Spring14 Semester Starts Monday January 13!

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An Accidental Community

This week’s readings discussed the key distinctions between social media management and community management.  The following table shows some of the similarities and differences (the size of the “x” and accompanying comments describe the scope of that facet):

Social Media Management Community Management
Strategy X (campaign objectives) x (community health)
Content X (blogs, social sites) X (blogs, forums)
Engagement X (one-to-many, transactional) X (one-to-one, many-to-many, relationships)
Analytics and Metrics X (campaign ROI) x (community health)

Clearly, these functions have some overlap.  A social media manager (SMM) sets strategy, creates and curates content, drives engagement, and assesses results; a community manager (CM) may collaborate with a SMM on developing content and identifying engagement tactics.  As Jenn Pedde describes in What a community manager is not, “A community manager does work on social communities some of the time.”  However, “‘managing accounts’ is not the sole responsibility.”

These two roles also have important differences.  A SMM manages an organization’s perception by engaging individually with members on a social platform.  In contrast, a CM manages relationships between an organization and its constituents by facilitating conversation among community members, often strengthening online encounters by hosting offline events (Vanessa DiMauro, Justin Isaf, Jenn Pedde).  In other words, a community manager builds, develops, and sustains relationships.

In this post, I’d like to discuss in the context of an organization with which I volunteer whether the management of its primary social site can be categorized as social media management, community management, or both.

A Community By Chance

Upstate New Yorkers for Nebraska (UNY for Nebraska) was chartered by the University of Nebraska Alumni Association in 2011 to help connect and engage alumni, friends, and fans of the University.  Its primary online properties are a Facebook page and Twitter account.  Facebook has been the primary vehicle used to inform and engage followers about chapter and University news and activities.

UNY for Nebraska has a core group of 50 people who regularly attend chapter events and have opted in to email communications.  This modest audience is far exceeded by the chapter’s 180 individual Facebook fans.  Consequently, response to and engagement with site content can vary widely depending on an individual’s investment in the group.

    • Typical posts receive a like or comment or two, while photos tend to be shared more often by Facebook fans.
    • Not surprisingly, posts representing shared experiences garner more engagement (example below).
    • Community members also post their own content to the page, and fellow members frequently respond.


What Next?


This week’s readings differentiated the outcomes of social media management from those of community management.  While a social media platform serves as a basis for an organization to connect individually with constituents, an online community provides an environment for participants to authentically connect with each other.  In You may not actually be a Community Manager – and that’s ok, Justin Isaf writes that community managers “‘win’ if they put themselves out of a job because their users are talking to each other…,” whereas social media professionals “‘win’ if they maintain a conversation with every person who touches a brand…”

Upstate New Yorkers for Nebraska is not yet truly engaging in community management.  The very fact that this post discussed metrics such as likes, comments, and shares underscores this assessment.  However, individuals’ alignment with UNY for Nebraska is self-selective based on their affiliation with an institution; this should be considered a powerful driver for future potential community engagement.  UNY for Nebraska’s Facebook page has organically become an ad hoc community where fans interact with others’ content (example at right).  Going forward, it would be strategically advantageous to tap an appropriately-skilled volunteer to serve as community manager to cultivate and encourage engagement between fellow Nebraska fans.

Have you ever managed a social site that seemed to be on the brink of becoming an online community?  What did you find successful in encouraging members’ engagement?

(Featured image from Flickr user SalFalko.)

Community Managers are Leaders!

Community by Jeff Kubina

Photo Credit: Community, by Jeff Kubina

The author of the book Social Media ROI, Olivier Blanchard, encourages his readers to “be a leader, not just a manager.”  This makes perfect sense given the roles and responsibilities of a Community Manager.

Allow me to explain…

Over the last few years, organizations like JCPenney and Old Navy have decided to change the title of key positions within their company, from “manager” to “leader.”  The title change was enacted to encourage people inside (and outside) the company to think differently about the company’s direction.

Why, what’s the difference?

