‘Social Marketing’ is NOT Social Media Marketing

Social. SoMe. SocMed. Whatever you shorten it to, as professionals in its application, we know what you’re talking about: social media. But how often do we see in posts, articles and titles ‘Social Marketing’? For me the answer is: too often.

Social Marketing is a communications discipline rooted in consumer behavior change for the common good. Think the Verb or Truth campaigns. It is the reason I decided to attend graduate school at Emerson College in Boston. Most often, social marketing is utilized in health communication, but more recently, has been applied to college access campaigns, which is where I got my start in its application, along with the Know How 2 Go campaign.

Social Marketing is very reliant on great, integrated communication and seeks to move the consumer from awareness to action. This action is seen as something that will benefit the consumer – or the common good – even if they have to ‘give something up’ in order to receive it. What better an application than higher education? Showing the value in the outcome – not a purchase, but a behavior change that benefits the consumer and society, not the provider –  in order to justify the cost as well as the time invested is what social marketing is all about.

But, social media marketing, obviously is very different. It is only the use of social media to achieve marketing goals. When we label social media marketing as ‘social marketing’ we’re very much in the wrong and risk looking like we’re ignorant to key concepts in marketing communication. It’s hard enough to be taken seriously as practitioners of best use of such ever-changing media without the added issue of lack of marketing terminology. We as social media strategy developers need to be seen as more than just hyper users. We need to clearly define our worth as integrated marketers. That we can build a brand identity and messaging consistency and strength by integrating across media – not only within our silo of social media.


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