Daily Archives: February 5, 2014

Social Media Manager vs. Community Manager – What’s the Difference?

Inside-the-mind-of-a-community-managerWith Community Manager Day (#CMAD) now in the past and the countdown for its 5th birthday is officially underway, I have come across an interesting yet important question that has not really been addressed. Community Manager Day is used to celebrate the achievements and progress made by individuals who make it their goal to foster and engage a digital community. The big question that comes to mind is what is the difference between a community manager and a social media manager? The two terms seem to overlap since both positions deal with the same communication medium, but there are some definite differences between the two positions. As stated in this article published by The CR Blog, when answering this question, the first thing you must look at is the difference between the first part of each title: ‘social media’ and a ‘community’.

When talking about ‘social media’:

  • The network around each set of content is not as closely linked to each other
  • The content released is not typically used to bring the network closer together but rather just to add to the current social conversation being had
  • Comments made on content are not used to start a conversation

When talking about ‘community’:

  • Members of a community are actively engaged and interact with each other consistently
  • There is a common purpose that is acknowledged by all community members
  • Content is used to spark a conversation and engagement from community members

BONUS: There is a strong emphasis put on relationships and authentic connections rather than followers

Low Complexity Markets

The major difference between these two is the motivation behind the work that they do and the effects that it has on the content they produce. Social media managers produce content for simplistic networks. “In low complexity markets and use cases, the focus is on social media because the relationships don’t need to be deep.”

This is the type of market where the content isn’t used to connect people to each other, but rather to provide an infrastructure to connect people to a brand.  While there is a sense of familiarity established with the brand, creating a tight knit network doesn’t matter as much as profiting off of a product.

This is where social media comes in handy. A social media manager can produce content that will highlight your brands best qualities by publishing UGC (user generated content) and responding to followers talking about your brand.

High Complexity Markets

Managing a community involves complete engagement within a high complexity market. This is the type of market in which services, products, and users are completely intertwined. All interactions circle around one common idea or purpose which a community manager must always be aware of.

Within these markets, a true community is formed around the content that is shared. These people not only follow each other’s content, but they share ideas and information with the goal of building meaningful relationships. Through these relationships, users can continue to explore their interests knowing that the content they are receiving comes from liked minded individuals

Using well developed communication and listening skills, a community manager sets the tone for these relationships while letting them form organically; providing support and guidance along the way.

All in all, these two roles are very different and yet vital in their own ways. If I had to summarize it in one phrase, I wound say that a social media manager will take good care of your brand and your following but a community manager will take great care of your community and those within it.

Seeing Something New While Looking at the Old

I have to be honest. Having participated in social media since the chat room days on AOL in the 90’s, I came to the point of questioning the importance of participating in the whole social media world.

I am not one of those folks who likes to broadcast my every waking moment and I do not feel the need to post every thought that enters my mind.

That being said…

I have accounts on most of the popular social media sites; Pinterest, LinkedIn, google+, twitter and I even made the reluctant switch from Myspace to Facebook when everyone seemed to have jumped ship.

But again, I asked, what is the point of it all?


A Shift in Purpose

It was not until I started my master’s program in Library Science that I started to understand that social media is more than just a place where people share pictures of their kids, what they had for dinner, their current vice, or crazy drama that really should be kept private.

People can use social media as a tool to connect to companies and organizations that are important to them. From a business perspective, companies and organizations can use social media as a tool to make their customers or participates feel important and involved.

Oliver Blanchard’s book Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization makes a clear distinction between what social media is and how it is different from social communication.  Social media is the platform that can be used, while social communication is the actual connection between people in the community and people working within the organization (pg.7). It is not enough for a company or business to just start up a social media presence and think the social communication will just appear.  Blanchard stresses the point there needs to be actual value for the company to have a social media presence and it is important to define the purpose of being on social media and set goals (pg.13-15).  The management of the online communities is to be taken seriously because the creation of the connection between people and the organization is not guaranteed.  It is the social communication that is the key and changing factor for me.


A New Value

I apply Blanchard’s teaching to the profession I aspire to be in.  I am going to be a librarian. One of the key responsibilities of a librarian is to connect the library users to the library resources.  Social media can be an incredibly valuable tool to make the library’s communities members have a connection to their library.  Without a community, a library would be irrelevant.

I am now starting to see a new value in social media.  The value can really be seen when we stop focusing so much on ourselves and the mundane details of our lives and start using the tool to connect with people and organizations we are truly passionate about.