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Social Media Manager vs. Online Community Manager: Which is Better for Your Association?

Written by Christina Green | on July 12, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Does your association need a social media manager or an online community manager?

Associations, and most businesses for that matter, don't have bottomless wallets. Hiring for one position, particularly if it's new, must be weighed over hiring for another. If you're considering hiring someone that specializes in engaging with members and potential members, you may be wondering just what type of position you need to source.

Positions that Target Online Engagement

There are a lot of different engagement roles, from front-line membership specialists to event coordinators and online media specialists. While many people in your organization should be engaging members from their current positions, if your association is bringing someone on specifically for virtual engagement, you have several options. Here are two of the most common:

If you need a virtual engagement specialist, how do you know which title to use and what skills to look for? Although it's subtle, there is a difference between what a social media manager does and what an online community manager handles. Knowing what they do will help you decide which one you need.

What is a Social Media Manager?

Just like the title suggests, this is the person in charge of publishing and interactions from your social media accounts like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. A true social media manager will handle everything from the marketing strategy around your social media accounts to actually posting engaging messages and building relationships online.

Your manager oversees your higher level initiatives and makes decisions on where to post, what to post, and when. They'll evaluate analytics to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your strategies, and make adjustments as necessary. Often, they also oversee junior positions such as social media assistants, who might help with posting and implementing strategies.

A large number of associations don't have the luxury of two or more social media positions, though, and experienced social media managers should be able to handle the whole process, including the analytics.

What is an Online Community Manager?

An online community manager is involved with building an online community that serves as a resource in and of itself. Like the social media position, the person in this role is interested in sharing content, but they go beyond that. Much of their job focuses on into getting your audience involved in creating their own content, and interacting with peers and experts, instead of just your association.

A community manager is dedicated to creating an effective strategy that encourages people to engage with one another and your association to build a sense of kinship or community. To do this, they'll wear multiple hats, being a content writer one hour, a moderator the next, and a marketer drafting an engaging email campaign the next.

What's the Difference?

A social media manager is often concerned about representing the brand well through social strategy and helping people engage with the brand. They focus on social media, and don't usually dip into other areas such as email. A community manager is interested in members becoming the brand, going past connecting with it, and moving toward illustrating or representing it in multiple communication forms. They build something that people want to be part of.

Both roles are incredibly valuable, and both are invested in brand building as well as individual interactions. They're dedicated to strategy, implementation, building ongoing relationships and making a lasting impression.

The main difference is scope. A social media manager focuses their energy on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, while an online community manager is more diverse, and uses more tools, including social media, an online community, email, and newsletters, to engage members more comprehensively.

What Does My Association Need?

To determine which role best fits your association, you need to analyze your goals and your needs. Are you a new association that wants to get the word out about who you are and who should join? A social media manager is probably a good fit for you because public social media accounts have a wider audience. A social media manager has the broadest reach.

If you want to build strong, ongoing relationships, create meaningful connections, and become more of a resource for your members, an online community manager may be best. They'll be able to dedicate more of their time to your members, and create stronger relationships through your online community and all its potential communication forms, including email, discussion forums, and content creation.

Virtual Engagement Manager Takeaway

In the end, you might decide to hire for both positions or create a composite role that blends the two sets of qualities and skills. It comes down to your association's needs at this time and how you want to engage members and prospects. What level of engagement do you have now and what do you expect it to be? Is this a two-person role or can you work with one?

Whichever role you decide to fill, it's important to never put all of your engagement or communications in the hand of one person. Create redundancies and build relationships between your members and as much of your association staff as possible. The more members are connected to your association and the people who run it, the stronger the relationship will be.

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Topics: Online Community Management, Social Media, Associations, Online Community

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