When media companies use the term “social marketing” many people assume it refers to social media marketing initiatives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other growing social networks. Social marketing, however, is more than just using social media to target specific users with products and services. While social marketing may use social media as a tool, it is not the same as “social media marketing,” and can also use traditional marketing channels, such as television, PR outreach, or even radio. In fact, social marketing refers to the use of marketing initiatives to change common perception of social issues, such as rights for animals, curing cancer, or feeding the hungry. This has been shown most prominently in marketing initiatives, such as The National Skin Cancer Awareness Campaign and the Animals Are Not Clowns ads.
How Social Marketing Works
Most people who are consumers are aware of how traditional marketing campaigns work and how corporations market to them, either through advertisements, targeted social media campaigns, or deals and content sent to both their virtual and physical inboxes. The goal of these traditional marketing campaigns is to convince people to buy into a company’s products or services. Social marketing uses these same marketing techniques in order to get individuals to adopt new behaviors, attitudes, or even ideas.
Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman, two famous marketers who coined the term “social marketing,” define it as “differing from other areas of marketing only with respect to the objectives of the marketer and his or her organization. Social marketing seeks to influence social behaviors not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit the target audience and the general society.” In other words, social marketing can and has replaced initiatives like PSAs (public service announcements) to successfully advocate for social or behavioral change, particularly in healthcare marketing, where social marketing initiatives have been used to promote a range of causes, such as heart disease, drug addiction, and organ donation.
The Major Components of Social Marketing
Like any marketing campaign, social marketing campaigns require you to use your resources efficiently and convince individuals to do something they have yet to do, whether that it is a behavior or a purchase. In social marketing, you first need to choose and identify a specific behavior that you wish to change through the purpose of your organization, whether that is healthcare or animal welfare or any other pertinent issue. Then, you need to identify your target audience and figure out how you are going to change their behavior. Next, you need to figure out which barriers need to be broken in order to change your targeted individuals’ behavior, and finally, you need to set up tools to measure the success of your social marketing campaign so that you can make adjustments as needed.
While this is a similar process that a traditional marketing campaign would use, a key difference in social marketing is being able to understand acutely the problems that a change in social behavior faces and figuring out exactly how to make that desired behavior the more apparent option to individuals who you are targeting. Social marketing is a great way to combat negative behaviors among healthcare, social justice, and advocacy lines and can highlight ways that individual can change or improve their behavior without having to necessarily purchase a product or service.