The thought is that leaders are forward thinkers.  They work to open up avenues of communications and collaboration.  They build teams and weave a broader sense of community.  Whereas, the concept of management implies to many, a top down bureaucracy…the old way of doing things.  To be fair, all leaders are not created equal and the traits of a good leader certainly depend on the individual person and the organization, but please take a moment to consider the comparisons in the graph below.  On the “leader side” are a set of coveted leadership skills offered to us by Leadership that Gets Results.   On the “Community Manager” side are the compared set of job role descriptions set forth by 5 Things on What a Community Manager is and Differentiating between Social Media and Community Manager

Leadership Skills       VS.      Community Manger Skills

A good Leader…                                 A good Community Manager…

Takes ownership & solves problems     — Assures communities’ concerns are heard

Is flexible & willing to change course    —  Is able to adapt

Earns Trust                                                 —  Ensures trust in the brand

Allows team to communicate openly     — Offers open communication

Builds connections between people       —  Gets people talking to each other

Sets vision, goals, & objectives               — Plans & develops strategy

Inspires the team with the vision            —  Acknowledges shared purpose w/ community

Builds bonds                                               —  Builds relationships w/key community members

Builds Relationships                                 —  Strengthens relationships within the community

Is a great communicator                          —  Facilitates effective inter-team communication

Solicits input from those around them   —  Promotes productive collaboration

To be sure, a good Community Manager must take on numerous responsibilities that encompass the roles of a good leader.  And if one still needs more convincing, take a look at the definition Wikipedia offers for an “offline” Community Leader:   “Community Leaders help to build healthy communities.  They are perceived to represent a community of common interests, purpose, or practice.  They act as a liaison between that community and authorities.”   So it seems that an offline community leader and an online Community Manager perform very similar tasks, just in a different setting.

So it is settled!

I propose that it is time to update the position title of the Community “Manager” to Community “Leader.”  It is time to recognize the leadership role that the Community Manager plays within their online community and within their organizations.  They are true leaders in every sense of the word!

What other things do Community Manager’s do that make them leaders?  In what ways are they not leaders?  What would be the benefits of a job title change for Community Managers?



So What’s a Community Manager, Anyway?


This week in #CMGRClass, we’ve been exploring the difference between community management and social media management, and what kinds of skills are needed for either role. The fact is, there is a distinct difference here that a lot of organizations struggle to see, much to the chagrin of many a social media professional.
To make things more difficult, nobody has a standard definition for each job, and everybody sees the roles a little differently. In practice, a Community Manager may act a bit like a Social Media Manager, and vice versa, depending on the needs of their company. Sometimes the lines are totally blurred, and one person is doing it all. But organizations and social media professionals alike benefit from distinguishing the two roles, and emphasizing where each is most proficient.
So let’s break it down – what does a community manager do that a social media manager doesn’t? How are they alike? How are they different?
The Social Media Manager
Think about this literally, the SM manager takes care of the social media; note the emphasis on media. Rather than focusing on the intricate relationships of the community on the other side of the media, they turn their attention to the platforms themselves. From a strategic perspective, platforms are considered and developed, campaigns are planned and executed, and data is gathered and analyzed to ensure the choices being made are good investments for the organization. Hard goals drive their work, focusing on increasing sales or improving the company image. Social media are business tools to get the job done, so they need a certain level of expertise in the technologies used, as well as the business acumen to succeed.
The Community Manager
Again, the name being fairly self-descriptive, the CMGR is all about the community. The people internal or external to the organization who need support and engagement are the CMGR’s job. Some technical expertise is required, as in order to fully utilize a given technology, a “superuser” mindset is greatly beneficial, if not required. Day-to-day, the community manager creates and distributes content, interacts with the customers/community, provides customer service and support, listens and responds to community members, and uses data metrics to analyze customer satisfaction and community performance and health. Communities are fairly platform agnostic, meaning they can exist and communicate using any number of media, so a community manager is essentially a kind of polyglot. Beyond business and technical skills, however, the CMGR also needs excellent people skills – they need to be able to read people and respond accordingly.
And there you have it, a brief outline of what makes a community manager, versus a social media manager. Again, sometimes these lines are blurred, and definitions vary, but the two roles can be quite distinct. It is important for organizations to understand this, so they can plan, hire, and train appropriately.
Does your organization have each of these positions, or do they blend a little of each into one role?

