What is social marketing and how can your company get started in this new market? The social network is indeed an ingenious concept, one that is seemingly mastered by both the experienced Internet marketing expert and the average 12-year-old girl who effortlessly befriends hundreds or even thousands of contacts. Yes, it’s so easy to start a social networking page…but mastering the art of the online conversation and piquing the interest of your followers/friends with each and every post remains a psychologically complex assignment.
No wonder large companies will spend thousands of dollars in salary bringing on an experienced social network “expert”—someone who knows precisely how to manage a social media campaign. Nevertheless, what we know about social media as evidenced by many overnight “viral” success stories created by complete amateurs, is that it is a very open-ended business, and one with much room for creativity, originality and even some experimentation.
Social Marketing is Different from Social Media Networking
It may surprise you to learn that social marketing is not the same definition as social networking or social media marketing—although the two terms are often used interchangeably. Social marketing has origins in traditional marketing theory; specifically, in the achievement of specific goals for a greater social good. Social marketing by strict definition is socialistic or humanitarian; it focuses on how to help the society as a whole.
Understand that the concept behind social networking is nothing new. While the official “discovery” of this science traces back to the 1970s (where men by the name of Kotler and Zaltman laid down the foundation of social marketing principles), the actual psychological concepts date back even farther—perhaps as far back as the 1950s when G. D. Weibe asked, “Why can’t you sell brotherhood and rational thinking like you can sell soap?” Actually, people take “social marketing” as its own entity quite seriously; the Shaklee Coorporation trademarked the term “Social Marketing”, as distinct from social networking.
Traditional marketing believes in a system of four P’s. Namely, product, price, place and promotion. These principles can be adapted within the social marketing industry online. For example, new age teachings on modern marketing (of which social media is a huge avenue) state that product does not have to be a literal item. Rather, storeowners focus on the product becoming viable and need-oriented. Customers must be told they have a problem, and the universal product (which could be a variety of individual items) is the solution. Perception of the problem is paramount here.
Social marketing “price” is not really about supply and demand, not in modern social media, but has more to do with what the customer is willing to do in exchange for the marketing product. Sometimes that price is monetary, but sometimes it has more to do with time or effort invested, or perhaps even a social sacrifice in terms of embarrassment or disapproval. You as the marketer must imagine the plight of the customer and determine if the benefits of the product will outweigh the price. When it comes to place, place merely means the distribution system chosen by the marketer, including the logistics of tangible products as well as intangible products. Lastly, promotion refers to the visibility of social media marketing, which includes the subtle promotions that you do integrate with the social club, including public relations, advertising, and other ways to create demand for the product.
The Psychology of Social Networking
Of course, even the concept of social networking (and Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and the like) predate all of the billionaire sites you know and love today. Mixing business and pleasure dates back to the beginning of capitalism and writing itself. Writers have always had to self-market their own careers, mingling with others and making connections, long before they became “best sellers.” (Particularly authors who lived before the modern marketing age, and could only be published by small literary presses—or even self-funding) Meanwhile, retail companies have been investing their efforts in charity events, fundraisers and promotional giveaway for a long time. These “social” investments (sometimes commercially based, sometimes devised with social marketing and charity in mind) do actually work wonders for establishing name brand and customer loyalty for the long-term.
Social marketing is basically the fusing together of five distinct formulas for success:
- The idea of “networking”, creating connections and making friends and acquaintances with as many people as possible;
- The idea of selling attitudes, behaviors and “brand” as opposed to just products;
- The idea of projecting success to others and thus attracting positive things to you
(“The law of attraction” concept, an eastern philosophy stressing positive thinking as a means to control one’s destiny);
- The idea of identifying the needs of your audience and giving them the incentive they want; and
- The idea of online discussions via popular social networking sites.
All of these themes are encompassed in social media networking. By strict definition, social marketing is online behavior designed to influence social behaviors and benefit the target audience. The main point of this avenue is that “hard sales” technique is forbidden; instead, all focus goes to the consumer—on creating a great customer experience, in as exactly what the customer wants without the need for “persuasion.” More time is spent in research and in delivering the customer expectation. Then, instead of persuading the customer to believe the company directive, the covert salesperson simply “projects” the image of success, which in turn attracts new buyers to the product or the company.
Combining the Best of Social Marketing and Social Media
Of course, social marketing and social networking can often interact, as charity organizations must actively market their brand as a commercial company might. Without an aggressive marketing campaign, even a worthy cause (such as in social marketing) could be forgotten in the midst of intense competition.
Social marketing and social networking can and should intertwine, as these social media sites can help company owners to promote their agenda, publicize their name, and more importantly than anything else, help to “network” with the local and extended community.
You are always walking a fine line when you participate in social media marketing or social media—trying to inform or entertain the customer, and trying to put his or her needs over your own. The main point here is that it’s imperative to put some thought into planning an agenda, a specific direction and a goal achievement plan so that you can build a find foundation of trust with your viewers.