#SMTLive Schedule

Social Media Manager vs. Online Community Manager: Same or Different?

One recent morning I saw a post in one of my LinkedIN groups asking "what is the difference between a social media manager and an online community manager?" Easy, I thought, and offered a quick response on my mobile ... "Social media managers bring the guests (clients, prospects) to the table and community managers welcome them in!"

Ahh, but wait. This may require more words than I can manage on that little screen. So, naturally, I turned to trusty Google to see what others have said on this topic.
ImageAmong the first mentions I came across was a CMSWire  which discussed the confusion between social media and online community management, and suggested the two roles have become blurred.
In my view, the confusion often begins with job descriptions, which are rarely written by actual practitioners. For larger organizations new to these rapidly evolving specialties, they strive to find and describe the commonalities rather than highlight the differences in the two roles.
Next, I sought out my trusted peers and colleagues to see and hear what they had to say. In a post by the very knowledgeable Blaise Grimes-Viort from the UK firm e-Moderation, he shared the following definitions of these two roles:
·    Community Manager: Operates from deep within the company, managing customer relationships with a brand or product, and each other. Potentially she can be a fully Enterprise Community Manager, involved in facilitating efficient inter-team and staff communication and collaboration. She is focussed on the flow of information and knowledge, strengthening relationships and promoting productive collaboration, which may include moderation and hosting of both micro- and macro-events on the company’s community platform. Placement within the Organisation chart is more likely to be connected to Editorial, Product development, Business development, and Marketing.
In addition, I would add Customer Service/Support to the list of org chart nodes above.
·  Social Media Manager: Operates from the edges of the company, managing brand recognition and reputation outside of the scope of the brand website. He is focused on 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 such as Twitter and Facebook to facilitate depth of communication. He will usually be found within the Organisation chart connected to Marketing, PR, and Sales.
Another aspect of the blurring and overlap in roles is the type of organization doing the hiring -- what is the business focus for the role? Business-to-business (B2B) and consumer companies have very different requirements. In consumer organizations, the community focus is individual consumers, and consumers generally frequent public social media channels with broad reach and large numbers. On the other hand, B2B organizations focus on building customer intimacy using channels such as online communities, customer councils and executive briefing centers along with offline outreach. For B2B, the desired relationship is deeper, just as the purchase cycle may be longer, revenue potential much greater and the depth of engagement (think suppliers and partners as well as customers) may be much greater and more complicated. In B2B organizations the social media manager is part of marketing and PR, facing outward for the most part. The B2B community manager has some outward responsibilities, but is connected to more core operations at the firm.
These distinctions are especially visible in the success measures for each role - the key performance indicators. Of course, both roles may share responsibility for a number success metrics and will need to partner effectively to deliver results. Here is a short tabulation of key B2B success measures, the role involved and the organizational accountability path.
B2B Success Measure
Drive leads
Social Media Manager
Raise awareness of products or services
Social Media Manager
Visibility of company, products, services or thought leaders
Social Media Manager
Increase sales
Social Media Manager
Event attendance
Social Media Manager on public channels, Community manager on community channels
Customer questions about how to use a product or service
Community Manager
Customer Service
Learn from customers (e.g. feedback into product development)
Community Manager
Product Management/R&D
Customer retention / satisfaction
Community Manager
Call center reduction/ Improve customers’ ability to get help from each other
Community Manager
Customer Service
Increase utilization of the products
Community Manager
Product Management
Note that in the B2B world, where customers tend to be other organizations purchasing complex and expensive products and services, the lines between the social media manager and the community manager roles can be more clearly defined than in consumer space. B2B and consumer prospects have very different information and relationship needs, and when the sale is made the customers require very different levels of ongoing engagement and support. The overlap between the B2B social media and online community manager roles is usually much less than for those roles at a B2C firm.


Join The Conversation

  • Jon Davey's picture
    Sep 27 Posted 4 years ago Jon Davey

    The world is changing... we don't want to be sold to... we are demanding information so we can make choices.

    Social Media is descriptive term for two way flow of information... the platforms being used... the tools of the trade.

    I found this discussion because my auto-tweet was listening out for a mention of social media & community manager... I'm currently looking for a new role and so I'm using the tools at my disposal... some social media purists don't like auto-tweets... they consider them evil... I look at them as flyers saying hello to folk... it's just one way I get to say hello to like minds... or have a good ruck ;)

    Community Manager is someone who cares for the community... the idea that they have a sales target doesn't work for me... the idea that they listen out for opportunities for the sales people to follow up on is more to my liking... in the same way that finance chase payment after the sale... they don't do the deal.

    So social media is the tool kit... and the community manager is the farmer nurturing his flock.

