Here’s a post about ‘social marketing’, and what it is. Might seem strange for a blog that has been talking about social media marketing since over a month now but let’s look at it anyway because there is more than meets the eye.
The term ‘social marketing’ was introduced ages ago by Philip Kotler. To be precise: Kotler and Gerald Zaltman wrote an article called “Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change” in the Journal of Marketing in 1971.
You can see, given the year the article was published, that social marketing strictly has nothing to do with Internet, social media, etc.
The National Social Marketing Centre defines social marketing as “an approach used to achieve and sustain behaviour goals on a range of social issues.” (read more here). So, strictly speaking, social marketing has nothing to do with what we could call social media marketing.
Kotler and Ned Roberto later wrote “A social change campaign is an organized effort conducted by one group (the change agent) which attempts to persuade others (the target adopters) to accept, modify, or abandon certain ideas, attitudes, practices or behavior.” Later Kottler wrote a book with Ned Roberto and Nancy Lee, “Social marketing: Improving the quality of life”, further exploring the concept.
Have you noticed the term “persuasion”?
Jupitermedia: social marketing in the social media context
Then came along the Internet and social media. In 2006, Jupitermedia introduced a “Social Marketing” service “aiming to enable website owners to profit from social media”.
You can imagine there was a lot of protest but Jupitermedia stuck to the term and ‘social marketing’ today is widely understood as what we might call social media marketing. However, the term ‘social media marketing’ is not entirely correct either because it involves social media. I’ll explain this later.
For the younger readers: Jupitermedia was a well-known name in the Internet marketing community. It had a research division, JupiterResearch, a very popular site called SearchEngineWatch and much more. JupiterResearch was acquired by Forrester Research and SearchEngineWatch by Incisive Media.
Anyway, today most people see social marketing as a set of marketing techniques to reach and connect with customers and potential customers via social networking websites. What you could call ‘social media marketing’.
Social marketing does not need social media
As I just said, this is not entirely correct. To be ‘social’ (in the sense the word has today, not in the original sense), marketing does not necessarily need social media. A good example is word of mouth marketing, which has a clear social connotation because it’s about people sharing and spreading stories. Well, word of mouth marketing, exists much longer than social media, and it doesn’t even need social media.
And what about viral marketing, engagement marketing, community marketing, content marketing and all the others? The social dimension is always there.
On top of that, ‘traditional’ forms of marketing, communications and customer interaction (email marketing, CRM, PR, etc.) are being influenced by the social media revolution: marketers are integrating ‘old’ and ‘new’. That’s why social email marketing, for instance, is such a ‘hot topic’.
So, what would be a good definition, a good term? It’s about engagement, interaction, dialogues, participation, customer centricity, consumer generated content, social media, etc.
In the end, it’s about being where the customer is, seeing marketing as a dialogue instead as a monologue and joining and even enabling the conversations people have on social media, on Internet, ‘in the real world’ etc.
It’s a revolution whereby people have dozens of communication, information and interaction tools to decide when and how they interact with each other and with businesses and where the buying process is increasingly controlled by the customer and less by the vendor. Buying instead of selling.
In the end, it also does not matter if we call it social marketing, social media marketing or whatever (except that when we use the term ‘social marketing’ we might hurt the feelings of people that are active in social marketing as it originally was conceived).
I think we should just call it marketing. However, marketing as it was supposed to be: people-centric, integrated and holistic. What about holistic marketing? Or integrated marketing? Or customer-centric marketing?
Again, it doesn’t matter.
The whole discussion reminds me of the strict division that once existed (and often still exists) between online and offline marketing in the early years of Internet.
But, like it or not, social marketing, social media marketing and many other forms of marketing (viral, buzz, content, engagement,…) will be called social marketing for a few years.
And it’s in that context that I use the term.
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