager or several, there should be no discernible difference in the content produced and posted by each. It should all look and feel cohesive and unified.
A community manager’s job is to be the spokesperson for your brand, using their own voice to build a loyal community around your brand. They typically participate in the community under their own identity and are known by name among members of your community.
Their main purpose is to make your community members feel seen, heard and valued. They will often tell brand decision-makers things they need to hear based on the perspectives of community members, even if they don’t want to hear it.
When a social media manager leaves a company, nobody but others on staff notice. When a community manager leaves a company, it can be like a death in the family, and requires a transition plan because many group members will feel as emotionally connected to them as they are to the brand.
Community Management is Relatively New as a Defined Role
Though online communities have existed as long as the internet, community management as a specialty wasn’t given the respect it deserved until 2020 when global lockdowns forced everyone to confront the importance of well-managed online communities.Online community management is finally getting the respect it deserves as a profession. Click To Tweet
You used to see full-time community managers treated and paid like entry-level customer service representatives or call-center workers. Usually, though, community management fell under “duties as assigned” for an employee with other — often unrelated — job responsibilities.
Now, you see organizations developing entire community management teams within operations or marketing departments and community manager positions ranging in pay from $40,000 to over $100,000 per year. Formal training programs are emerging to certify community managers as well. Meta, which was among the first to have a certified community manager program, also hosts the annual Facebook Communities Summit. Though we’re seeing more community management events and training programs emerge, the Facebook Communities Summit is still favored among leaders of Facebook groups of all sizes.
Need Help with Your Community?
Team Kubo specializes in online community design, development and growth. Whether you need help with strategy, training your admin team or day-to-day management of your group, we can help. The first step is to complete our no-cost community health assessment, so we can identify your needs and customize a plan to get the results you desire.