Community Managers Put the “Community” in Social Media

Many of us have heard the terms Social Media Manager and Community Manger in reference to handling online presence and communities of businesses. But very few of us are clear about the differences in each position. This confusion may be a result of the blurred line of duties for each position. Let’s take a look at what each position includes.



First, Social Media Managers roles are key to some specific roles:

  • they reach out to a wide variety of social media platforms and choose the best ones for their brand
  • they work on Brand Management and promotional campaigns
  • they work on the outer edges of the company to make a presence on social media platforms
  • they are responsible for analyzing metrics and measuring stats
  • usually they are connected to Marketing, PR, and Sales.

The role of the social media manager takes place on the “outer edges” of the business to facilitate an online presence.




Now, a look at Community Manager roles:

  • The voice and face of the brand
  • Connects the community and gets them involved
  • Operates within the company
  • Manages brand by creating a positive experience for community members
  • Focused on flow of information
  • Customer service (by way of getting people to answers) and interaction
  • Shares community concerns and ideas (the voice of the community)

The key to this position is COMMUNITY!  The relationships are nurtured and innovation suggestions are cultivated from those relationship. The CM facilitates the members connection to each other. Building these relationships create trust for the brand and value for the community.

Some of the best advice on this topic that I have read was published by Jenn Pedde on TheCommunityManager.com in her description of Community Manager and the importance of their influence. Pedde stated, “One of the biggest differences between a Social Media Manager and a Community Manager is the offline component of the day to day jobs.  A Community Manager should know how to find their influential members on the usual social media tools, but they should also know how to find their influential members offline.” This statement shows the importance of a Community Managers ability to interact with people on many different levels.


Community Manager by kommein

The key to being a good Community Manager lays in a person’s ability to communicate with their audience. Here are some sound words of advice from kommein –  “Online community management is perfect for those of us who have the gift of gab. Our primary job is to communicate. We communicate with our brand and we communicate with our customers and potential customers.” Using our gifts to create the best experience for our community is a great way to be good at what you do and to love what you do. All of that will be reflected in the community members experience.

This brief outline of each position may start to give you a feel for the differences between these two positions. There certainly could be overlap in some of the work that is done by both, but it is important to recognize the differences of each position.

Remember, social media is about RELATIONSHIPS.  Being genuine is a must.

Now that you have heard from me, I would like to hear from you. What do you think? Share you thoughts about the differences of these two positions and enlighten me with your knowledge and passion with Social Media!

Distinct Differences Between Community, Social Approaches

The members of online communities are individuals, but they have a common interest (Prio/Flickr).

The members of   online communities are individuals, but they have a common interest (Prio/Flickr).

The functional orientations and work processes of community managers and social media managers may seem a lot alike at first glance, but it’s my belief that the differences between them play out through several subtle, but distinct differences.

These characteristics include:

  • the focus of motivation for speaking to and engaging others around the organization;
  • the flavor and character of the communications conducted;
  • the end purposes of the engagement efforts that are made.

From our readings this week, I’ve discerned that community managers center their efforts on cultivating conversations and building relationships in order to develop and maintain an engaged community that benefits both community members and the positive status of the organization.

Just as Vanessa DiMauro points out in Social Media Today, community managers are focused “on the flow of information and knowledge, strengthening relationships and promoting productive collaboration.” She continues that social media managers instead are involved in “listening and evaluating brand perception, planning campaigns and promotional material or initiatives to promote the company’s message, building and leveraging social networks on social platforms.”

Ryan Lytle presents another take. He characterizes the community manager’s functions, in “10 Qualities of an Effective Community Manager” as consisting of an enabling role. (I see this as a function akin to an advocate or an ombudsman.) Lytle says it is the community manager’s duty “not to continue to push a brand’s message, but to empower the audience and to give it a voice.”

Whether an organizational interaction is considered to originate in either high or low complexity market conditions are other ways to determine whether the community manager or social media manager avenue is the better approach for online communication.

Rachel Happe writes about this aspect in “The Community Roundtable,” using the example of a Sharpie pen manufacturer to illustrate the differences between the community manager and social media manager disciplines.

