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In the past, businesses relied on social media managers to create content and foster community development. But, more recently, these tasks have become specialized. Nowadays, most social media managers act as the brand’s voice with a focus on content, while community managers act as a user and promote audience engagement. These managers work together often, but they typically operate on vastly different platforms.
To help ensure this distinction is clear, we’ll break down the difference between a social media manager and a community manager from their responsibilities, goals, skills, where they fit within a company, and how success is measured.
A social media manager posts on the brand’s social media accounts and is responsible for brand voice. They deliver news across platforms, such as the release of products, services, and features. Social media management also involves creating content to promote the brand’s products and attract new customers.
For example, the social media manager for Fitbit, the popular wearable activity tracker, regularly promotes the annual release of the main product, along with the addition of new features throughout the year. The image below showcases a post created by the Fitbit social media manager to announce the arrival of their latest fitness tracker, the Charge 6, on the brand’s social media account:
Social media managers often speak to people already familiar with the brand. They create posts and content, but are also responsible for replying as needed. It’s the social media manager that ensures content is scheduled and posted in a timely manner.
A social media manager can work independently or as the head of a dedicated team. Depending on the size of the business, a social media manager may delegate posting responsibilities to other team members. For large organizations, managers may focus solely on strategy and analytics. To see all of the ways social media managers can leverage social media to create business value, check out our Social Media Pocket Guide whitepaper.
A community manager connects with the audience on a more personal level by posting in discussions on their own account (not the brand’s) to encourage engagement among group members. Often they are seen as the community’s advocate for the brand. They encourage discussions that will help improve the product and will often ask for feedback from the core audience.
For example, one of Fitbit's community managers goes by the username LizzyFitbit, and regularly engages with the Fitbit community by posting updates and replying to user questions:
Community managers like LizzyFitbit help grow the brand by encouraging engagement among existing users while also connecting new users to resources that will help them get more involved.
In addition to increasing engagement, community managers are also tasked with looking for ways to improve the user experience. They answer user questions and track product feedback. In the example below, LizzyFitbit replies to a user’s feedback in the Fitbit community, noting requests to improve the product:
Surveys can also be a part of a community manager’s role because they help telegraph that the brand is actively looking for ways to improve the user experience. Also, catching issues early helps reduce customer frustration later.
A social media community manager is usually a combination of the two roles in smaller companies. Your main responsibilities in this case are to create and manage content while being the first point of contact for social media profiles and online communities. However, more established brands tend to separate the two positions.
The key difference between a social media manager and a community manager is how they interact with audiences. A social media manager acts as the brand to promote the brand’s products, while the community manager acts as an average user to encourage audience engagement and provide support.
A community manager’s goals are usually broad and long-term. They center around establishing a strong and supportive community, which can take years. The social media manager’s goals are more specific and short-term and focus on sales or conversions.
Community manager goals: Increasing brand awareness or engagement. A community manager looks to increase the number of brand mentions, impressions, and community members across platforms.
Social media manager goals: Often sales-related and focused on social media ROI. A social media manager creates content but also measures important metrics such as click-through and conversion rates.
These two positions work towards the same mission, but through different methods.
Acting as the voice of the brand across social media platforms
Delivering news, including the release of products, services, and features
Creating and scheduling content
Social media strategy and analytics
Follows social media best practices
Developing a community for the product or service's users
Increasing online community engagement among current users through discussions
Connecting new users with resources to help them get involved in the community
Answering questions and helping to troubleshoot issues
Looking for ways to improve the user experience by gathering community feedback
The social media manager and the community manager can often work together on content strategy and answering user questions. For example, the unique “ear-to-the-wall” perspective of the community manager may help the social media manager understand what type of content to create.
In the case of Fitbit, the brand has a separate social media account dedicated to offering support for Fitbit devices in multiple languages. People a part of the Fitbit community may post about product issues in the forum, which can inform the support team that multiple users are experiencing the same problems. The social media manager who runs that account can now post to let Fitbit users know they’re actively working on the issue:
Both positions respond to user mentions and questions, but they do so in different ways. The social media manager typically responds to general inquiries, such as people asking about the release of a new product or pricing questions. Technical questions and issues are handled by the community manager, who helps with troubleshooting.
Typically, both the social media manager and community manager are a part of the marketing team. However, this can vary from company to company. Some community managers can be on the product, growth, or communications team instead.
It’s also likely that they’ll report to different people. A social media manager will usually report to the senior social media marketer, CMO, or marketing director, while a community manager will report to a marketing director (unless not on the marketing team).
The two roles are usually on the same level and they collaborate with the same team members. Although the managers have different responsibilities, their work is often related to one another in the sense that they can help inform each other’s goals.
The skills required for these roles are similar. Both positions will require strong communication skills as both represent the brand in some way. They also need to be knowledgeable of social media, digital marketing, and general customer support.
Knowledgeable of social media strategies and trends
Content development and creativity
Social analytics and reporting
Strong writing skills
Customer service oriented
Engagement and user feedback analytics and reporting
A social media manager’s success aligns with the company’s overall yearly goals. Depending on the company’s goals, you will strategize on content and then measure the outcomes through specific metrics. For example, if the company wants to sell more products, you should keep an eye on how effective your social media posts and ads are at convincing people to buy.
For a community manager, success is measured more in the long run. Instead of focusing on direct sales, your job is to build strong relationships with specific users who like your brand. Success in this role would look like these users talking about your brand more or retaining members of the community.
Both positions are crucial to any business looking to build a strong digital following. Although some companies still rely on one person to manage all of these responsibilities, many have begun specializing in tasks in order to serve their customers better.
Splitting duties into different roles will allow your business to better connect with audiences. From increasing conversions as a result of better content to creating lifetime customers through community development—both roles have the potential to transform your business.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to strengthen your brand. Brand communities deepen engagement and increase customer loyalty. Effective community management requires dedication, time, and the right tools to drive long-term success.
Khoros Communities can help you create a seamless customer experience that builds deeper relationships while increasing sales. Our platform helps you develop, launch, and nurture your own customizable branded community. Request a demo today to see why our community management software is trusted by more than 2,000 brands.