There is some confusion about what social marketing is and the myths abound. Well let me dispel the first myth about social marketing and say this it is not social media marketing. Social marketing is one of the oldest branches of marketing dating back to the 1960s and has its roots in the 1950s when Weibe asked the question in Public Opinion Quarterly “why can’t we sell brotherhood like soap”? Social marketing is the use of commercial marketing concepts (such as exchange, customer-orientation, competition and value) and tools (segmentation, marketing mix, processes) to address social issues such as alcohol abuse, condom use, obesity, road safety, domestic violence, water conservation and energy consumption. We sell good behaviours rather than softdrink or rental car services. Returning to the social marketing = social media myth, in the same way that commercial marketing uses social media as part of an overall marketing strategy, social marketing does the same. A good example is the way that the Swedes integrated Facebook and twitter with their safe sex program in the Condom08 program during the summer of 2011 http://www.adzag.co/tag/condom08/, so when you hear the term social marketing, think well beyond Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
The second myth is that social marketing = communication and advertising. In the same way that commercial marketing is not 1P marketing (there are other Ps in the marketers toolkit) social marketing is more than communication. The number of campaigns that label themselves as social marketing and then measure the effectiveness in terms of ad recall and attitude levels is frightening (some even win awards in the social marketing category on the sole basis of communication and not the full marketing mix). Social marketing is about behaviour change and that takes more than a mass media ad and SPLAT (some posters, leaflets and things). Social marketing involves the systematic development of the value offering (idea, service and/or any tangible goods), lowering the price to make it affordable (think barriers not just dollars), making access to the behaviour convenient and easy (place) and the very last thing we do is develop how we will communicate with the target market (promotion). So when you use or hear the term social marketing remember that just as commercial marketers can’t stand being referred to as ‘just advertising and sales’, neither can we.
President of the Australian Association of Social Marketing 2011-2014.