« "Unreckoned Consequences of Technological Change" | Main | An Idea Conference - PFSK NYC and a Few Questions for Piers Fawkes »

March 23, 2010


Rachel Happe

Not sure if you saw my recent post on differentiating between a social media and community manager but thought it might be relevant to this conversation - http://community-roundtable.com/2010/03/differentiating-between-social-media-and-community-management/

To me the difference is, in large part, about what kind of relationship the sponsoring organization wants to have with the individuals in the community... and what type of relationship between members of the community is needed to achieve the desired business results. If you are looking for awareness, you need lots and lots of small conversations. If you want co-creation or members to create value for other members, a deeper relationship is typically needed.

Rich Nadworny

John, good post, as usual. I think you're spot on with your descriptions of the jobs, but wonder about the issue of job titles. Your community manager sounds reminiscent of an old style company bulletin board/forum manager, rather than a social media manager.

An analogy might be the difference at a club or resort of the pool manager, who has to make sure the water is clean and clorinated, and that there are towels and chairs available. Compare this with a pool activity manager who has to engage members to jump in the pool for aerobics or volleyball.

In social media, these two jobs have merged. You have to engage the community but you also have to make sure the water isn't too warm or cold. It seems that community manager is still the right title but that it encompasses both of your job descriptions. Conversation is implicit in community but community is not necessarily implicit in conversation.

steven van belleghem

Thanks for this! I'd like to go a few steps further if we talk about a conversation manager. In my latest book, the conversation manager (www.theconversationmanager.com), I see the role of a conversation manager broader than you describe here.

For me, a conversation manager is responsible for managing the dialogue with consumers. Starting from creating a great brand experience, also responsible for activation campaigns on all media and, of course, to manage conversations.


This is a very timely post considering what Nestlé's Facebook Fan Page admins did a few days ago http://www.bealoud.com/social-media/nestle-facebook-fail/

The PR agency they used (or internal marketing staff) lacked the ability to manage conversations. The responsibilities you listed and skills required are even more important for companies like Nestlé, who often face negative sentiment on the web.


John great post. I think your points of difference are right on… IMO it gets to a strategy point and a personnel point.

I think we (marketers) have jumped to lump the tag "community manager" to be a end-all-be-all position. So you get CMs that are basically tech managers or convo police, etc.

Whatever you call the position… why can't that person by a passionate, educated, real person. That manages community relationships, the community heartbeat, editorial calendars and content?

Based on the specific strategy and the passion conversations surround a brand your participation/research should give you the criteria for the qualifications of that position.

I know that's a wide skill set… but they're out there. Especially when you know what your looking for… instead of just trying to convert an existing employee into this position you use insight/participation/research to also help define the role you need in that position.

Bilal Jaffery

I think it all comes down to having a proper managed 'brand experience'. It is all part of a brand experience strategy in this day and age.

Never outsource your 'community management' to anyone who does not have a stake in brand's reputation. Never assign to a person who isn't a conversationalist in real life. Assign to someone who gets people and knows how to please them.

After all, it is about earning respect and influence on the web. EarnedWeb

Bilal Jaffery
Web Marketing Manager
Social Media Strategy @ IBM

Colm Hannon

If a company and its employees has its business objectives and messaging aligned the next step is to educate and enable the staff to communicate effectively through social media. Social media is a communication tool just like a telephone or email is a communication tool. The sooner companies recognise this and train their people to use social media to converse the sooner they will get ahead of their competitors in all aspects of their business. Part of that training is on how to listen and part of it is on how to engage.

The job title is kind of irrelevant but what companies need is an individual to change the way employees communicate. this can be done through creating a social media strategy and implementing effective training and development programs for staff. The focus should not be on managing a social media space as much as enabling the relevant people to converse in a way that benefits the business.

Providing relevant content creates conversation, conversation creates community and if done properly the community will create more relevant content. Coordinating the flow of content and managing the staff training and education is what the manager should focus on.

If you are going to have a conversation with the world you had better be sure that your staff understand your brand and your messaging and that is why internal comms are an important ally to the manager.

What cracks me up is that for years nobody cared what their employees said down the pub or at the dining table but now that these conversations are appearing on blogs and social networks it is somehow more real than before and many comms professionals are having kittens. From my experience if enough people say that something is broken it is probably broken. The trick is to make sure that when someone says something is broken that there is someone there from the company to listen and engage or react. Social media monitoring technology makes this so easy to do nowadays.

Anyway, my point is that the job function required is not what companies think it should be. Enabling the relevant people to converse through social media and managing the flow of relevant content is far more important than moderating a space. If this is delivered properly your whole work force will act as the moderators and content providers for your social media space and your business will benefit as a result.

John Bell

Rich - love the pool analogy.

John Bell

Colm - agree that companies under-engage(?) their employees to go out and speak about the company/brand. I do think that is a different issue than actively managing/contributing to a discussion around the brand/products and customers via a platform like facebook. I think that requires a new communications function with new responsibilities and skills. (and a way to measure impact and therefor justify the commitment)

steven van belleghem

To continue the discussion, I wrote a concrete job description for a conversation manager that we all can use when recruiting one. What do you think?

Promotional Products

John Good stuff. I think that this is a very important distinction to be aware of. I was trying to explain this to someone and couldn't distinguish the two as well as you have. I think the conversation here has been helpful as well. I'll be sharing this link with that person tonight. Thanks


Hi Steven-

In a post above, you mentioned that you wrote a job desciption for a Conversation Manager. However, when I go to your site, I cannot locate it. Can you please point me in the right direction?

Thank you-

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • RSS