Social Media is not Community Management and confusing the two may ultimately be damaging to both industries.
David Spinks wrote about a conversation we had back in October where I claimed that Community Managers don’t need Social Media to do their job, and a bunch of people took different sides.
Phil Wride brought a similar topic up a few days ago, with a little more gusto. And Evan Hamilton touches on this discussion in his presentations. So I’m definitely not the only person thinking about this or making this claim.
So, why do I think that Social Media isn’t Community Management?
Simple – win scenarios. For most (not all) Social Media professionals, they “win” if they maintain a conversation with every person who touches a brand to personalize that brand and create an engaged audience.
For most (again, not all) Community Managers, they “win” if they put themselves out of a job because their users are talking to each other (not just to the community manager), evangelizing the brand and defending itself to the point that the Community Manager is no longer needed.
I’m a visual person, so for people like me, this is Social Media – people talking with the brand:
And this is Community Management – people talking with each other:
The metrics for both are different. The goals for both are different. The tools for both are different. The success factors are different. So why on earth do we keep calling them the same thing?
My thoughts on why: It’s easier to measure Social Media success because you can quantify followers, retweets, click throughs from external sites to owned sites than it is to quantify “community”, but the title Community Manager is more desirable than Social Media Manager so it’s better for recruiting.
Job postings have evolved over the years as new tools and roles come out, but the titles haven’t evolved. 8 years ago, “Community Manager” job postings were looking for moderation and online event organizing (quizzes, little games, giveaways, etc.).
When Facebook came out, they shifted slightly to talk about engagement and reputation management. When Twitter hit, there was a short period where they basically read “we need someone to do the twitters because everyone knows you need to be on the twitters”.
Now, they mostly read like PR and marketing positions with brand management, blogging, maintaining social network profiles, etc. – it’s broadcast media with a little bit of communications thrown in. For example, a month ago, I was sent a job listing for a “Community Manager” that read:
“The NY Community Manager will be responsible for launching all marketing plans for the new service (in soft test now with launch date set for July), to include social media, viral marketing, event marketing, etc.”
Not a single mention of building an actual community, just talking and selling to an engaged audience.
So, why is this a bad thing?
Because as some point, someone’s going to realize that expectations aren’t being met. I wouldn’t lump Advertising and Marketing and Sales and PR and Customer Service under one title because then none of them would meet the single set of expectations set forth for all of them.
So, why is it a good idea to mix up Community Management and Social Media? If we do, we can only all fail as we all fail to meet a muddy but single set of expectations set forth for all of us.
Be proud of what you do. Own who you are. Claim the title that makes sense:
If your job is primarily to talk to lots of people, you work in Social Media
If your job is primarily to get lots of people talking to each other, you work in Community Management.
Either one is ok, but mixing the two up can only be bad for all of us.