Social marketing: objectives and advantages

Social marketing by definition

Social marketing is the systematic approach geared towards changing or maintaining the behavior of a group of people for their own good and ultimately for the good of the general public. It involves marketing activities carried out in order to influence the behavior of members of the society. Social marketing combines ideas from the social sciences and commercial marketing and has over the years become an effective and sustainable tool for influencing human behavior cost-effectively.

The objective of social marketing

Social marketing should not be confused with social media marketing that is all about utilizing the social media for promoting a brand. On the contrary, social marketing has nothing to do with promoting a product or brand. The aim of social marketing is to improve the lifestyle of individuals by positively altering their behavior. For example, TV commercials about the harmful effect of hard drugs are done for the primary purpose of improving the lifestyle of drug abusers. There are also commercials about the use of seat belts. That is social marketing. The purpose of such a broadcast is not to draw customers to patronize your brand, but to persuade them to refrain from what harms them, and do what benefits them instead. By so doing, drug addicts may change their habits for good, death by accidents will be reduced, thus improving people’s lifestyle and benefiting the society as a whole.

What social marketing is not

Social marketing is never about raising people’s awareness about a topic. If your marketing campaign is only to explain an issue to raise people’s awareness and influence how they think without affecting how they act, then that is not social marketing. Social marketing must be about changing or maintaining how people behave.

Negative social marketing

Negative social marketing is aimed at making people aware of the harmful effects of some of their actions. For example, the harmful effects of eating insufficiently cooked food, canned foods, improper disposal of wastes, etc. By being aware of the harmful effects of their habits, individuals are encouraged to change.

Questions to ask before embarking on a social marketing campaign

Before embarking on a social marketing campaign, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How much do I know and view issues from the point of view of my target audience?
  2. That thing I want my audience to do or not do, how realistic is it?
  3. Are the costs and barriers to doing that thing outweighed by the benefits?
  4. What activities must I carry out to motivate people to do what I want them to do?

When you ask yourself the above questions, it puts your social marketing campaign at an advantage. These advantages are as below:

Advantages of social marketing

  1. Ensuring that your policy is based on how well you understand the lifestyle of the people, thus making it easier to achieve the desired change.
  2. It helps you strategize and harness your resources cost-effectively. You may even bring in interventions if needed.
  3. When you fully understand the life of your target audience, it helps you understand what they want and what they need, thus enabling you to develop a product or service that satisfies that need.

What organizations is social marketing best suited for?

Social marketing is best suited for non-profit and non-governmental organizations, road safety agencies as well as government agencies. It is also often employed by fire-fighting agencies, charity foundations. Occasionally, corporate bodies also employ social marketing.

Charity foundations often carry out social marketing to indulge people in donating funds for the less privileged. Government agencies, health and emergency units use this marketing strategy to encourage people to engage in safe practices like wearing of seat belts, avoiding alcohol before driving, driving below speed limit, etc.

Large corporations also employ social marketing to encourage people take part in donating to the charity foundations they support.

Who are the target audience?

Simply speaking, the target audience of a social marketing campaign is the society at large. It then depends on the specific society in question, whether local or global.

A social marketing campaign may be directed at the behavior of people regarding local issues, or it may be directed at changing the world.

Social marketing offers individuals an opportunity to actualize an inherent desire they never knew they had: the desire to change and do good — to make a difference. When individuals change habits for the better or are involved in contributions, they develop a feeling of self-worth. This is a major benefit of social marketing.