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Community Manager vs. Conversation Manager

As the use of social technologies begins to climb the maturity curve, new skills (until now not widely understood) such as community & conversation management have begun to move to the forefront of discussions within businesses. Most are starting to realize that they have a missing job function in their team. But which job function: a Community Manager, a Social Media Manager, a Traffic Manager or a Conversation Manager.

Considering what Nestlé’s Facebook Fan Page went through a few days ago, it is becoming important for most brands to start having dedicated resources to manage their conversations. But businesses need to understand whether they need primarily a content-oriented person or a relationship-oriented person.

John Bell in a recent blog post described both functions of Community and Conversation Managers as follows:

Community Manager
So,  do they need a community Manager? Here’s how I see the main responsibilities of a community manager:

  1. Steward a community conversation amongst a group of people who have come together to interact together presumably over some shared affinity (they all love Dancing With The Stars TV show; they are all moms with grade school-age children; they drive the same car)
  2. Help keep order with a soft touch
  3. Remain responsible to the community first

Their job is really to nurture and often grow a community of people. Now, the affinity that brings them together may be the brand. That gives the community manager license to participate in the community but certainly not at the expense of the other community participants.

Conversation Manager
A Conversation Manager is a bit different especially as we think about how Twitter and Facebook work. Even with the threaded comments available now in the Facebook Wall posts, These are streams of utterances and brief conversations. More importantly, brands are hosting their own handles and pages which feel more personal and involved. A Conversation Manager’s responsibilities include:

  1. Offering fans and followers a steady stream of valuable content and experiences
  2. Responding to visitors who want to engage with the brand or need some help
  3. Offering a pov as a brand or subject matter expert

Steven Van Belleghem believes (so do we at 90:10 Group) that ‘traditional advertising no longer works. Advertisers need to change their day-to-day working methods. The gap between the contemporary consumer and the traditional advertiser is growing on a daily basis. This era is not the end of the advertising market, though it is the end of the advertiser!‘. He explains to us this change of trajectory from advertiser to Conversation Manager in his recently published book titled The Conversation Manager and following presentation.

What about the Social Media Manager?

Rachel Happe has taken a stab at articulating the primary responsibilities of both Social Media and Community Managers. Here is how she defines the responsibilities of the Social Media Manager:

Social Media Manager:

  • Content Creation  (Blogging/vlogging/podcasting) designed to spur conversation/viral sharing
  • Responding to conversations about the brand and the content
  • Ensuring input/feedback gets channeled to the appropriate internal functional group
  • Curating and promoting UGC
  • Managing tools – mostly social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) and blogs
  • Reporting/measurement

So what do you think? Do you agree that there is a difference in these three roles? and if so, do you agree with how they have differentiated them? If you happen to be a ‘community manager’ or a ‘conversation manager’ or a ’social media manager’ reading this post, please do share with us your views on your job function and the challenges you are facing every day :)

Other related articles:

Community management: The ‘essential’ capability of successful Enterprise 2.0 efforts

A Community Manager and a Social Media Manager Walk into a Bar…

Community Manager or the Art of Ambiguity: an introduction

  • Hi Patrick,

    I just tweet a question for my friends to see my manager title! I got all of these titles which means I'm Community, Conversation and SM manager.

    Even these roles are new to us and the responsibilities are still in the development but I think by some how we are doing most of them.

    I can easily say I'm SM Manager as I'm doing SM coaching, blogging, fan pages administration, etc.

    Kind of same role as SM but more on engaging fans and customer on conversations so I'm conversation manager.

    I'm thinking my Blog readers, Twitter followers, offline friends, etc. as my community so we are managing them everyday.

    I'm trying to simplify the roles so let me know where we disagree?

  • Hi Patrick,

    Interesting indeed, but as a sign of the times it shows the level of engagement companies in general are comfortable with currently (low...).

    I'd add another category, which is the Director of Community (see an interesting description here http://altitudebranding.com.... The role is to not only funnel feedback back into the company, but to purvey the Voice of the Customer and coordinate actions.

    In my opinion it is vain to think the community can be managed: I would say you can facilitate the conversation, but if you manage in the old command & control style, the people in your community may just leave the home you have provided them with and take their conversation elsewhere.


  • Hello Mark.

    I agree.
    Community management itself is a sensitive subject in the social media arena. Some believe that to be authentic and to grow properly online communities, it should be as completely self-organized and “unmanaged” as possible.
    Others believe that there must be some central oversight and support, especially in a business context.

    I like when you say: 'The role is to not only funnel feedback back into the company, but to purvey the Voice of the Customer and coordinate actions.'

    We believe at 90:10 that businesses have their role to play: to create something inviting to communities (consumers) and to curate their ideas. I recommend reading my previous post 'Co-Creation is more than just a philosophy!' (Let the Crowd Shape You) http://bit.ly/cVNTDx.

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