Social Media Management vs. Community Management?

I personally stopped blogging a while ago, but I kinda feel this is a necessary blog post. A while ago, a professor used the term Community Manager interchangeably with Social Media Manager. I made a quick comment about them not being the same, and later some friends started questioning my reasoning.

Last week during OSCON, I was chatting with a friend about this same topic. A startup asked me to help them as a community manager about a year ago. I gladly accepted, but then they just started assigning me social media work.

And these are not the only cases. I have seen several people use both terms interchangeably, which they are not. I guess it’s time for me to burst the bubble that has been wrapped around both terms.

In order to do that, let’s explain, in very simple words, the job of both of them. Let’s start with the social media managers. Their job is, as the title says, to manage social media channels. Post on Facebook, respond to Twitter replies, make sure people feel welcome when they visit any of the social media channels, and automatically represent the brand/product through social media.

Community managers, on the other side, focus on building communities around a product or service. To put it simpler, they make sure that there’s people that care about the product, that contribute to the ecosystem, that work with the provider to make it better. Social media management is a part of their job. It is a core function, because it is one of the channels that allow them to communicate with people to hear their concerns and project the provider’s voice about the product. However, it is not their only job. They also have to go out and meet with people, in real life. Talk with higher-ups to voice the concerns. Hear how the product is impacting people’s life in order to make a change, or continue on the same good path.

With this, I’m not trying to devalue the work of social media managers. On the other hand, they are have a very valuable job. Imagine all those companies with social media profiles, without the funny comments. No message replies if you had a question. Horrible, right? Managing these channels is as important, so brands/products are ‘alive’ on the interwebs. Being a community manager is not only managing a channel. Therefore, they are not comparable jobs.

Each of the positions is different, even though they complement each other pretty well. But I hope that with this post you can understand a little bit more about the inside job of both community managers and social media managers. In a fast-paced world like ours today, these two can make a huge difference between having a presence online, or not. So, next time, if you’re looking for a community manager, don’t expect them to do only social media work. And viceversa – if you’re looking for a social media manager, don’t expect them to build community out of social media.

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