    Thank you.


  • Miloš Milosavljević's picture
    Sep 26 Posted 4 years ago Miloš Milosavljević


    To elaborate, perhaps this should be viewed from the perspective of digital and, in a wider picutre, non-digital assets a company posseses.

    These would include your web sites and apps on all kinds of devices, but also the facebook profiles, pages, groups, twitter accounts, pinterest profiles and boards that you present as your own and control.

    All these fall into the specter of community management, in this division, because the viewer has stepped onto territorry that you moderate and control.

    The realm beyond this fluid line is the networking realm, the places and channels where your brands, goals, target audiences, etc. are discussed and reviewed and judged. The realm of twitter hashtags, FB community pages, third party linked-in groups, facebook pages, pinterest boards, blogs, review sites, forums, chat rooms and so on.

    Whenever you manage to draw in one of these surfers into your realm, they can be treated as part of your wider community and a prospect.

    This is why for measuring the effective size of your community, you need a conversion metric. You need people to like, join, submit, connect, in order to verify them as someone who is not just passing by.

    So, we could in reality treat the viewer as a baton in a relay race, where teams or people, or just one person brings them closer and closer from the periphery to the end of your conversion funnel.

    It is not as important to strictly define the names of these roles and some strict sets of jurisdictions they have, as to define the locations in your network of digital (and non digital) assets where these conversions from user to prospect to lead to customer will take place.

    Sometimes these will happen on your facebook page, sometimes on your mobile app and sometimes on your web page or over the phone. It is more a question of what stage of the conversion funnel someone is in and how they are going to be treated to advance further, not whether this is happening on facebook or over the phone.

    A marketing agent has to be capable of converting on any platform and have access to good structured data in one place, coming from all channels.

  • Vanessa DiMauro's picture
    Sep 26 Posted 4 years ago Vanessa DiMauro

    Thank you khalidraza9,

    Good blog post. Glad you shared it.

    The executive suite dues often blur these two arenas, and as they are focused (rightly) on outcomes, the yield of these two roles needs to be the distinguishing factors. But at the end of the day,  few seasoned executives will be impressed with the common metrics that social practitioners sometimes use to demonstrate value. Maybe a slew of facebook "likes" were acheived but how does this contribute to the bottom line is the question at hand.  As we evolve as an industry, the road before us is how to account for impact on core operations.



  • Vanessa DiMauro's picture
    Sep 26 Posted 4 years ago Vanessa DiMauro

    Thanks Elise! What do others think? Is the overlap subtle or distinct in your organization?



  • Vanessa DiMauro's picture
    Sep 26 Posted 4 years ago Vanessa DiMauro

    Well said, Milos.  These roles do overlap especially in mid sized and small companies. But regardless of the company size or configuration, the community and the social media person or team need to work in concert.  Thank you for starting the discussion about this!

  • khalidraza9's picture
    Sep 26 Posted 4 years ago khalidraza9

    Very well articulated Vanessa. More and more Executives I speak with are not able to realize the difference and more often than not a Community Manager is expected to be Social Media Manager and vice versa. In fact CM are also expected to be the marketing managers, in some cases. I wrote this blog a while ago http://socialmediatoday.com/khalidraza9/331813/community-manager-super-powered-human-being-or-sensitive-leader and showcased some of the confusions a CM has but your blog clearly articulates how it is percieved by others. Cheers!

  • Elise Lévêque's picture
    Sep 25 Posted 4 years ago Elise Lévêque

    HI Vanessa, the article is pretty interesting and I did find the differences between both pretty subtle,  so glad you clarifiy a few points, even though as Milos said, there is a natural overlap of these roles.

  • Miloš Milosavljević's picture
    Sep 25 Posted 4 years ago Miloš Milosavljević

    I use the term Networking Officer instead of Social Media Manager. A bit broader scope and can related to offline tools and activities as well.

    ". Of course, both roles may share responsibility for a number success metrics and will need to partner effectively to deliver results."

    I also think there is, in practice, a natural overlap of these roles and that a person or team dealing with digital communications for a company, organisation or brand will most of the time perform both of these roles. Rather than a divison of roles, people or teams with networking and community management functions will rather be deployed to deal with specified geographical locations, target goups or industries, for which they will gradually develop deeper insight.

    And both sets of roles will or generally should have access to the same pool of structured data that they will take from or contribute to through their activities and insights.

Webinars On Demand

  • May 09, 2017
    With all of the technologies available to marketers today, have we lost that personal touch? Join VP of Content Marketing for ON24, Mark Bornste...
  • April 05, 2017
    In the ever-changing world of digital marketing, operational efficiency, quick turn-around times, testing and adapting to change are crucial to...