While both social media manager and community manager sound like similar functions, there are huge differences between the two.
Namely, a community manager is a social media specialist whose primary task is interacting with the online community.
Unlike social media managers, however, they do not focus on the logistics of content distribution.
Their primary tasks are:
- Raising brand awareness
- Growing total audience
- Boosting engagement rate
- Improving click-through rate
- Lowering the cost per conversion rate
Social media manager, on the other hand, focuses on:
- Content creation
- Content marketing campaign scheduling
- Search engine optimization
So, if these two jobs are so dissimilar on the surface, where does all the confusion come from? Let’s find out.
Technical Vs. Social Marketing Aspect
The first thing you need to do in order to understand the differences between two technical terms is to abandon the idea that you know their definition by interpreting the phrase.
For instance, in the introduction, it’s more than clear that social media marketing is responsible for the technical aspect of your online presence. On the other hand, a community manager tends to your target audience (a specific SOCIAL group). In other words, we come to the situation where the person with the job description that doesn’t contain the word ‘social’ in the title is in charge of the social aspect of your marketing.
The simplest way to explain this situation and give some rough estimates and definitions would be to say that people in these positions need to have different sets of skills. You see:
- Social media managers need to possess an in-depth understanding of the technical aspect of social media platforms.
- Community managers need to understand the psychology of the customer. Their work heavily relies on both the cognitive and behavioral psychology of individuals in the consumerist society.
However, one thing that remains universal is that both of these specialist types have an important role in your overall digital marketing strategy. Each of them has their part to play, but understanding who does what can help you use their skillset a lot better.
Social Media Manager Approaches Matters Strategically
The social media manager is a master strategist. They focus primarily on your content from the perspective of an editorial calendar, content development, etc. You see, publishing a piece of content is not a simple thing. The right timing might be essential for the overall engagement rate. This is especially true when you start sharing this content across social media platforms.
The nature of the content itself is also incredibly important. Namely, you need someone that can ensure that the content in question is really resonating with your audience. A social media manager is supposed to measure the KPIs of your content but also try to understand its impact from the perspective of your average social media follower or blog visitor. The biggest KPI for a social media manager is the conversion rate. Other than this, they focus on content reach and content share.
To make a long story short, a social media manager is a person in charge of presenting your brand image on social media.
Imagine a scenario where you made a perfect speech, but you had to present it to an audience that doesn’t speak your language. The role of the social media manager is to translate this message into the digital format (language) so that the essence of the message remains the same. They also have an advisory role and may give you some tips on how to adjust your content strategy for optimal impact.
When compared to the role of a community manager, a social media manager approaches these things from a more technical standpoint. This way, a skilled social media manager can even generate demand for their product, service, or even content.
Community Manager Focuses on Networking with Your Audience
The primary responsibility of your community manager is communication with your audience (both direct and indirect). A lot of enterprises don’t even have a person in this position, which is a major blunder from the business perspective. Your audience is what determines your worth. Their loyalty, their willingness to spend money with your business is what makes all the difference. Well, it is a community manager’s job to ensure that this attention is steered in the right direction.
Previously, we’ve talked about the conversion rate and engagement. Sure, engagement has a lot to do with your content and the technical aspect of your social media marketing strategy. However, this is often quite subjective and may also rely on the inter-community relations that your brand has with the audience.
How many screenshots have you seen of official brand accounts ranting, responding, or teasing other brands? Sure, this is meme material, but it’s much, much more. This kind of interaction humanizes the brand and makes it more relatable. In a way, it helps immensely with networking, seeing as how it creates the impression that the other side is interacting with a real person and not a chatbot or a faceless corporate entity.
Even when they’re not retweetable or have meme potential, interacting directly (using official social media accounts as if they were personal) is an effective strategy. Still, just because this kind of interaction feels organic, it doesn’t mean that anyone can do it. It requires one to be both a social media marketing expert and a people person at the same time in order to make it work.
To make the long story short, the core task of a social media community manager is an organic outreach.
Community Management Strategies
There are a lot of ways to make social media community management more effective, but this requires the application of efficient industry strategies. For starters, you need to identify your audience and the social media channel you’re currently using.
The fact that different platforms use different formats already speaks volumes about how you’ll have to customize your approach. For instance, Instagram is based on short videos, stories, live streams, and images, while Twitter (although supporting these formats) is predominantly text-based. This, however, doesn’t mean that blogging or commenting is the same thing as tweeting. After all, you’re restricted to 280 characters (prior to November 2017, it was just 140).
