Not every company needs a dedicated online reputation manager, but if you've decided that it is time to hire one, your first step is to come up with a job description. As you're writing a list of duties, however, you might discover that what you really need is a community manager. What's the difference between these two jobs? And does it matter for your company?
Who's Doing the Talking?
A community manager's main job isn't to talk to your social followers or respond to comments, believe it or not. Rather, it is to foster a sense of belonging - to make being a member of your community a "club" so to speak. Yes, they respond to customers at times, but their real focus is to get people talking to each other.
A reputation manager is more like a social media manager in that they are more interested in one-on-one conversations. They want people talking to the brand. They have more control over the conversation, but there isn't that warm fuzzy feeling of being part of something. While a social media manager focuses specifically on marketing using social networks, a reputation manager typically has more of a customer service focus and using more than just social media to speak with customers.
Where is the Talking Being Done?
Community managers and online reputation managers use some of the same tools to reach customers and potential customers. However, a community manager focuses more on places where people can connect, like Facebook pages and forums, while an online reputation manager focuses specifically on places where people are talking about the brand, like Twitter and Yelp. A community manager is also often responsible for company-owned places for customers to gather, like a blog. Typically, a community manager creates more content than an online reputation manager does.
Of course, an online reputation manager might respond to a comment on Facebook and a community manager might foster conversation on Twitter. There are no hard and fast rules about which tools these employees can/should use. It depends on the tasks for the day.
What are the Conversation Goals?
One of the biggest differences between a community manager and an online reputation manager is their goal for conversations online. A community manager's goal is to keep the good times rolling. They may address concerns, but they primarily play offense, looking for ways to keep the community's happiness spreading.
An online reputation manager, on the other hand, plays defense. They respond to negative reviews and comments, handle PR problems, and turn bad feelings into good feelings. A good online reputation manager might help a community manager come up with strategic ways to keep the community happy, and to keep negative community members from infecting the rest of the community, but the focus is on potential reputation problems.
Is Growth a Factor?
If your tasks involve growth, you're probably looking to hire a community manager. A community manager works to connect with people on social networks, forums, a blog, etc. so that you're reaching more and more people. They may work closely with a social media manager and other member of a marketing team to do this, and a good community manager cares not only about quantity, but also about quality. In other words, they don't just want more Facebook likes or Twitter followers. They want people who are actually commenting and speaking to one another.
An online reputation manager typically doesn't look at growth (at least in most cases). He or she is more concerned with sentiment, or the overall feeling about your company as expressed online, whether you have ten social followers or ten thousand social followers. This doesn't mean that stats aren't tracked at all. An online reputation manager uses tools to track what people are saying online, but typically has different goals that aren't centered on size of the community.
A Single Role
Yes, it is possible for a single person to take on all community management and reputation management roles. In fact, you might have the same person doing social media management and other marketing tasks too. At a small company, employees have to wear many hats, and, frankly, you might not have a big enough customer base yet to justify several employees. However, if you are considering having one employee for all of these roles, make sure you clearly define which roles are community management and which are reputation management. Usually (not always, but usually), you'll want reputation management tasks to take priority.
As your team expands, defining these roles also allows you to more easily split the position into two roles in the future. It can always be awkward to take tasks away from an employee to give to a new employee, so defining the roles and each employees' goals can make the transition much easier.
About the Author: Allison Boyer is a content marketer who blogs regularly about blogging, email, social media, and more at AllisonBoyer.com.