November 27, 2011

Rachel Strella

Social Media Manager vs. Community Manager

As social media continues to develop, so do the roles within it. Among these are the roles of social media manager and community manager.

I’ve teamed up with Tim McDonald, a well-known community manager in Chicago, to help in defining both.  Today we reveal our individual responses!

What’s your definition of a social media manager?


A social media manager takes the lead in managing the overall efforts of a company social media platform. This can include writing and/or posting content, monitoring accounts, and reporting/communicating ROI.


A social media manager is responsible for creating content specific to a product or brand strategy across social networks. They monitor and create engagement to achieve goals of a specific campaign.

Do you believe they vary for a small business vs. an enterprise?


Absolutely! An enterprise may want multiple staff to manage specific aspects of online marketing and social media, while a small business may just want an effective presence on one or two channels.


Yes. On the enterprise level, they may not create the content or develop the strategy.

What’s your definition of a community manager?


A community manager is tasked with managing a specific community and/or platform for business. They wear the hats of: listening post, brand champion, and chief engagement specialist for that community.  I consider a community manager to be more detailed and involved in certain aspects of social media, whereas a social media manager can manage more of the bigger picture aspects of online marketing.


A Community Manager uses online networks to be the voice of the company to the community and the voice of the community to the company.

Do you believe they vary for a small business vs. an enterprise?


Yes, as I believe a small business may not hire a community manager, but rather a social media manager due to both the level of complexity and financial resources.  I would assume a business with over ten employees may want to consider a community manager. This could all be an assumption, which is why I am glad Tim is also providing answers to these questions!


While there are many similarities, a small business community manager is likely to wear more hats and respond directly to community questions. Enterprise community managers are more likely to assign the response to the appropriate party. Small Business community managers may also be involved with in person events, bridging online and offline.

And finally….

For Rachel: Since you are a social media manager, what else can you say about this role?

This role requires one to wear a lot of hats so it’s important to have certain skills such as: time-management, organization, flexibility and a delicate balance of creativity and structure. An organization looking to hire someone to manage social media should not just be looking for a ‘young person’ but rather someone who understands the role social media plays in the marketing puzzle and can manage themselves and their time effectively.

For Tim:  Since you are entrenched in community management, what else can you say about this role?

The main difference between Community Managers and Social Media Managers is Community Managers are more empathetic. They are the champions of the voice of the community.

A Community Manager is like a Shepherd. A community is like a flock of sheep.

A Shepherd tends to their flock. They live among the sheep, but they are not a sheep. They foster a healthy environment by allowing the sheep to work out conflict without bringing harm to each other. They keep the sheep together and moving in the direction of green pastures, so the flock can grow and expand. They protect the sheep from outside predators. The Shepherd always knows the count of the heard.

What is your definition of a social media manager? A community manager? What can you say about these roles?

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8 comments on “Social Media Manager vs. Community Manager”

  1. Rachel,
    Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to explore the differences between Social Media Managers and Community Managers. Personally, I enjoyed the question about the difference between small business and enterprise. Both of us responded that there is a difference. This is an important distinction not only for those looking to hiring, but also for those looking to become social media managers or community managers.

    1. Hi Tim,

      You're exactly right, Tim! Most businesses hire someone like me on the small business level. Once you get into an enterprise, things get much more complicated! In your case, I would assume there is more opportunity to manage varying aspects of both.

      I'm looking forward to future collaboration!


  2. Hey Rachel! Another great blog. This was great information to help me understand the differences between the two. I think I was under the impression that social media and community managers were one in the same. Now I know better! Quick question...what are some of your thoughts on the best way to prepare for a career as a social media manager or a community manager? Perhaps this could be a future blog?? 🙂

    1. It's funny - when I first started working as a SMM, I also took on the role of Community Manager! No wonder I burnt out! They are two separate things, and in order to do either effectively, attention must be given to the role-at-hand.

      Best way to prepare for a career? You came to the right person! I've developed a 7-module training program, in partnership with Michele Scism of Decisive Minds. It's called Social Media Manager Profits (SMMP). In the first module, we discuss the differences among social media managers - both in-house and outsourced - as well as community managers. There are a number of skills that need to be developed in order to be successful in the field, but most importantly, you have to have a passion for what you're doing! You can learn more with this video: - AND the newly-formed Global Social Media Managers Association (GSMMA), which provides training and resources for Social Media Managers!

      Thanks for all of your support and feedback!!


  3. An interesting discussion. Have you considered working this idea up with a civic / government angle. That is a unique group that could benefit from improved social media strategies. The Pa Planning Association, the PA Association of Boroughs or the PA Association of Township Supervisors and the one for Commissioners, the county commissioners association, and other municipal organizations... come to mind. It seems municipalities may have social media issues but may not have gotten to putting them into words yet. I for one could benefit from learning best practices in social media related to civic engagement.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Stephen. Due to the complexity of non-profits - particularly governement organizations - I try to shy away from this type of work. Thanks.

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