Social Marketing vs. Social Media

I am a social marketer who uses social media. If that statement confuses you, then read on. I’ve found that working in the realm of social marketing many people don’t quite understand what it is and generally think it is the same thing as social media.


Brief definition – social marketing is the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good. (Wikipedia)

Summed up – social marketing uses marketing concepts to change behaviors of a population for the good of the group. VI has been working on social marketing campaigns for years, but has had a few high profile examples of this lately, like the 5320/Shape Your Future campaign. We used a teaser campaign to promote the problem (Oklahoma has poor health), spark interest in the problem, and hopefully start a movement by engaging our citizens and giving them actionable items to do to change their behaviors, ultimately changing the health status of the state.

We also use social marketing techniques for another campaign we work on, Tobacco Stops With Me. For the last few years we have been working to create awareness of the problem (secondhand smoke is bad), engage the public in the movement, and change their way of thinking, causing them to change behaviors like staying away from secondhand smoke, or supporting their loved ones in quitting (call the Helpline at 1-800-Quit Now!). All of this will eventually work together to drop prevalence of smoking in our state.

Of course, social marketing takes a lot longer than retail marketing, where you may see an ad about McDonald's and want to eat there immediately, changing behaviors takes a little bit more time than influencing a dinner location.

For the other definition, social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. The term refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue. (Wikipedia)

I doubt I need to explain this any further. Social media is Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. Promoting a brand, thought or idea in social media is a tactic used by social marketers, but they are definitely not the same thing. Now that you know, you can snicker at the people who use them interchangeably too.

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