Social media marketing is an approach to marketing that uses social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others in an attempt to promote a change in people’s behaviors so as to encourage in some way the betterment of the individual or of society, as well as the betterment of the business atmosphere through a feeling of interconnectedness.
The same methods used in conventional commercial marketing are used in social media marketing (learn more here) – but with a twist – the end-goal is often to benefit the person or society as a whole in addition to the organization that is doing the marketing.
Social media marketers attempt to influence a social change in the business atmosphere in several ways. They use specific call to action marketing methods, and they offer rewards to those who want to participate. Let’s pretend we’re talking about a company that wants to reward customers and spread a social message at the same time. That company may try to make a change by:
- Changing internal attitudes (e.g. educate about the harm of cigarettes to convince people to stop smoking for their own personal safety) while offering rewards like a gym membership free for a month with proof from a witness that smoking has ceased.
- Removing the need for the individual to change or to convince them to stop using a product in the first place (e.g. creating a 100% safer cigarette, a cigarette substitute, or a medical protocol that will cease the urge to smoke).
As you can see, the two examples provided are very different. The gym wants clients, and they want to promote better health. The cigarette substitute marketer understands people like to smoke and wants to give them a (we hope) healthier alternative.
Some examples of how social media marketing is used include:
- requesting that people not smoke in public areas (All kinds of businesses can promote non-smoking and offer rewards that can help people quit)
- convincing people to obey speed limits (Police departments and school systems like to give messages like this)
- encouraging the use of contraceptives (Public health messages)
- encouraging people to come try a new product, or sign up for a trial service (any business could use this!)
Social media marketing combines a mix of traditional marketing principles that include the “four Ps” of marketing. These are:
- Product: Ranging from tangible products to intangible ideas.
- Price: What the consumer needs to do in order to obtain the social marketing product.
- Place: The way that the product reaches the consumer.
- Promotion: Using advertising, public relations, promotions, media advocacy, personal selling and entertainment vehicle to create and sustain demand for the product.
In addition, some social media marketers add four additional “Ps” to contribute to a successful program (this applies particularly to nonprofits):
- Publics: External and internal groups involved in the process/target and secondary audiences, staff, supervisors of program.
- Partnership: Organizations and audiences with similar goals.
- Policy: Advocating change in social policies to precipitate and encourage changes.
- Pursestrings: Discovering funding (corporate sponsors, state grants, etc.) for the program.
According to a 20-page publication published by Turning Point (you can find the report here) designed to help people apply effective social marketing to their public health programs and practices, the following table summarized exactly what social marketing is … and what it is not:
Social Media Marketing IS:
- A social or behavior change strategy
- Most effective when it activates people
- Designed for those who have a reason to care and who are ready for change
- Strategic, and requires efficient use of resources
- Integrated, and works on the “installment plan”
Social Media Marketing IS NOT:
- Just advertising
- A clever slogan or messaging strategy
- Reaching everyone through a media blitz
- An image campaign
- Done in a vacuum
- A quick process
Behavior-induced change is not easy – and the proof of the pudding is to ascertain whether your marketing plan made a difference. If your target audience in fact is engaging in the desired performance, then you have succeeded in your endeavor. If you can establish a cause-and-effect relationship between your social media marketing program and changes in the buying behavior of your clients or the action your nonprofit’s participants take, then you have succeeded.