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Social Media Management vs. Community Management

by Keri Honea on November 18, 2011

communitymanager2 300x225 Social Media Management vs. Community ManagementFor a long time, I thought that social media management and community management were the same thing. After all, they both use virtually the same tools for engaging their audiences: blogging, email marketing, and social media. But believe it or not, social media managers and community managers have very different functions in the world of social media. In many ways the similarity between the two managers ends with the tools of the trade. Sometimes the two managers are forced to be one in the same, but in the end, it really just means that the person is filling a community manager role.

Confused? Let’s break it down.

Social Media Managers in a Nutshell

Social media managers (SMMs) must know the ins and outs of social media platforms. They need to know how to set up social media accounts, how to use social media effectively for content, and which social media platforms work best for which types of content. They’re up to date on all the latest apps and plugins to make their social media messages more engaging and eye catching.

However, SMMs are not the ones responsible for starting and engaging conversations with customers and potential customers. They may lay the groundwork for such conversations, but that’s usually in the form of PR announcements. For example, a SMM may announce that company X is having a sale on Y products. The SMM knows exactly which platforms are best for this type of announcement–most likely Twitter, Facebook, and email marketing–and is responsible for ensuring the message goes there appropriately. And then the SMM walks away and hands the keys to the community manager (CM).

The best explanation I’ve heard for a SMM is that a SMM is an extension of a PR department. SMM makes company announcements to engage/intrigue/or produce awareness to consumers on the right channels, and then walks away.

Community Managers in a Nutshell

At this point, CMs step in and take over the conversation, if there is any in response to the announcements. And if there isn’t, it’s up to the community manager to prod the audience into talking by talking. The CM will spend a good portion of the day constantly looking for topics to discuss with consumers that are relevant to the brand and then spend the rest of the time conversing with consumers about it.

From using the same example as above, the CM would be the one to answer any questions consumers would have about the sale or the products. The CM uses these conversations to develop person-to-person relationships between the company and the consumer, like as a direct liaison between them. If a consumer isn’t happy, the CM will be one of the first to know and it will fall on his or her shoulders to try to talk with the customer and smooth everything over. Several CMs I talk to on Twitter refer to themselves as the “meat shields” between customers and the company; they take and absorb all the hits in an effort to appease both sides.

This is one reason why community managers are so valuable—they can let higher ups know when something doesn’t work and then consequently keep the consumer up to date on a fix.

In-House or Outsource?

As you can see, it’s these different levels of engagement that separate social media management from community management. If someone does both, they are really a community manager and not a social media manager, because they are the ones dealing with the community on a day-to-day basis. As such, community managers work best if they have an in-house position, meaning that they work on your community management and no one else’s. Keeping the conversation going all day and every day is no easy task, and it’s definitely something that you and your business will want someone to devote his or her whole attention to and not divide it up between several different companies and communities.

Most companies prefer to handle their own marketing messages anyway, so they will bring in someone from the outside to help them set up the proper social media channels with their branding but then either hire someone in-house or assign community management tasks to someone in-house, such as a customer service representative. In many ways, this is the most cost-effective option as it allows the community manager to focus on working with consumers and bring in a social media manager only when needed, as most companies do with their IT departments nowadays.

However, like a good IT department will do, a good outsourced social media manager will teach a company how to be a good community manager and use the social media tools set up for them. As you may have guessed, we are such a company. We have plenty of social media management packages to help you get your community management up and running, and we have different education packages to get your new community managers going at full speed off the bat. Just contact us for a quote and get you the best social media setup for your business as well as the best coaching method for your new community manager, which is quite possibly, the most important social media factor.

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