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The Quick Guide to Social Marketing

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Not to be confused with social media marketing, social marketing is the act of changing behaviors of people.

For example, smoking cigarettes were once marketed as the “cool” thing to do. So, everyone smoked back then. It wasn’t connected to cancerous diseases until years later. And by that time, it took more marketing efforts to make buyers care.

But the health risks are real. Some companies in countries like Canada are required to incorporate rotting teeth, sick lungs, and large warnings on their cigarette packaging.

Why? For the government to influence the buying behavior of customers. In this case, to warn and make buyers think twice before picking up a pack of cigarettes. This is an example of social marketing at work.

Usually, it’s mostly health and government corporations who use social marketing, any company can incorporate it into their strategy.

While social marketing is not advertising, the two work together. Here’s a breakdown of how to implement this marketing strategy into your campaign, if applicable.

A breakdown to social marketing strategies

As said above, social marketing changes behaviors of a certain market.

But to implement changes, you’ve got to:

  • Decide what you want changed
  • Pinpoint your audience
  • Report why changes don’t happen naturally
  • Research solutions
  • Test solutions
  • Advertise solutions
  • And analyze results

It sounds tedious. But you’re trying to change how a group of people behaves. That’s not an easy feat.

But it’s also not as complicated as it first appears.

To break down each step, let’s create an example. Let’s say you want kids at the community park to stop littering; it’s ruining the appeal of the town (lowering real estate) and harmful to the environment.

Step 1: Targeting the market

You know what you want to be changed (no more littering). But who do you target?

First thought is the kids, of course. But…

  • Between what age?
  • What’s their household income?
  • Which location of town do they live?
  • What do they do in their free time?
  • How often do they frequent the park?

Saying the “neighborhood kids” is too broad. The more targeted your audience, the better the result. Consider creating a detailed buyer persona before continuing forward with social marketing.

Step 2: Report what’s not working

Next, you need to find out what’s preventing this change (no more littering) from happening in the first place.

  • Are there no garbage cans in the park?
  • Which other activities in the park could encourage littering?
  • Is there a food truck nearby, adding to the litter because of food packaging?

These are barriers which continue the habit. They need to be reduced to see change. Consider every angle and keep track of barriers preventing the change you want to see.

Step 3: Research, then research more

So how do you implement changes? By researching.

Contact the target market you researched in Step 1, if possible. Interview them to understand their mindset. Investigate the location to see the problem first hand. Google the location’s history. And ask others outside your target market if they’ve seen the problem in action (littering).

The point is to analyze and come up with solutions — the easier, the better — to change social behavior by researching the problem from every angle.

Step 4: Test your solution

With a solution (or two) in mind, bring it up to the people who will be affected. You can do this a number of ways including, but not limited to:

  • Talking to them in person
  • Using physical/digital surveys
  • Creating a Powerpoint
  • Sending brochures in the mail

Analyze the feedback before making any hard hitting decisions. If people don’t react the way you want them (positively) — listen to them. You need their input to successfully implement social marketing and to change their behavior.

Otherwise, you waste time and money on a solution no one will use, and their behavior will not change.

Step 5: Advertise your solution

You’ve got the plan, affirmative feedback, and the means to implement change. Now you need participation from your target market (the community kids).

You can do this via word of mouth, press releases (online or in the paper), sending a friendly email — basically, whichever channel your market responds to the best (you’d have found this in Step 4).

Now it’s time to collect data.

Step 6: Analyze the results

Because if the change you wanted didn’t happen, something needs to be altered. You don’t want to keep implementing the same process and not seeing the desired results (social marketing change).

Analyzing results are the key part of every type of marketing strategy; social marketing isn’t any different. But now, with this step-by-step guide, you can understand the key points to implement social marketing change successfully.

Image: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com