Posted by: Joseph S. Lima | May 25, 2010

The Many Facets of Community and Social Management

May has sure turned out to be a busy month.  I have made the effort to go to more face-to-face events and it has been wonderful.  Met a lot of interesting people, captured new information and trends and exchanged a boatload of ideas.  Rock on!

I must say the one “event” I cannot miss are the Community Roundtable lunches, the CRLive, which I mentioned in my last post (check out the most recent tweets here).   There are many reasons why I can’t wait for the Friday when the lunch is scheduled; there is always yummy food (Flatbread Company, Summer Shack, John Harvard’s) of course, the endless references to bacon and the most importantly, the people.

As you know by now gentle-reader-of-this-humble-blog, social is much more than being active on Facebook, Twitter, et al.   It is about making connections, some quite deep, most less so, yet all are important.  I would argue that many people confuse  pure “social friendships” (i.e. only have interacted with someone online) with “deep friendships” (interact with people online and offline, may have know each other a long time, kindred spirits, etc).  I know I have found myself so excited to meet a famous online person only to be disappointed by the reaction.  The nature of the technology has blurred the line of what it means and what is required to be considered a friend, a follower, an advocate.  Therein lies a challenge for marketers; how to acquire and excite large groups of people while managing the expectations of those people when it comes to the level of engagements they should expect. Part of the answer is to know what you want to get out of the conversation so that you can develop a logical strategy. Another part of the answer is to know what skills are needed to execute the strategy.

There is a difference between using social media to build awareness, create demand for a product or service, provide customer support and so on AND using social tools to build a community of deeply engaged users and advocates who are carrying on multiple conversations at the same time.  There is also a difference in the ideal skill set required to manage both social marketing programs and managing a community.  I say ideal because most companies are relying upon small teams or even individuals to do it all.

Rachel Happe from the Community Roundtable recently recorded a podcast on this subject, which is available on Voce Communications.  Here are some takeaways:

The orientation is different between social media and community management –

  • Social media is used to build awareness – content based
  • Community management is about building deeper relationship
  • Social media manager is a hub of the hub/spoke
  • Community management is about developing and fostering a network of relationships

There are operational differences –

  • Community manager is spending time to have more interactions and guide community to an end goal
  • The Social media manager may be good at building social content but may not be good at building relationships
  • Social media manager may lots of friends/followers with thin relationships
  • Community management – the complexity of product requires deeper relationships, not just getting people to buy but to get them to advocate for the brand

The question was posed as to what should a CMO look for in a person. Some characteristics include:

  • Social media manager has to understand trends, is good at content creation, being accessible, being human for conversation
  • Community manager looks and feels different, listens, draw other people out, not always the center of the party, make sure other people are making connections.

As I said earlier, there is no reason that one person can handle both roles so long as the internal and external expectations are clearly articulated.   We are still early in the development of socially based marketing, communication, product development, and customer service roles.   In time, organizations will be in a better position to define roles and responsibilities.

Does your organization have one person or multiple people covering both roles?



  1. Hi Joe –

    It’s nice to have you as a ‘regular’ at TheCRLive and as you infer above, the online doesn’t replace the in person. Thanks for taking our riff on the differences between social media and community management a bit further and as you say, it doesn’t necessarily have to be different people doing both but it’s great to be aware of the difference purposes they serve.

  2. Hi Rachel,
    And thank you (and Jim) for giving me ideas to reflect upon. Look forward to seeing you next week.

  3. There are definitely some differences. Keep on topic, stray off. Nurture the community, push the product (or service). I’m not so sure these need to be different people although they are certainly different hats.

  4. Hi Janet,
    I think it depends on the size of the organization, the size of the community and the skill set/orientation of the social media manager/community manager. Time and research will uncover best practices. Thanks for commenting!

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