A low complexity market situation (the Sharpie pen producer-sales transaction) may require a social media management approach, she says.

  • That would be where online activity is more about pushing out product messages than about having Sharpie pen consumers converse with the manufacturer and with each other.
  • In this approach, social media management integrates business aspects into the community, providing a forum where consumers of Sharpie pens may be happy enough to tune into social media channels to learn about new products and promotions.
  • That might involve “listening and evaluating brand perception, planning campaigns and promotional material or initiatives to promote the company’s message, building and leveraging social networks.”
  • These activities are much more marketing and sales-focused, thus the domain of the social media manager, according to Happe.

Such consumers may not be as interested in sharing their experiences and the benefits they find in using Sharpie pens as a member of a moderated community, however, she implies. That is why in the opposite situation, (a high complexity market and use case), the community manager approach may be the proper form of online communication.

  • This type of online community building would be called for when it is more important that there are inter-personal connections as part of the organization’s transactions, Happe conveys.
  • What community managers do for organizations is to “provide the feeling of a direct connection” to the organization, she says, providing an infrastructure where customers can “benefit greatly by interacting and building relationships with other customers.”

Echoing that belief, Richard Millington, in “Buzzing Communities,” notes that it is often the community manager who provides “the only link between the organization and its community.” He says that “if community members are able to directly interact with the organization’s staff, they become more likely to develop positive opinions of the organization; they begin to identify as one with the organization.”(p.185).

Given these various perspectives, here are two questions for your own reflection and feedback:

  • Of the organizations you interact with online, can you tell what approach is used in those communication efforts?
  • Do you receive different types of interactions from different organizations, and are you satisfied with the type of interactions you’re getting?





Observations of the History & Evolution of Community Management

The history and evolution of community management, as some classmates pointed out in our most recent Google+ Hangout class time, may seem dry, but I think it is an important topic to cover. Not everyone in class has had the same experiences or may not be as familiar with the ins and outs of community management. Although I have some experience in managing communities (currently through the Lubin House for Syracuse University in New York City), I still found the articles, videos and other readings useful. The more I can read about it, the better!

One thing that stood out to me during the Google+ Hangout was when Kelly mentioned that online communities are different for higher education than they are for other products — and I completely agree. I know that Lubin House (now @SUinNYC!) has a following and I know our “community” is listening, but it is hard to get an online reaction from them. Retweets and likes on Facebook are common, but actual conversation over social media really isn’t there.

On a plus side, I think Higher Education does a great job with starting a relationship online and then bringing it to an in person relationship. I know our followers are listening, because they show up to events where we can meet them in person. We get a lot of feedback that way. I look forward to taking what I learn throughout the semester in this class and using it to develop our SUinNYC community.

Other great points that I took away from the Google+ Hangout were:

  • Community management is about keeping your community happy and keeping their attention.
  • Outsourcing is not always a bad thing
  • Jenn mentioned that you should look at community management as “I don’t have to get everything done right now.” You can plan for a month, three months, nine months down the road.
  • Do not be on Twitter (or any other social networking site) if you are not willing to devote the time.
  • Social media initiatives are more easily accomplished with buy in from the top
    • At more institutionalized companies/organizations this can be harder

Do You Need a Social Media Manager and a Community Manager?

community managementAlthough there is some confusion, the role of a social media manager and the role of a community manager do have their differences. Yes, many of the responsibilities overlap and, of course, both types of managers would be working very closely together. But it can often be difficult to separate the two positions.

Here is my simplified, quick-read version of Community Management versus Social Media Management. (For a more in-depth definition of each, read this article or this one here).

Community Management focuses on:

  • Developing relationships
  • Moderating conversation
  • Listening to what the community wants

Social Media Management focuses on:

  • Content creation
  • Managing social networks
  • Reporting and measuring

There are distinct differences between each role, but I wonder, is it necessary to have both a Community Manager and a Social Media Manager?

My short answer is no, but each company has different needs. There are factors that an organization can look into before making a decision.

