What’s the difference between “Social Media Management” and “Online Community Management”? Is it the same thing?
The term “online community management” is still relatively new in Singapore. And that’s one reason why I’m writing this.
Though perhaps the concept isn’t new – isn’t it basically social media management? Yes and no. Social media management is, simplistically, the running of social media channels, everything from setting up Pages and accounts, tweeting, curating and posting content to reporting metrics. Its activities are centred around the channel – in a sense, it is channel-centric.
It is implicit in “social media management” that managing the fans, followers and members is involved. That’s where online community management has its focus. It’s in the people in your community, people whom you want to engage, people for whom you want to get a sustained positive response. So, in a sense, online community management is a part of social media management, inasmuch as social media marketing is part of digital marketing.
I believe the main reason the term “online community manager” is only just beginning to take root in Singapore is that until recently, the focus of most organizations has really been exactly about social media as (marketing) channels, with community management as a secondary concern.
The Obvious vs the Un-Obvious Job
It is inevitable that as companies gain a better grasp of social media channels, they run into issues that are specifically more about online community management. Like the “webmaster” of the past, it will gain importance as the jack-of-all-trades character who is not just doing the obvious thing (“running the Facebook page”) but also the less obvious thing (“managing fans and driving engagement”)
We might argue that not every online community is on social media. For example, the discussion community around a popular blog might not be considered social media (especially since these existed before “social media” did).
Regardless, it’s fair to say that social media management and online community management have many things in common. But here are some ways to differentiate them.
Note: These are not exclusive differences. Social Media Management has some aspects of Online Community Management, and vice versa. The points below are an attempt to differentiate their foci, not to divide the two disciplines. They really do share a lot in common.
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- Social Media Management focuses on the channel. “We want to grow our Facebook fanbase.”
- Online Community Management (OCM) focuses on the people. “We want to make our Facebook fans happy and engaged.”
Consider: it’s possible to have a social media channel with tens of thousands of fans/followers, but little engagement.
- Social Media Management is often channel-specific. “We engage fans on Facebook and Twitter.”
- OCM is in principle channel-agnostic. “We engage fans. Wherever they are.”
Consider: Many companies start off by saying they want to “get on Facebook” (or the like), not “We must engage fans”.
- Social Media Management uses marketing to gain new fans. The objective is to bring new fans in.
- OCM “uses” its community to market to itself. It focuses on keeping fans within.
Consider: social media campaigns often use marketing tactics, such as marketing lingo and giveaways, to attract new fans, while the professionals involved (they could even be the same ones) are tasked to focus on content and engagement to keep existing fans engaged.
- Social Media Management ultimately is often designed to drive a hard business objective. E.g. sales
- OCM wants to drive participation, interaction, discussion and other means of engagement. Typically these are considered a means to an end (the end being a business objective)
Consider: management often grills social media teams as to what is their ROI, and how do they benefit sales. When a crisis occurs online, management asks how the team will handle it – the latter is a matter of OCM since it involves pacifying a community; whereas the former is about marketing/bottom line.
…. and so on.
All points are entirely arguable. This is no attempt to define the two terms definitively. It’s just food for thought for those of us trying, perhaps, to make an un-obvious job a little more obvious, a little better appreciated.
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Online Community Management 2-day course starting from July,
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