Community Manager vs. Social Media Manager

Community Manager verses Social Media Manager can become a tongue twister. There is so much confusion in the marketing world concerning the role of community managers verses social media managers; many brands believe both roles are one and the same. They are not.

Community Manager

The online community manager is the umbilical cord to the social sphere that indirectly promotes your brand while fostering community.

The role of a an online Community Manager is exceptionally complex and requires strong customer facing skills. She or he is not just a person that tosses a tweet out at specific times during the day, or deals with negative Facebook timeline rants on a consistent basis. The online community manager is the umbilical cord to the social sphere that indirectly promotes your brand while fostering community. Community managers are 100% brand ambassadors.

On the other hand, the role of a Social Media Manager is one who manages all of the social media accounts for the brand itself. This is the person who works behind the scenes and they are the creative geniuses behind all marketing campaigns. They are not brand ambassadors — they act as the brand and generate leads and sales. They run contests, monitor online reputation, plan content distribution, monitor complex analytics, and track traffic conversions.

Very small companies will most likely label both types of managers as the social media manager. Though that can work quite well for small companies and start-ups; it’s a bust if a large company is acting both as the Social Media Manager and the Community Manager. The roles may become blurred and less attention could be paid to the role of community manager.

Community Manager Breakups

The main reason that I am writing this blog post today is that I was not impressed with a recent breakup in the tech realm. 

Did you just can your community manager? If you did, was it an amicable split for the manager, the community, and your brand? Or, did you can your community manager and not whisper a word via any of your social media channels? Dependent on the process that you used to downsize, oust, fire, terminate, lay off, or can-the-man  — did you consider the ramifications that could occur if your brand (company) opted to take the micro-managed route?

Just like the characters in the spaghetti western film: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, there are three major ways to kill off a community manager.  Some brands are simply moving in a different direction from the community outreach that the manager initially formed. Other brands want more virility and buzz that the current manager is not delivering, and yet other brands simply don’t like any type of advocacy (community speak) that would improve community relations for both the brand and the community as a whole.

The Good

This is the brand that uses emotional engagement to foster community for their brand. They absorb both kudos and critiques and they make changes to their product or service to better serve the entire community. They actually listen.

The Bad

This is the brand where profit rules. They don’t really care about fostering community and it is all about crunching numbers. How many Twitter followers, how many Facebook likes – giddy up or get out.

The Ugly

This is the brand that the tech world finds out about via bad press or a disgruntled ex-employee. They micro-manage the social landscape and all conversation is painstakingly geared to discuss positive and constructive topics within the vortex of limited social media outlets.

Is your brand good, bad, or ugly?

There is no finish line with social media  — goals are created, reinvented, and shaped in order to connect with others.

Social media is not a short-term tool that you simply utilize because every other company is doing it. Planning specific social media strategies should be integrated into the overall marketing plan. There is no finish line with social media  — goals are created, reinvented, and shaped in order to connect with others.  Only by carefully reviewing social metrics will you be able to determine what works and what does not work. If you haven’t listed user engagement somewhere in your plan, user trust will most certainly evade your brand. Social media has changed the way that brands interact and communicate.

Some people and businesses think they can easily manage their social networks because they simply know how to Tweet, or they know how to use Facebook. It actually takes a well-honed skill set to effectively run social accounts. Somehow you have to channel public relations, customer service, entertainment and robust adaptability to technology in to a very concise message. If you don’t recognize that crucial balance and don’t respect the power of the medium, your brand will suffer. — Brittny Peloquin, Marketing Coordinator | Experts Exchange

Social Media Marketing Core Factors lists seven core factors that should be included in your social media marketing plan:

  1. Executive Summary: This is a preface to the social media marketing plan outline.
  2. Goals and Objectives: Planned strategies for the direction for plan implementation and assessment.
  3. Target Audience: Engage current and potential customers according to demographic information.
  4. Location and Sites: Use where, what, why, and how;  do you need all the social media sites or will a few fit your current needs?
  5. Controls: Keep your sites aesthetically pleasing so that your brand is noted; use secure passwords for all social media sites, [never use the same password on all sites].
  6. Tactics: Scheduling and time frames are important.
  7. Reporting, Measuring, and Analytics (ROI): Take advantage of all social media metrics available to add to your own suite af analytic tools.

