Tag Archives: followers

Online Community Management – the Unobvious Job

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”)

Source: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/01/community-manager-appreciation-day-pros-and-cons-of-community-management/
The Online Community Manager is sometimes called a “one-man team” or “crazy madness”. Source: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/01/community-manager-appreciation-day-pros-and-cons-of-community-management/

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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If you would like to learn more about my thoughts on
Online Community Management, do check out my OCM course
at the Institute of Systems Science, NUS. </end self-promo>

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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”.

Target Segment

  • 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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Thanks for reading to the end! Once again, allow me to introduce my
Online Community Management 2-day course starting from July,
at the Institute of Systems Science, National University of Singapore. Care to join up? 

Online Community Management for Social Media Short Course at the Institute of Systems Science, NUS


“All he really cares about is the number of fans” – Measurement and Making the Boss Happy

Over the last handful of years, social media platforms have been busy trying to make measurements more meaningful. Just like the progress from hits to pageviews, we have seen social media move from fans/followers to impressions, interactions and virality.

But guess what, very often, your boss in all His Busyness, really only pays attention to “The Number”.

Of fans, that is.

That's a lot of fans
That’s a lot of fans

Now the experienced social media manager/marketer may frown and go, “I’ve worked so hard deciphering and digging up all these insights and analytics, and all the boss cares about is the number of Facebook fans.”

I say: work it to your advantage. It doesn’t mean your valuable, meaningful Insights numbers are now useless – they will always help you make informed decisions and be prepared to answer the occasional “That’s a good question” question during the monthly meeting. In fact, consider the fact that this makes your job easier.

What are some of the signs that your boss is just a “Numbers” person (and by “Numbers” I refer to simple ones like fan base numbers, followers, membership numbers and the like) ? Here are a few:

  1. His face lights up when the number increases. (For other numbers, like impressions and all that, he nods approvingly. But for fan base increases, his face lights up).
  2. When he is chatting with you in passing about your community, he says things like, “We’ve got 24,600 fans now right?”.  They basically don’t really remember any other number.
  3. The number he remembers is almost always a little higher than reality. Sometimes by a thousand.

OK, so let’s say you’ve got a boss like that, so what should you do?

Well, for a start, always have the number ready. Check it every morning and evening (like you don’t already). Be always ready to say, calmly, “24, 712 as of this morning, actually” and be rewarded with the smile.  Put the number up front in the first slide during your presentation report. If it has gone down, have the explanation ready in the same slide. If it’s gone up, have… actually if it’s gone up your job is done, everything else is extra icing.

Just kidding, be aware why it went up of course. Your FB insights, your Google analytics, your virality figures, impressions, etc. – know all these so you know how to explain things and give examples.  These figures, as you know, are often confusing, subjective and misleading. So, the fact that your boss is NOT bo(b)ssessed with them is actually sort of a good thing.  You can speculate, interpret, approximate on all these statistics, but the one that you need to wield like a holy glowing sword +5 is the The Number.

My point: if all your boss really is concerned about is The Number, then make sure whatever measurement you do on you channels, always make sure you know how to relate it to that number.  This way, you will always know how to report to your boss (and make him smile), and you needn’t worry too much about subjective stats. Your job becomes easier.

Now, if you have a boss who likes to examine, interpret and strategize around virality, sentiments, impressions and other woozy numbers.. then we have to work a little differently…