We live in the digital era and social media networks present fantastic foundations for SMEs to engage and build strong relationships with potential and existing clients. Old-school marketing may not be the most effective method for your business anymore.

So, would that big advertising budget be better spent on digital tactics? Today, SMEs need to employ techniques that will keep them engaged with their clients 24/7, so your business will need to adapt to the digital shift or risk being left behind.

In recent years social media has become one of the most important channels to engage with existing and potential customers. According to a recent study by Gartner, organisations are planning to increase their digital marketing budgets by 17% this year compared to 2014. Gartner also reported that that “digital marketing was the number one-ranked CEO priority”.

Social media and community management has also become an essential part of digital marketing, yet for many small businesses it remains the most challenging aspect of overall marketing mix to handle.

Small businesses often have very little understanding about what social media and community management entails and frequently see these disciplines as the same thing.

So let’s take a look at the difference between the two and how SME’s can benefit from employing social media or community managers or even both.

What are the major differences between the two?

A social media manager is a strategist. They take on more of a strategic role and often will be responsible for planning promotional materials and overall initiatives to promote the company’s message.

They will be managing online campaigns, curating content and measuring the success across all social networks and channels. The placement of a social media manager will be within an organisation Sales, PR and Marketing.

A community manager is, at heart, a builder of relationships and someone who has their own persona, but represents the brand. They are the advocates of the brand.

They listen to conversations, they learn about clients’ needs, and when appropriate engage with them. Community managers will work closely or within customer service, product development and marketing departments.

For example, Dan Spicer leads Hootsuite’s EMEA community team and recently did a webinar on this topic, which you can watch for free here.

B2C vs. B2B

Business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) companies have very different requirements when it comes to social media and community management.

B2C businesses will have much greater need for a community manager than a B2B companies. This is because they need to be  spending a lot more time building relationships with individual consumers, and that’s exactly what community managers do.

They will be able to engage with general public in order to understand how customers and potential customers feel about the product or service.

However, social media managers will often have a much better fit within B2B organisations. In B2B organisations the social media manager will play a huge part of marketing and PR. They will spend most of their time raising awareness about the brand, and generating sales leads.

Not any “young person” can be a good social media or a community manager

Given the demographics of social media users it can be tempting to hand responsibility for your social or community management to the youngest member of the team but that’s not always the best approach.

Yes, the millennial generation are digital natives, and yes they use technology and social media channels to consume and distribute information on hourly/daily basis. However, this does not automatically qualify them as excellent social media or community managers.

Both roles are very different, but in most cases require one to wear a lot of hats, so it’s imperative that the candidates possess all the right skills and personal traits.

If you were writing a job description, these include, but are not limited to: Must be organised self-starters with great writing skills, whom able to establish good balance between structure and creativity; should have social media experience managing brand communications, outgoing personality; and excellent time management skills.

Lastly, the most important question of all is can SMEs make figures work and justify the return on investment (ROI) if they hire social media or a community manager?

The answer, for me, is a no brainer.

At first, it may seem like a ridiculous idea to hire someone whom will spend they day on Twitter and Facebook. But remember, with the right strategy, your community managers can and will drive your sales, while your social media managers could increase your brand awareness, drive quality to your site, ultimately help your business convert more sales.