As more organizations build online customer communities, often aided by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the lines between community and social media have begun to blur.

A recent Tweet caught our eye:


For us, it started with a Tweet, but we’re pretty certain that it started way before that. Community building has been around way longer than social media. So if online communities are not synonymous with social media, why all the confusion? We take a closer look.

What Does a Community Manager Do?

From the employer’s point of view, things seem to fairly well-defined. A few recent job posts outline the following characteristics for the community manager.


  • Passion for new media, consumer brands and client service
  • Web design and development, with a focus on content creation
  • Superior understanding of social networks, design, functionality, audiences and measurement
  • Enthusiasm for community and conviction for execution
  • Understands the social media universe including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, forums, blogs, etc.

Skills needed:

  • Ability to produce guidelines and strategy that reflect an understanding of the role of social media and its effects
  • Ability to continuously educate clients and coworkers on digital media
  • Extensive experience launching successful products as measured by market impact metrics
  • Proven experience building online communities with measureable and substantial result
  • Experience in marketing, online marketing, community management, membership engagement and retention

Tasks performed:

  • Research, plan and develop comprehensive digital public relations programs for clients
  • Create web sites, blogs, social media channels and all related elements of digital campaigns
  • Develop and implement comprehensive content strategies
  • Develop strategy for online community including guiding the vision for the tools and technology that will enable community programs to provide new and updated information to the company’s portfolio of products
  • Engage with product enthusiasts to drive product innovations and new product ideas
  • Increase member retention and engagement as measured by declining member attrition and increased member activity, as well as numerous social networking, customer satisfaction, email, and other onsite metrics
  • Develop member loyalty programs that reward their most avid users
  • Engage members and non-members in social media channels by communicating consistently and effectively the benefits of our program on a daily basis

Compiled from at least three job descriptions for online community manager from across a variety of industries, employers are not so much looking for someone who can understand and use social media, as they are someone who can strategically research, develop and implement an online community that fosters customer engagement and offers relevant and useful content to their constituencies. 

What Does a Social Media Manager Do?

For social media managers, employers also outline clear expectations. A few recent job posts outline the following characteristics for the social media manager.


  • Energetic, experienced marketing communications professional
  • Strong media pitching and writing skills
  • Prior PR agency experience
  • Understanding of online marketing and how social media is interwoven into the discipline.


  • Knowledge of marketing strategies for different social media channels
  • Online search expert able to track and monitor postings relevant to the brand
  • Experienced in social media monitoring tools, and versed on industry trends and innovations

Tasks Performed:

  • Develop and execute a clearly defined social media strategy for the brand
  • Manage social media campaigns and day-to-day activities
  • Monitor effective benchmarks for measuring the impact of social media programs and analyze, review, and report on effectiveness of campaigns in an effort to maximize results
  • Oversees all customer service responses and problem-solving in the social media sphere, including comment boards and related Web forums
  • Manage the maintenance of a reporting and analytics system to track social media engagement and campaigns
  • Drive an integrated experience across social media platforms and develop cross strategies with traditional marketing.
  • Identify and manage social media opportunities and create programs to drive awareness, acquisition and engagement
  • Develop a set of best practices and manage recommended rules of engagement, helping to build social media capabilities across the company

Compiled from at least three job descriptions for social media manager from across a variety of industries, employers are specifically looking for individuals who understand social media and can effectively monitor activity across multiple platforms. Additionally, they seem to also understand that a social media manager needs to be part public relations, customer service and marketing analysts.

Know Your Role: Community vs. Social Media Manager

While social media may be a substantial component of community management, and social media can complement community management strategies, neither are completely representative of the other. For prospective community and social media managers, it’s important to know what your desired skills sets should be. Here’s a brief outline that may help.

Community Manager

  • Objective: To cultivate an engaged community in a digital world where customers’ experiences with the product is amplified on and offline.
  • Also known as: Community Builder, Evangelist, Storyteller, Community Advocate
  • Key qualities: Empathic toward users' experiences and pain points; represents a respected voice in the community, whether on blogs, forums or social networking platforms; ability to create, curate and distribute relevant content; a proficient listener; ability to engage with people on and offline, in person and on the phone; ability to recognize and reward the behaviors you want

Social Media Manager

  • Objective: To monitor, contribute to, filter, measure and otherwise guide the social media presence of a brand, product, individual or corporation.
  • Also known as: Brand Manager, Content Creator, Customer Service Representative
  • Key qualities: Ability to generate and sustain buzz across social networks via content creation; ability to create content that fosters conversation; a proficient listener; ability to monitor and respond to social media mentions about yourself, your competitors and industry; active and experienced with different social media and trends

Communities are inherently social, so social media will usually be involved. However, if you rely on social media alone, you will likely ignore your members who are engaged in other ways, either offline or other online media. A community manager acts like a membership representative and is focused on creating supportive environments for users to engage, share and discuss ideas with others.

By contrast, a social media manager is focused solely on engaging with users and monitoring engagement and sentiment across social networking platforms and media as it relates to a product, service, company or interest.

Working together, a community and social media manager can ensure that all voices are heard and brands are appropriately monitored to provide exceptional customer support and promote marketing campaigns.