Social Media and Community Management: Why the Difference Matters

Throughout the semester, I’ve struggled with the true definition of Community Management. What is a community? What are the responsibilities of a Community Manager? When I finally thought I understood the concept, another wrench was thrown into the equation. I began to notice that I couldn’t get through an explanation of community management without mentioning social media. Are they the same thing?

What’s the Difference?

An article on The Community Manager explained it best. If you are a Social Media Manager, your main priority is getting your members to engage with the brand. Community Managers focus more on getting members engaged with each other.

Social Media: people interacting with the brand.

Social Media: people interacting with the brand.

Social Media Management

Social Media Managers are responsible for managing social accounts, giving users a person to talk to, and getting people interested in a product. If he or she is successful, the brand will gain a strong following and users will respond to posts consistently. Social Media gives consumers the opportunity to be a part of a two way conversation.

A community should consist of one conversation between all users.

A community should consist of one conversation between all users.

Community Management

Community Managers are responsible for getting a conversation started between a group of people. If he or she is successful, the community will flourish–fans will become members and members will become ambassadors to the community. If you manage a community, you are the voice of not only the brand, but also of the community. You’re there to start a discussion and engage, but you are more likely to sit back and watch users engage with each other than be the primary source of content.

Why Knowing the Difference is Important

 It’s beneficial for you.

When applying for jobs, it is crucial for you to understand your skill set and what you are able to offer a company. Understanding the responsibilities of each position will allow you to see which position is right for you. A person who has experience in managing social accounts and is applying to be a Community Manager may not be on the right track. Additionally, if you’re looking into a company who has a position titled “Social Media Community Manager,” you can avoid working for someone who does not understand the difference and save yourself from biting off more than you can chew.

It’s beneficial for a company.

An organization can really benefit from the two position being separate. When the positions are combined into one, brands/organizations are not utilizing their staff to their greatest potential. Once every company understands the difference between a social media manager and a community manager, they can hire accordingly.  It’s too much for one person to handle! If a Community Manager is responsible for managing the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Google+ account, he or she probably is not utilizing their talents. Think of how much more engaged a person can be if they focus their energy on something specific. The Social Media Manager is responsible for maintaining the accounts and communicating with consumers and the Community Manager is responsible for extending those discussions even further into a community format.

work-togetherThe two should work together.

There’s a reason why the difference between Community Management and Social Media Management is a common misconception. They are often thought of as one position because the two have a strong relationship and must work well together. The community manager is responsible for keeping members engaged, not only with the brand, but with each other. This can only happen with the help of social media and the social media manager. If the brand doesn’t have a strong enough following, it will be nearly impossible for the community to grow.


While I’m sure there is much more to learn, I’m glad I finally have a sense of the difference between these two important positions. What articles have helped you grasp the concept?

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