Social Media & Community Managers: What's the Difference?

Social media is quickly becoming one of the most important channels businesses can use to interact with their customers. Similar to every other form of communication out there, it is important to arm your business with a smart, nimble team to ensure every inbound message and outbound opportunity is addressed.

Enter the social media and community managers.

Though some may think that those two roles are synonymous, their functions and responsibilities are actually quite distinct. In fact, here at Sprout Social, we treat each role very differently. To better illustrate these two crucial jobs, we talked to our very own Social Media Managers Brit Thompson and Darryl Villacorta, and our Community Manager Sarah Nagel to get the scoop on their roles, responsibilities, and advice for others.

For you existing community & social media managers, try Sprout Social free for 30-days.

social media engagement learn more banner

What are the Major Differences Between the Two Roles?

A social media manager is responsible for being the brand on social media. They create content, respond to comments, answer questions, and much more as the brand. Social media managers, more often than not, deal with people who have a relationship with, or have heard of, the brand.

A community manager is responsible for advocating the brand on social networks. They create their own social persona and actively go out within the online community to connect with potential customers and advocate the brand. Community managers typically deal with those who haven’t heard of the business they work for and boost awareness for the company.

Social Media Manager Job Description

So that’s how we would define social media management at Sprout, but in order to come up with a completely objective description, we pulled 25 job listings from a LinkedIn job search for “social media manager” and created a word cloud highlighting the responsibilities of the position.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 1.03.23 PM

As you can see, the biggest trend associated with the modern social media management is the ability to strategically create and distribute a brand’s content across a variety of different social networks.

There are other important keywords associated with social media managers that help flesh out the scope of their role: team, support, engagement, execution, manage, opportunities, and (of course) social.

For those looking to how to structure, organize and build a quality social media team, we partnered with HubSpot to provide you with this free guide! Download it now to get your social team started.

Social Media Manager Workflow

We know that our social media managers Brit and Darryl spend the average day making sure our customers have an above-average day, but what specifically do they do? We asked them to break down their typical work day for us.

How Brit Spends Her Day

  • 30% responding to and helping customers
  • 30% writing or curating social content
  • 20% strategizing and planning
  • 10% analyzing past social performance
  • 10% collaborating with team members
  • 10% being awesome (we added this bit since it’s so true)

How Darryl Spends His Day

  • 35% listening and conversation
  • 25% researching and planning strategy
  • 20% creating and curating content
  • 10% team collaboration
  • 10% analytics
  • 10% dressing sharply (we added this, but who wouldn’t)

If you look at the daily habits of these two it’s pretty easy to see the similarities. They both spend a majority of their time responding to and helping our customers, followed by strategizing & executing content strategies, then analyzing their successes and meeting with the team to discuss next steps.

Requirements for Social Media Manager Jobs

After hearing all of this do you think you have what it takes to become a social media manager? We analyzed the same 25 job descriptions from LinkedIn and made this word cloud based on the requirements listed by each company.Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.29.35 PM

You can see that “experience” is one of the most important prerequisites for companies recruiting social media managers. However, don’t let that discourage you if you haven’t run social for a Fortune 500 company. Darryl was able to get his start in social media management by developing a social presence for himself first.

“As an actor in Chicago, I wanted to build buzz around my work in film and theatre. Because the acting industry is very competitive, I started to use social media as a marketing tool in 2009 to amplify and promote as much of my work as possible. However, not all actors live the life of luxury and so I took my newly developed social marketing skills and actively searched for greener pastures! (Get it? Greener pastures. Money. Guess stand-up comedy isn’t in my future…) Not too long after, I was lucky to find work with a Chicago startup managing their social marketing campaigns along with community building.”


Where to Find Social Media Manager Jobs

Now that you know you have the skill and desire to become a social media manager, the next question is: how do you find a job? Darryl thinks searching Twitter can be the most effective method:

“Hit up Twitter! Not only are there a bevy of job listings posted on Twitter, you also have the awesome ability to connect (and research) with any companies you may be interested in working for. One word of advice: do your homework!”


Brit agrees with turning to social, but takes a different approach:

“Find volunteer or internship opportunities. Develop your personal brand on social!”


To expand on the idea of turning to social media to find jobs, here are a couple more resources that can help you in your job search:

Community Manager Job Description

We gave a description of how we view community managers at Sprout Social, but in order to objectively define the role we made a word cloud similar to first. However, our LinkedIn job search for”community manager” didn’t yield as many open positions, so we were limited to pulling 10 listings.Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.04.33 PM

Words like “growth” and “engage” are much bigger keywords in the role of community manager compared with the social media manager. This reinforces the theory that most community managers are focused on engaging with new users in order to grow the overall brand community.

Community Manager Daily Workflow

Sarah spends her days bolstering a fantastic community for Sprout Social users to thrive in, but how exactly does she spend her time on the average day?

How Sarah Spends Her Day

  • 40% having conversations with communities or prospects
  • 20% building visibility and credibility as “Sprout Sarah” by attending Twitter chats and moderating our own #SproutChat
  • 15% researching opportunities to connect with new people
  • 15% blogging on external sites
  • 10% analyzing efforts driving the most traffic
  • 10% making friends with everyone in the office (social butterfly)

Requirements of Community Manager Jobs

We looked back through the same 10 job descriptions from LinkedIn to find some key requirements that companies seek when looking for a community manager.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.23.57 PM

Based off this word cloud it seems like a lot of the companies are looking for people with 3-5 years of experience. However, don’t fret if you’re a bit below that level; try to do what our community manager Sarah did to gain her first position: assist first.

“I studied marketing and public relations in college, but social media and community management weren’t exactly career paths yet. I started assisting the social media manager at Hyatt Regency Chicago and fell in love with social and its power and reach.”-Sarah

social media engagement try free banner

Where to Find Community Management Jobs

Does the role of a community manager sound like the one for you? Here’s how Sarah would recommend you find a job in the space:

“Social media jobs are all over social media (duh). I’d suggest searching for Facebook groups, Twitter handles, LinkedIn groups, etc. that are focused on sharing open positions. There are many out there!”


To run with Sarah’s point, here are a few social groups you could start engaging with to help your job search:

What’s Your Social Job Advice?

We’ve asked our Facebook audience what advice that they would give someone looking to get started in these positions.


If you have any advice to add feel free to join the discussion. Whether it’s how you got involved in social media, what you think a good daily workflow is, where to find a job, or anything that could help the new faces of social, we’d love to hear from you!