Community Manager Marketing Core Factors

Social Media Examiner has five excellent tips on how you should frame your community management strategy:

  1.  Metrics: You should have clear expectations on key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure customer service, sales, and engagement metrics.
  2. Where does your target audience hang? Listen and use social media monitoring.
  3. Create a Content Plan: You need content creation in order to build and engage the community.  You deliver related information that fits your niche.
  4. Email: Create newsletters and get subscribers. Providing tips in your niche is will go much further than just delivering content in social media or at your blog.
  5. Meetups: Whether local or as a webcast, keep the focus on what motivates the core of the community.

Netminder’s Corner

First, start with I respect the guys who wrote the book, and their observations are spot on, but they missed a chance. What they don’t make a HUGE point about is that communities — not just online ones, but the ones like the little town I live in, or the small-medium sized city Brittny and Molly live in, or one like Los Angeles (27 suburbs in search of a city, to quote D. Parker) — are the direct result of the environmental conditions that existed at the time they were created, and that as that environment changes, so too does the community.

The point: the environment changes, and the community changes.

I live in a little rural town where, a month or so ago, an 8-year-old girl was stabbed to death by what her brother described as an older, long-haired man. Not quite two weeks later, her brother was arrested and charged with the crime. You can imagine the various kinds of emotions people around here felt as they watched the news, saw sheriff’s and FBI vehicles driving around quiet streets, got emails from friends and relatives, and took to social media to read and comment about it. The same people who were talking about how horrible it must have been for the brother to find his sister were, two weeks later, talking about how you knew he’d done it when you saw his photograph at a memorial for his sister. The point: the environment changes, and the community changes.

Rather than speak to your unnamed community, I’d speak to the community of which we are all citizens — Experts Exchange — because its history is filled with both every disastrous mistake a company can make, and every success a company can have.

As noted, when a company like EE creates the conditions for a shared purpose — the breeding ground for a community — it is impossible for the evolution and maturation of that community to be controlled. That’s where Stack (and most other communities) have problems; their management is based solely on the perceived needs of the company, with little or no consideration given to the community as a living, adapting and changing organism. That’s not because companies are venal; it’s more that consequences of actions never enter into management’s focus (even when they should know better).

EE has far fewer of those problems because:

  • The company went bankrupt, leaving virtually all aspects of the management of the community in the community’s hands
  • For a good portion of the last two or three years, senior staff (if not necessarily the executives) were willing to recognize the value of having the site’s users be a part of the decision-making process at a very high level. It also didn’t suck that the EE staff almost never made an arbitrary decision; indeed, I’d make the case that the only real problems staff has had with the larger community is when it has made decisions without working out at least the framework of those decisions with the community (or at least, the community’s management).

NOTE: “Arbitrary” is not meant to have a negative connotation here. By “arbitrary” I mean that the decision to do something was made by one of two parties without consultation with or notice to the other party.

There are three reasons companies do that:

  1. There are issues “you folks don’t understand”
  2. The company wants to avoid the perceived embarrassment of possibly having to say “ooops”
  3. Because, they can do things (even when perhaps they shouldn’t), and the members have to live with it.

What pisses people off is that they feel like they’re being kept in the dark.

As your unnamed platform is finding out, the short-term results are far worse. Look around. What pisses people off is that they feel like they’re being kept in the dark. People hate surprises, and they hate having their routines controlled by someone else — especially if that “someone else” is a faceless, possibly inexperienced, tangential member of the community (defined as a group of people with frequently shared experiences). What works for the people making the decision — firing a community manager and not telling anyone — doesn’t necessarily work for the community (why was the person fired? The person worked well for the community, so what was the problem? Now who do we talk to, and can we trust them to have OUR interests at heart? Or is it some company drone?)

In that sense, the experience of corporate EE — notably the bankruptcy and subsequent acquisition by Austin and Randy — was hugely fortuitous, because it set up a whole set of customs and “ways of doing things” that relied heavily on the community; EE didn’t make arbitrary decisions because it didn’t have the time or resources; in a sense, if the company was going to succeed and thrive, it HAD to let the community work out issues on its own.

