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Social Marketing Distinctly Unlike Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing

by Kenneth Rudich

Every so often people seem to confuse Social Marketing as synonymous with Social Media Marketing.

But it’s not.

In fact, the distinction between the two is very vivid and quite discernible.

Social Marketing

Societal GoodSocial marketing focuses on promoting behaviors and causes that benefit individuals, communities and society in general. It emphasizes the pursuit of a societal good outcome, as opposed to seeking financial gain or profit in exchange for a product or service. The socially-driven nature of it generally speaks to our sense of humanity.

Countless not-for-profits, charities, philanthropic organizations and humanitarian services operate in this sphere. A small sampling of such behaviors, causes and organizations might include “Save the Planet,” “Donate Blood,” “Stop Smoking,” “Public Television Service,” “The Salvation Army,” “Don’t Litter,” “Literacy Programs” and “Feed the Hungry.” Of course, this is nowhere near an exhaustive list.

In lieu of exacting a profit, the above typically depend on donors and donations for revenue and/or resources; and they heavily rely on volunteerism to help carry out the work. Human compassion and people’s generosity are at the core of making this enterprise model possible.

latent consumer demand

The democratic system of government is another form of enterprise with a central mission for serving the common good – in this case, the common good of its citizenry (despite the shenanigans of some politicians who can at times make it appear otherwise). Social marketing is instrumental to this endeavor. As history has shown, the proper move at the right time can trigger a rising tide that lifts all boats.

Consider this: if the goal of a moon landing had been propelled forward by the presence of a profit motive, Neil Armstrong might have otherwise said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for capitalism.” 

A private enterprise that uses business marketing for the purpose of making a profit will also frequently employ social marketing to enhance its product, service or brand image. In this instance, the intent is to support the marketing strategy of the core business mission, by cultivating visceral goodwill from the consumers and stakeholders it wants to impress.

The idea is to tap the power of positive association via the psychology of human transference, which is also known as the “Halo Effect.” In the absence of being able to fulfill this strategic motive, there’s a strong chance many for-profits would forgo social marketing altogether, precisely because it alone does not contribute to their bottom line.

As a final note before moving on, it should be mentioned that social marketing is almost always strategic in purpose.

Social Media Marketing

Social MediaSocial Media Marketing employs various online tools, which are designated as being in the realm of social media, to help support the marketing goals and objectives of an individual or an enterprise. Unlike social marketing, it tends to be more tactical in nature.

It entails three primary aspirations:

  • foster interest in, and participative interaction around, the core mission of the enterprise, be it a product, service or social cause;
  • generate electronic word-of-mouth promotion through networking and the multiplier effect;
  • gather marketing intelligence in the process.

Social Media Marketing StrategyIt’s always advisable to monitor these online marketing activities, and to constantly assess the participants’ apparent level of knowledge and commitment to the brand. Each progressive step up the stairway to success yields a stronger relationship and greater trust.

As you can see, the sweet spot, beyond earning their business, is to have them become brand ambassadors or advocates. This form of vibrant social proof is widely recognized as darn near priceless — much better than, say, old fashioned advertising, or other related activities that people often regard as intrusive or obnoxious (e.g., telemarketing).

It’s worth noting that the critical elements of endearment, sharing and advocacy provide a good rationale for the private enterprise to engage in social marketing as discussed above – even more so when it involves a competitive industry or chaotic business climate. Incorporating socially-driven causes that will resonate with the target audience can help to further solidify the bond with the brand. We refer to it as making your brand go from good to glow.

The Marketing Discipline View

Social Media Marketing

By now it should be clear that social marketing and social media marketing are two separate and distinct forms of endeavor within the umbrella discipline known as marketing.

Furthermore, not only is there a place for both, but they can work well together when appropriately used.

At the same time, be forewarned: getting it right, in either case, is not necessarily easy.

Many an entity have found out the hard way that mistakes, miscues and/or abuses can produce strong headwinds and even grave consequences.

One recent example, which involves social marketing, will be the subject of our next blog post. Here’s a hint: NFL Teams and U.S. DOD Conspire to Dupe American Public


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