Some of these include:

  • Do you have the resources to hire both a Community Manager and a Social Media Manager?
  • Does your organization have an active enough community to be managed?
  • Is is possible to find an employee who can navigate both content creation and building relationships?

social media management image

In her post, Differentiating Between Social Media and Community Management, Rachel Happe points out that “not all companies want, need to, or can cultivate a community.” And from my experience from managing social media in the higher education industry, I agree with Happe.

However, it all depends on the needs and wants of your company and the type of community in which you are trying to cultivate. There isn’t one social media or community management strategy that will work for every organization.

What do you think?

Does your organization or company need both a community and a social media manager? Why or why not?

Starting a Discussion #CMGRClass Style

Today's #CMGR has nicer gadgets than yesteryear!

Today’s #CMGR has nicer gadgets than yesteryear!

Being the first person to do something is always a bit daunting. In the case of being the first #CMGRClass moderator, I was a little concerned I wouldn’t quite know how to approach it. After all, while I’ve moderated communities before, they’re usually interest-oriented, rather than academically-oriented. This being a class, I wanted to make sure I was both engaging and thought-provoking.
For this week, we read quite a few pieces about the history of community management, and how the technologies and responsibilities have evolved up until now. This was a great review, and provided some solid context and history for the rest of the class. After all, there’s value in knowing where your field has come from, and how far.

I opened up the discussion with the following questions:

  1. In what ways are online communities today different from their early relatives?
  2. How have the changes in web and mobile technologies been reflected in community management?
  3. What were your most useful take-aways from the readings and video?

The class responded by noting how technology has vastly improved interactions and response time. In old bulletin boards, a message might receive a response hours or days after posting, whereas social networks today, coupled with mobile technologies, allow for responses in seconds. The rise of transparency was also brought up – users use their real names far more often than in the past, when a pseudonym or screen name was more common. Anonymity has been known to encourage users online to act in ways not becoming to their normal personalities, such as being more rude or aggressive, or even making remarks they wouldn’t make in person. This trend toward transparency is an interesting shift in online communities, with implications that may yet to be seen, though it may represent more genuine online interactions.
We also addressed how new technologies, especially real-time technologies supported by high-bandwidth networks, have changed how communities can interact. I’ve already mentioned how impressed I am with Google+ Hangouts, and what they can do for communities. The class also mentioned Facetime, and we’ve all used Vsnap at this point. Sharing rich media with another person on the Internet is now easier and more accessible than ever. Real-time communications, from chat clients to Skype, are also widely in use. Will we even need cellular service in the future, if all of our devices can make calls over IP? How’s that for saving on customer service?
Mid-week, I also presented two more articles, and a few more questions to go with them. I found the social@Ogilvy: Introduction to Community Management 3.0 piece on their thoughts on community management, and The Community Manager: How to Build a Community From Scratch  post about emphasizing two different views on starting in community management. Right away, we noted that Ogilvy’s ratio of organic conversation in your community to talk about the brand (70/30) doesn’t match up with the recommendations of others. There are many many opinions about community metrics, and no hard rules. Kelly Lux pointed out that Ogilvy’s proficiency is in audience, whereas David Spinks (who wrote the second article) is more of a community expert. Audience and community are not the same, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
There was, of course, more to this discussion, as I’m sure will be the case every week. However, it seems our class is well-suited to having great in-depth discussions about community management, and we had some really solid analyses of the readings show up this week. It was great to see how everybody else interpreted the articles and questions posted; we seem to be a well-rounded and insightful group.


In closing, I’ll leave off with my bonus question of the week, about the history of Community Managers:
What’s the most ancient online community you’ve been involved in?

Photo Credit: Yo Spiff via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Yo Spiff via Compfight cc


Community Manager or Social Media Manager: Is There Really a Difference?

Community Management

(2012). [Image of photograph]. Retrieved February 1, 2013, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/evanhamilton/7042524993/

It’s easy to confuse the titles community manager and social media manager. Employers often make the mistake of inaccurately describing the duties of a community manager and social media manager when they post job listings. No wonder everyone’s in an uproar! According to Justin Isaf, author of You may not actually be a Community Manager – and that’s ok, “If your job is primarily to talk to lots of people, you work in Social Media” and “If your job is primarily to get lots of people talking to each other, you work in Community Management.” Simply put.