Companies rarely recognize the benefit to allowing a community to police itself, though. Despite huge changes in technologies over the past 15 years, and despite huge changes in personnel in the EE offices, EE’s community has been relatively stable. The customs regarding behavior — both personal and systemic — are as they were in EE’s relative infancy. The dependability of EE as a resource for getting information hasn’t really changed. Because EE-The-Company left the community to its own devices (for the most part), the company has been able to weather some storms that would likely have caused the shutdown of any other site that took some of the same actions EE-The-Company did (e.g. the semi-transparent paywall, the gaming of Google’s results).

What really makes the whole concept of a community profound is when the company is truly engaged with its customers, responsive to the customers needs, explanatory and open about the company’s needs.

But it’s not just allowing a community to have its say — especially when that “say” is the bashing. (Allowing it is just smart business, because it breeds and encourages the loyalty every company wants from its customers.) What really makes the whole concept of a community profound is when the company is truly engaged with its customers, responsive to the customers needs, explanatory and open about the company’s needs. If the community manager couldn’t represent the company’s needs to the community, that’s a good reason to replace him/her — and there’s no harm done in telling the community that. That requires that the community manager be articulate in explaining what the company is doing — but it also means that the company has to keep the manager in the loop.

For most companies, it’s totally counter-intuitive; it’s hard for them to buy into the notion that doing well by others will improve your business. EE proves that not only can a company survive by letting a community manage itself, and by enabling, encouraging and helping the community manage itself, but it can even come back from the dead — not once, but twice.

Silence is not golden

The online community manager is the umbilical cord to the social sphere that indirectly promotes your brand and fosters community. A community manager is a brand ambassador that gives a human form to a faceless corporation.When you take a community manager out of the mix with little or no communication — the brand will suffer.

A community manager actively monitors, participates in and engages others within online communities. These communities can be on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, intranets, wherever groups of people come together to converse and interact with each other. A traditional marketing manager is likely to have little experience with this function. — David Armano | Harvard Business Publications

One of the worst decisions a company can make is to remove a community manager and not let the community know until after-the-fact. Keeping the community manager in the loop — while parting ways — is integral to how the overall community will perceive your brand. Yes, it is important to allow the parting community manager to say good bye.

Honesty is so vital in your social media policy. Great companies have exercised the opportunity to be frank with their followers, establishing expectation for transparency. Not to mention, the Internet LOVES to sniff out a fake. — Brittny Peloquin, Marketing Coordinator | Experts Exchange

Do you think that community managers should be able to pen a final good bye when they leave a company? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment here at TekSec 🙂


3 comments to Community Manager vs. Social Media Manager

  • Kevin  says:

    The big risk I see with offsite community management is only receiving input from an established (and hardcore) user base. It’s the “bubble” effect common to communities with power users resistant to disruption. Community Management from a product perspective requires someone to listen to the “entire” community, not just a subset of power users, as, unfortunately, the power user cool club eventually leads to a club of one.

  • Arctic  says:

    Wow EE.
    I used to be in EE until they decided that all of our IP was theirs for the taking.
    That was pre bankruptcy.

    Yes that certain company has put their collective feet into it.
    Started off with their own forums which they killed off and they then removed a few techs completely from their site. I was one of them. They removed me from the forums, my tech account and my buyers acct.
    The “Great Purge” as it became known as.
    Lots of people left their forums and moved on to others.
    Then came facebook. I was friends with the community manager outside of [Sorry, edited by Teksquisite] (opps did I let the cat out?)but when the purge hit he was forced to remove all non approved people which he did in a heartbeat.
    They never removed me for a year on the [Sorry, edited by Teksquisite] Facebook, then they fixed that.
    Then they went after those on LinkedIn.

    The “Great Purge” took a year but they removed people that would not be shills for them.

    Now Alison is gone, Toby is gone, looks like they got the “great Purge” also.

    • teksquisite  says:

      I hear you Arctic 🙂

      I am sorry, but I had to edit the actual name of the brand out of your comment. I seriously do not want any legal ramifications. I hope that you understand.


Leave a reply