What is Social Marketing? (Make Sure You Really Know)

I have notice there are an abundance of social marketing positions listed everyday and a massive pool of individuals applying for the opportunities. While there is much opportunity on both ends, I am not sure hiring companies and applicants really know what social marketing is and its real impact.

brand-customer engagementFirst off, let’s clearly distinguish that social media and social marketing are not the same thing. As I mentioned about a year ago social media is simply platforms for media posting and communications. In no way does the act of posting and communicating infer that brands are successfully marketing their product/service. The social media platforms merely present an opportunity for marketing …. Social marketing.

So the question at hand … What is social marketing? Social marketing is the strategy, planning, execution, and measurement activities aimed at getting your target audience to build a stronger relationship with your brand. This is accomplished through conversations, engagement, content production and curation, customer service, and overall, an enriched user experience. As a result, brands look to increase (and most importantly measure) awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Advocacy is the pinnacle result of social marketing as the strongest advocates in the target audience help to promote and market your product.

Here is a list of the key elements of social marketing:

* Target Market Insights – thorough understanding of the target market’s needs, wants, motivations and digital behaviors. (Also see “The Most Important Word for Marketing.”)
* Content – awesome original content, curation of content to support brand position, and initiatives to provoke user generated content (UGC). (Also see “Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy.”)
* Influence – identification and engagement of brand relevant influencers to generate earned media (Also see “A Real Look at Social Media Influence.”)
* Listening – active monitoring and listening to your target audience on all digital channels.
* Feedback to product group – not only listening for engagement purposes, but listening to capture new product/service offerings, features, support, and potential issues.
* Engagement – monitor for relevant conversation on both brand digital assets and non-brand digital assets. Actively participate in conversations and respond to all inquiries in a timely manner.
* Sharing Optimization – Complete assessment of brand site, social channels, content, and mentions on non-brand digital assets to yield guidance and recommendations to increase user sharing of brand’s content and posts.
* Real-time marketing – Consistent monitoring of current events to produce “on-the-fly” communication based upon planned processes and scenarios.
* Mobile – Recognition that the target audience accesses a high level of digital social content, conversations and information on mobile. Optimization of social engagement and proliferation of content for mobile consumption.
* PR – Integration of traditional and digital PR to yield maximum earned media.
* Metrics – definition of how success will be measured and continuous capture of empirical data. Analysis of metrics to determine ongoing strategy and execution modifications.
* Integration to other marketing endeavors and programs – social marketing is not a separate, isolated marketing initiative. Make sure it is integrated with all other marketing initiatives.
* Integration into CRM (customer relationship management) data and analysis – activities to capture a complete picture and definition of your audience.

So you see social marketing is much more than having a Facebook and Twitter presence. It is much more than simply posting and running promotions to increase likes and followers. As you look to move beyond social media hype to drive measurable results, consider what social marketing really needs to be in your organization.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, content marketing, customer service, marketing, marketing plan, PR, social business, social marketing, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, UGC, Word of Mouth Marketing

8 responses to “What is Social Marketing? (Make Sure You Really Know)

  1. Jim Matorin

    Social marketing is the strategy, planning, execution, and measurement activities aimed at getting your target audience to build a stronger relationship with your brand.

    Candidly, marketers now have more tools. I have been a social marketer since I crossed over from finance to marketing in 1984 at Lever Brothers and joined the brand team on Snuggle fabric softener.

  2. Hi Steve

    Although I enjoyed your post, I disagree with your definition of ‘social marketing’.

    Everything I’ve ever seen is far more tightly focussed on behaviour change, using marketing and non-traditional-marketing approaches to make this happen.

    What you define is closer to a community network marketing scenario, which is what so many companies need, but forget.

    There’s a good definition of Social Marketing on the National Social Marketing Centre website:

    “Social Marketing is an approach used to develop activities aimed at changing or maintaining people’s behaviour for their benefit.

    Whereas marketing in the commercial world ultimately seeks to influence consumer behaviour for profit, social marketing encourages behaviours that provide benefit for individuals and society as a whole.”

    The definition disagreement aside, more people need to understand your key points and stop treating social media like social marketing!


    • Neil – thanks for contributing … Much appreciated. A couple of things …

      1) from brands’ perspective, the reality is that they are not looking to make a society change, but rather get their target audience to get deeper in a relationship with their brand.
      2) with regards to your focus on changing behavior, I agree … But I would say that is the objective and outcome of social marketing; not the practice. I stated that we measure social marketing by collecting empirical data on awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. As the target audience traverse through these relationship behaviors with the product/ service, they are getting deeper into the brand … A changed behavior. When we reach the ultimate behavior change, advocacy, we now have trusted sources marketing the brand offering.

      Sincerely appreciate your comments and input!


      • Hey Steve

        Is a changing behaviour not the practice by which we end up at advocacy? The first step might be consideration as a behaviour change, moving through the funnel from there?

        I appreciate that not all brands want to change the world. But do they not run the risk of missing out on some key leverage points by being too product/brand centric and not looking at their wider societal place as a method of changing those behaviours/perceptions?

        Finally, what about partnership marketing efforts to achieve joint outcomes? Would you say that they fit into your definition, or more closely aligned with the one I grabbed from the NSMC?

        Enjoying a bit of debate!

  3. Hey Neil,

    Great exchange!

    I agree that social marketing should not be product centric … That is too advertorial. Brands should provide valuable information that is not about product, but tangential to what they offer. For instance, if you are a retailer selling mattresses you should provide content about best sleep habits. You can also find conversations where people are looking for sleeping tips. This reinforces the brand as a sleep expert without pushing product. At the same time, they are not changing society, but helping those that might be interested in their product.

    I do agree with partnerships to best position brands. For example, here in the US, Avon partners with breast cancer programs because their target market is woman. That is an example that supports the society changes that NSMC eludes to as well as the soical marketing definition I provided.


    • Hi Steve and Neil,

      I just want to add more insights here if you don’t mind. With regards to Steve’s example about the mattresses, I’d say that it’s what most businesses do today. I mean, information is what people look for in the internet, especially in the social networking sites, something that could help them personally. That being said, I think what comes first is information and next are the products/services that could help them. People would wanna read an article about ‘advantages and disadvantages of being tall’ rather than ‘advantages of using (insert name of a product that boosts growth here)’.

  4. nickie1snyder

    Social media provides business with a platform to introduce itself to mass people in an effective and efficient manner.

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