Still confused? Social media managers manage the brand outside of the company’s website, incorporating the use of other digital platforms such a Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram, FourSquare, etc. Social media managers can be credited with building brand awareness, producing promotional materials, and developing campaigns to bring traffic to various sites. Social media managers are responsible for boosting the number of Twitter followers, getting more ‘likes’ on the company’s Facebook page, encouraging customers to check-in to locations using FourSquare. Although they are interacting with their clientele, social media managers aren’t aiming to strengthen existing relationships and foster brand loyalty. That’s where the community manager comes in. Depending on the needs of the company, community managers are responsible for responding to customer questions and concerns regarding products and services, include feedback (positive and negative) into product growth and development to adapt to the requests of community members, ensure customer satisfaction, and so on.

When it comes to social networks, content producers must understand that not everyone is interested in the information they’re providing. Community management is about engaging in conversation to impact social and personal experience with a brand. For example, a man tweets that he’s looking for a particular type of cheese, but cannot seem to find it in most grocery stores. Wegmans replies to this tweet by saying they do in fact have the product he’s looking for. Wegmans even suggested he provide his zip code so they could search the nearest location and forward the address. That’s not it, the Wegmans representative even offers to call the location to make sure they have the product in stock before the man travels to the destination. Community managers are taking part in conversations like such on a daily basis, this can also be in the form of blog, newsletters, and forums as their role as includes content creating. However, community managers also like for their customers to create dialogue amongst each other. The membership discussion helps community managers become more aware of the issues both good and bad facing the brand.

Now that the functions of community managers and social media manager have been clarified, what’s your role?

The Evolution of Online Communities: Understanding Community Management in the Modern Day

photoIn the #cmgrclass Google+ Hangout conducted on January 29, 2013, discussion primarily focused on the evolution of communities over a span of 20 years, comparisons of beginning of community management and the current state of community management, the concept of outsourcing, ways of developing strategies for start-ups and favorite brands, and lastly optimal education for those looking to become a community manager.

Jennifer Pedde asked participants to reflect on the previous week’s reading and discussion concept prevalent in those readings. Carol opened discussion by sharing how participation architecture was a thought-provoking concept in understanding what type of community was she trying to create participation in. Due to the high volume of Internet users, community membership and diversity has impacted communities negatively. There’s literally a community for every human interest. People have been engaging in online communities long before they were even aware that this industry existed. Examples such as AOL chat rooms, moderated forums on news sites, and blog comments were presented as mediums in which we were members of online community and were oblivious to it. Kelly Lux admitted to participating in an online forum for new moms during her pregnancy, which she described as “so new” and “addictive”—the ability to speak with people in real-time using a digital platform for the first time.

Years later, how do you increase online traffic and keep the attention of an audience when there are such a variety of communities available to join? How do you keep people engaged? Listening is an essential role in cultivating authentic relationships with community members and ensuring their satisfaction. Maintaining audience engagement also largely depends on the goals of the community; does it serve as a forum or a customer service help chat center? There are many factors that determine approaches to audience retention.

Community managers starting out in small companies may be wondering how to attract and establish membership. Is outsourcing problematic? Jennifer Pedde says despite her constant disapproval, outsourcing can be a good fit for big companies, i.e. Coca Cola. Conversely, for start-ups it will likely not be financially feasible to outsource. Community managers will execute much of the work single-handedly. So, what are the beginning stages of strategy development? Suggestions include: finding out if the brand currently has an online presence (if it does, what needs improving), discovering which digital platforms are the best fit for the overall outcome, and creating content that align with company goals and what they intend to gain from the community in terms of experience. Although this may sound simple, Kelly Lux questioned whether or not there’s an optimal education for current and up and coming community managers. In addition, can anyone be a community manager or is it innate and cannot be taught? #cmgrclass came to the general consensus that community management involves a genuine desire and passion for interacting with people. That’s a core value is being a successful community manager, the rest can be taught by enrolling in a course or as the old saying goes, “experience is the best teacher.”