Social Media vs. Community Management – What’s the Difference?

Two trendy job titles have emerged in the marketing world that evoke equal parts reverence and confusion. Many businesses who haven’t already hired either a Social Media Manager or a Community Manager are scrambling to post these openings on their job boards as social media becomes a more integral aspect of their marketing mix. Unfortunately, these two starkly different roles are typically seen as interchangeable, leading to role confusion and strategic mishaps. Here is a breakdown of what both roles really are.

What is a Community Manager?

Community Managers do just that – they manage the online community of the business, typically from their own persona rather than the brand persona. Their goal in doing so is to foster positive brand sentiment among those already in the community, particularly customers, employees, and partners.

A Community Manager is more likely to be present in a B2C marketing department and is common amongst SaaS companies. These businesses likely have thousands of customers and hence a larger community, as opposed to the B2B or agency world.


  • Travel to / speak at events
  • Publish original content (blogs, videos, webinars)
  • Respond to customer complaints/concerns
  • Curate U.G.C. (user-generated content)
  • Share customer praise
  • Share company news

Think of a Community Manager as the top brand ambassador and the public face of the organization (outside of the c-suite). For example, Yelp employees many Community Managers – each of which is assigned to one major city – who act as evangelists for the Yelp. They are more closely aligned with PR, Services, and HR, and have soft KPIs like “sentiment” and “brand reputation.”

Abed from CommunityWhat is a Social Media Manager?

Typically, a Social Media Manager manages the brand social media accounts in order to generate traffic and conversions (sales or leads). They’re the voice of the brand and act as the brand, not as their own persona. Whereas the Community Manager works within the community, the SM Manager works to create or add to the community, by generating leads and sales.

Social Media Managers act behind the scenes, creating and executing marketing campaigns via social media, then report on the results. They’re Math Men, not Mad Men, and it’s likely that you’ll never see their face. SM Managers might manage or work with a group of employees, such as a team of online sales reps, and are more closely aligned with Sales and Marketing. They have hard KPIs like followers, traffic, and conversions.


  • Post updates/distributes content
  • Run contests
  • Listen for brand mentions
  • Monitor analytics and generate report
  • Track traffic conversions

While a B2C company can have both a Community Manager and Social Media Manager, B2B organizations may not necessarily require a Community Manager due to the (likely) small size of their community and the fact that most organizations don’t divulge their relationship or engage in many public conversations with their vendors, as opposed to individual consumers who are quite vocal about from whom they make purchases and utilize services.

So which is right for your business? It’s likely you already have someone in charge of managing your corporate social media accounts, but do you have someone who acts as a public-facing customer advocate and evangelist? If you only have a small number of clients or customers, a Community Manager may not be necessary. Either way, it’s important not to confuse the two roles or consider them as interchangeable, since they each fulfill unique, but core, functions across the organization.