Why Community Management Is Different From Social Media Marketing (Forbes.com)

It’s only been a few years since the majority of people were questioning whether leveraging social media channels as a platform for consumer-brand interactions was a viable strategy, and now most businesses in the country have some discernable social media presence. Not all of these businesses are actively engaging in an ongoing marketing strategy through these platforms, but they still acknowledge the potential there.

There are a number of ways to describe the process of acquiring leads through social media, though most are simply variants of “social media marketing” or “inbound marketing.” Occasionally, I hear or read someone use the term “communitymanagement” as a replacement or further variant, but there’s a critical disparity here; social media marketing and community management are two very distinct practices, and while they do share some overlap, if you’re going to be effective in either one, you need to understand the differences between the two.

The Perception

It’s easy to see how these terms have become confused over time. For the most part, social media marketing is a fluid and often poorly defined process; for all intents and purposes, it’s simply a matter of using social media to promote your business. Under this description, simply having a Facebook page counts as “social media marketing.”

Under a similarly vague definition, “community management” can refer to any attempts to cultivate, nurture, or engage with a given audience. So, if you’re posting on social media with the intention of building your social media audience, that technically counts as community management.

Despite this overlap and the shared definitions between these two terms, there’s a critical distinction between these approaches.

The Reality

In practice, “social media marketing” and “community management” are two very related, in some ways overlapping terms. But in theory, each has a very distinct intention. Understanding these unique functions and using each to its greatest advantage is critical for achieving your goals. Otherwise, you’ll be proceeding with a very general strategy, hoping for some general results. Those vague definitions will get you nowhere in online marketing; you need to have a specific goal, a detailed strategy, and pinpoint execution in order to be successful.

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