Only a few years ago the question was whether the use of social media would lead to any real benefits; today it's about what strategy your company is using on the social network platforms. Any company which is not yet using social media is probably doing its last days as this Forbes report indicates that customers are now looking at company social media accounts in the same way they search for Mr. or Mrs. Right. However, while reports such as this one are prompting companies to have a presence on social media there is still confusion regarding two concepts: social media management and community management.
But why does one need to understand the difference between these two concepts? Like everything else you do, you want results; and unless you know exactly what results you’re looking for, you’re not likely to achieve them. Understanding the difference between these two will allow you to decide which one you’re applying and in that process, create a detailed strategy that has specific execution steps.
The first difference between community management and social media management is that they require different skills to execute. Just because an individual is great in social media management does not make them the best for community management.
The individual responsible for social media management takes on the job of a social network creator. Such an individual works behind the scenes creating content and crafting engaging copy. In accomplishing this task, the individual speaks on behalf of the brand, responding to comments and answering questions. Most of the times, this individual works with people that already know about the company and already have some form of an established relationship with it.
On the other hand, the person responsible for community management has the responsibility for going into the social media space to advocate the brand. If your goal is to make your own community, using social networks, this is the person you need. Community managers interact with the whole target market, mostly those who are not familiar with the brand; their main duty is to boost brand awareness and encourage engagement.
Choosing whether you will use community management or social media management, in your marketing efforts, will also depend on what benefits you are looking for as the two methods deliver different advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re looking for a method which is not labor intensive, then you may want to go with social media management. This method allows you to make and broadcast marketing messages immediately. On the other hand, community management will need more effort than this.
Measuring the impact of a direct marketing effort such as messages shared on networks like Facebook and Twitter is easy; just look at the numbers of visitors, likes, and comments. However, attempting to measure the effects of a marketing campaign on a community is a more difficult task.
In social media management, it’s easy to create your call to action, as you can ask visitors to like or follow your page. In community management, the call to action is not always clear.
If however you are looking for a long term strategy to engage your already established clients and those who are not yet part of the customer base, go with community management.
The advantage of community management is that it makes the customer feel as if they are a part of your community; belonging is a proven human need. Since the engagement is not explicitly asking the customer to purchase anything, it is more likely to be trusted than a social media marketing initiative which indicates that the end goal is to have the customer buy a product. It is a method that seeks to increase brand value as opposed to just increasing sales.
In social media management, the main actions include creating messages, growing the sales channel, and branding. To a large extent, this area falls under promotion and advertising.
On the other hand, the main action in community management is engagement. This aspect deals mostly with customer service. It concerns itself, frequently, with the development of relationships with the customer.
As you can see, the concepts of community management and social media management are different; one dealing mostly with relationships and another with strategy. A clear understanding of the differences will ensure that each one of them is used optimally. However, the two are more powerful when used to complement each other.