Are the roles of “social media manager” and “community manager” synonymous?
We’ve all seen some of the atrocious, unrealistic job descriptions that there are out there for “social media managers.” The listings I’m talking about literally appear to expect their ideal social media manager to excel at graphic design, grammar, Google Analytics, PR, video editing, photo editing, photography, videography, building community, copywriting, scheduling social posts, developing social media strategy, responding to comments, staying up-to-speed with reputation management, etc. While many of these things are separate careers entirely from what a social media manager actually is, so too, is a community manager.
It’s easy to lump “community manager” in with being the same thing as a “social media manager” if your the social part of your strategy is simply to react and reply to comments. I mean, that’s kind of being social, isn’t it?
Back when social media management started to become recognized as an occupation, the main idea for most brands was to post regularly and try to swiftly gain followers and, of course, to hopefully “go viral.” Content calendars became handy tools to keep the assigned person in the marketing department on top of making sure social posts were being written and published regularly. It was soon realized that posts with images were receiving higher amounts of likes, comments, and shares – we now call this an engagement rate – and then brands started paying more attention to analytics, times of day to post, and which kinds of posts resulted in the most website traffic.
I could go on and on about the morphing of social media management into what it used to be up to where it is today, but that might end up being an entire book (or even a series of books!) But our question remains… is social media management synonymous to community management?
When you think of a community, what do you think of? Is it one-person doing all of the talking/acting all of the time? Is it many people doing many things and having many conversations at one time about a similar topic?
One of the first online communities that I was part of was a community of people who regularly taught or attended fitness classes and fitness fundraising events. There were Facebook groups, there were many people asking questions and making announcements, there were people making plans to wear the same colors to class the next day, and there was the same general passion for these exercise classes felt throughout the space.
Have you been a part of something similar? And if so, have you seen this kind of thing happen around a brand before?
A few years ago I had the honor of being the community manager for the largest social media marketing conference in the world, and I still have a huge passion for that community. Sure, I was in charge of running the social media channels for that brand, but I also helped them solve problems. I helped them get in contact with thought leaders when they had questions about certain topics. I developed a Twitter chat so that we could regularly discuss big things that were happening in the social media space. If they needed help finding resources during our conference, I used our social listening tool to give them guidance. And when I saw them all in person one time out of the year, I spent as much face time with them as I possibly could.
It was far more than managing social media channels. I love seeing this happen – I’ve seen it happen for our local plant store, I’ve seen it happen for a big wine brand, and I’ve seen it happen all the way up to big name brands like North Face.
Real conversations happen when people come together over a common interest. When a brand sees these conversations start to bud on their social channels and then that brand provides a safe space for these conversations to morph into relationships, that’s when community management starts to happen.
Jen Cole @jencoleict
Community Crew + Founding Member