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Community manager vs. social media manager

March 29, 2011

In grade 3, Ms. Anyan diplomatically wrote in my report card,

“Colleen is a social butterfly. She should concentrate on her own work rather than always trying to help her classmates.”

Little did she realize that she had divined my destiny: online community management.

What exactly is community management? And how does it differ from social media management?

Let’s start with the name. I don’t really like the title community management. For me management implies control. I prefer to think more in terms of stewarding a community — being the conduit that connects people to one another and to resources and information. I’ve written about What makes a good healthcare community manager in an earlier post.

More perplexing to me of late is the blurring of the lines between community management and social media management. Fortunately, Rachel Happe from the The Community Roundtable articulated some key differences in a post last month: Want A Successful Community? Don’t Be A Social Media Manager.

Shortly thereafter Richard Millington from FeverBee followed up with his to-the-point post: Social Media/Community Manager Jobs.

Like Rachel and Rich, I too have always maintained community and social media management describe two very different jobs. But I’d like to hear your thoughts. Do you distinguish between the two roles or are they one in the same?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. mikenstn permalink
    March 30, 2011 6:54 am

    I am in the midst of reading the “Hyper-social Organization”. My interpretation of what the authors are trying to say is that social media is all about community and attempts to use it as another glorified marketing channel is doomed to failure. Based on this interpretation, I would say that successful Social Media Managers will end up acting in much the same way as a successful Community Managesr. Therefore, the roles are essentially the same.

    Michael Martineau


  2. March 30, 2011 8:55 am

    Thanks for your comment Mike. I look forward to discussing this topic with the #hcsmca community today during our 1pm ET Twitter chat.

    While this may be another semantics discussion, I believe it’s important for health organizations to understand what “community” encompasses and how social media tools can be used for community building. In my opinion, social media management fails to make listening the number one priority. And many organizations want to get on the social media band wagon without completely understanding community as this cartoon depicts well:

    Organizations that listen well and allow all members to have a strong collective voice — stronger than the internal, organizational agenda — are building community.

    I think @dylanbiles’ comment on @rhappe’s post summed it up well. “… I do agree with the distinction between the two executions. Social is NOT the same as Community. And while a good CM (community manager) will likely need to be involved in both, there definitely is a difference.”

    I’m going out to buy “Hyper-social Organization” today :)


  3. March 30, 2011 9:03 am

    Colleen – thank you for the link to my earlier post. Michael’s comment hits on what I am seeing and I would agree that it is Francois’ general feeling as well. At SXSW this year there were many social media managers from large brands saying, well now that I have 1 million Facebook fans, what do I DO with them? My response is that you don’t do much of anything with that many people… however, if you concentrate on key *communities* within your market, you can drive changes in behavior. So I think Michael has articulated something important – that many social media managers will find that building communities is the next step because collecting fans is a relatively unproductive.


    • March 30, 2011 9:23 am

      Thank you Rachel! You’ve hit the nail on the head (as you so often do).

      Our discussion on #hcsmca today will be particularly interesting because in health many organizations have well established local communities. The challenge for some is how to build and steward their community using online tools. Numbers are appealing, but may prove to be unwieldy, especially for cash-strapped non-profits whose human resources are already stretched.


  4. mikenstn permalink
    March 30, 2011 10:44 am

    They key word in social media is “social”. Trying to manage social media as just another communications channel is, IMHO, doomed to failure. To be truly successful, social media managers MUST consider community management as an integral part of their job.

    Michael Martineau


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