Back in August, I wrote a long email to a couple of friends, discussing how I saw community working within their businesses. Here is one thing I told them:

“The point is that as [redacted] companies mature, they should do more than just talk about being a part of the community, they should hire people who can actively cultivate their community. It’ll give them a definitive advantage over others because this whole community thing isn’t going away.

‘Social media’ will go away, because social media just means communicating online, and those responsibilities will be shared and used by different departments based upon their needs, goals and desires. Marketing uses social media, community uses social media, recruiting/HR uses social media, but they all have different goals. Community is here to stay.”

I was reminded of this yesterday when I read a new post that my friend Jay Baer had published, titled “Are Social Media Jobs About to Disappear.” What Jay says absolutely makes sense to me.

Some might read his post and conclude that it will be bad for community professionals. But I don’t think so. We’ll be fine. Here’s why.

Community is a Discipline – Like Marketing

I distill Jay’s argument as being one of tools vs. strategy. Why do you need a social media department or a team of people whose job is completely “social media,” if all they are doing is executing strategies traditionally owned by other departments? Namely, marketing. If social media = marketing and customer service, then the marketing and customer service leaders of today (or the near future) will certainly be as well versed regarding social media as they are about other forms of marketing and customer service.

That doesn’t mean that those departments won’t have people in them that will specialize or focus either primarily or wholly on “social media.” For massive companies, several full time people can be required for Twitter alone. But most companies don’t fall into that category.

The tools are just the tools, and they’ll be used by any and all departments that can get value from them. Community isn’t social media. Community isn’t tools. Community is strategy. Community isn’t marketing or customer service. Community is a discipline unto itself, focused on facilitating interaction between people. For businesses, it fills the gap between sales and service.

Some would make the point that there have been community leaders for a very long time, even before the internet – people who were tasked with organizing groups offline and in person. That’s worth mentioning, even if I’m focusing on the internet here. Many online community management professionals also spend a substantial amount of time connecting with their community offline. This reinforces the idea that it isn’t about the tools – it’s about the strategy.

Online Community Jobs Have Existed for 20-30 Years

Depending on your definition and who you talk to, online community jobs have existed for 20-30 years. In other words, long before the term “social media” was in any job titles. Community jobs were here before that started, and they’ll remain as the social media job trend settles itself. There is a deeper longevity in community jobs and for good reason.

Online Community Jobs Experienced Slow, Steady Growth

That longevity has afforded the community profession with a much slower rate of growth. Even when “community manager” started to catch on as a hot job title, it felt like people considered “social media manager” even hotter. But, in the end, the growth rate of community jobs was (and is) simply more sustainable, with a stronger foundation.

This Shift Will Strengthen Us

The idea of this shift excites me a little. We’ve all seen awful “community” job descriptions that are nothing more than marketing jobs with community in the title. One of the biggest reasons for it is this social media bloat. As it becomes clearer that understanding “social media” is something that is required throughout an organization, these bad job descriptions will pop up a little less. In other words, it’ll allow for better definition and focus.

Time will tell, but regardless of what happens with social media jobs, community is here to stay.