Remember that different platforms require different types of terminology. For instance, nowadays, Twitter is seen more as a news outlet than a social network. Organizations, celebrities, officials, etc., use this platform to spread important information. Approaching Twitter content, in the same way, could significantly elevate your perceived legitimacy.
The most important community management strategy of all is for you to ask your audience what they want. People have opinions on everything, and all they want is for someone to express genuine interest. In other words, sometimes you just have to ask people what they want. Robert Brault once said that charisma is nothing other than your ability to give people your full attention.
This is why great social media community managers are so rare. They’re expected to make decisions based on their intuition and ability to cold read their community in various situations.
Another huge difference between a community manager and a social media manager is the avatar (the persona) they use online to make a difference. Namely, the social media manager uses the official account of the brand. In the audience’s eyes, they’re completely anonymous, and every announcement they made is seen as the announcement of the brand itself.
On the other hand, the community manager approaches this situation from the perspective of an average user. On channels of content creators, you would sometimes refer to them as mods or admins. The thing is that they need to appear as close to the average user as possible. In the eyes of your target audience, this makes them more trustworthy because they seem more relatable.
The end goals of community managers and social media managers are also vastly different. First of all, social media managers always have easily measurable goals. Some of these are:
- Potential reach
- Key metrics of specific platforms (likes, retweets, etc.)
- Social media sales
On the other hand, community managers need to worry about:
- Follower count
- Audience growth rate
- Social media engagement
Sure, some of these KPIs sound like vanity metrics, but this is because we’re dealing with a field that you can measure only through the lens of subjectivity. Whenever you’re working with people, you need to weigh the subjective factor. This means that there will always be a part of the data that you’re missing. Still, this doesn’t mean that these tasks aren’t worth doing.
To fully understand the difference between a social media manager and a community manager, we may have to examine the workflow of these two types of specialists. The bulk of a social media manager’s work involves listening and conversation in the digital environment. Then, you have a lot of research and planning, creation and curation of the content, and analytics. Lastly, if there’s a team they are in charge of, they need to spend a fair number of hours on this team collaboration.
On the other hand, the community manager publishes content, implements social media strategies, and responds to customer inquiries and comments. This last part is especially important, seeing as how it is only meaningful when done in a timely manner. Their job is to build relationships within the online community (between the brand and the audience, as well as to strengthen bonds between audience members, as well).
Both of these specialist types also need to dedicate a fair amount of their time, energy, and resources to self-improvement and professional growth, either through courses or some other means.
Different Career Paths
The majority of employers and brands are aware of the difference between the two. While it is true that previous work as a social media manager wouldn’t disqualify you from the position of a community manager (and vice-versa), it is best to specialize early on. Embellishing your CV with the fact that you’ve already worked in the community manager position clearly gives you an advantage for the role of community manager.
Also, because these tasks have vastly different responsibilities, workflows, and approaches to this topic, the more experience you gain, the more proficient you’ll become.
Now, keep in mind that transition from one career path to another is a lot easier than in some other professions. This is because the fields are quite related and because you can use all your previous contacts (your entire network will remain relevant).
Naturally, it’s also important that there are numerous similarities between these two professions. This is what makes the transition described in the previous section possible to begin with. First of all, both of these occupations require strong communications skills. Sure, community managers spend more time interacting with others, but the amount of time spent on these tasks by social media managers isn’t negligible either.
Another thing worth mentioning, one that may be of the greatest importance to the people seeking career opportunities in this field, is the fact that average annual salaries are similar. The difference between averages is less than $2,000 in favor of community managers, but you can’t allow averages to fool you. In fact, as any type of specialist, your value and industry authority will determine your income.
Final Thoughts on the Difference Between a Social Media Manager and a Community Manager
The bottom line is that since they both do important things for your brand on social media and their duties (usually) don’t overlap, you need them both. Claiming that you can do without one or the other would be like saying that your enterprise doesn’t need a lawyer since you already have an accountant (or vice-versa).
The thing is that specialists always make a difference. As an entrepreneur, you’re probably too overworked already, which is why you need someone to take this task from you. Both of these jobs take more time, energy, and dedication than you already have (due to numerous administrative tasks that are already on your plate). So, look for some professional help.