What is social marketing?
Social marketing is an approach used to develop activities aimed at changing or maintaining people’s behaviour for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.
Combining ideas from commercial marketing and the social sciences, social marketing is a proven tool for influencing behaviour in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
It helps you to decide:
Which people to work with
What behaviour to influence
How to go about it
How to measure it
Social marketing is not the same as social media marketing.
Is social marketing just marketing using social media?
Social networking tools and technologies are increasingly popular ways to reach an audience and spread a message, but it's important to distinguish this 'social media marketing' from social marketing.
Social marketing is an approach used to develop activities aimed at changing or maintaining people’s behaviour for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole. It is a recognised discipline now found in academic courses, textbooks and several dedicated, peer-reviewed journals, with a regular programme of international conferences.
Social media may be part of the toolkit for engaging with certain audiences, but the distinction is very important. For those of us working in social marketing this presents serious issues around integrity, authority, and possibly even ethics, which need to be addressed.
How does social marketing fit with behavioural economics?
In recent years a number of books, including Nudge, Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, The Spirit Level etc., have been picked up by policy makers and political parties. These are seen as offering new thinking and approaches to behaviour change and health inequalities and as possibly offering answers to some of the challenges facing society.
These offer a view of society through the lens of behavioural economics, which attempts to address the shortcomings of traditional, or neoclassical economics, with more of an emphasis on insight and a psychological view of the often irrational behaviour of individuals and groups.
As such, behavioural economists are increasingly seeing social marketing's emphasis on behavioural theory as a key tool for dealing with many issues.
What is strategic social marketing? Isn't social marketing about individual behaviour change?
Social marketing is an approach that is used to address strategic (upstream), as well as operational (downstream) issues.
Social marketers typically concentrate their efforts downstream on individual behaviour change. But, often, until norms are shifted and the desired behaviour is seen as acceptable and even desirable, the changes sought can have a limited impact.
By moving further upstream and involving policy makers, organisations or community groups to remove the environmental barriers, social marketers stand a better chance of making more of a sustained and impactful change.