How Gen Y is redefining "Social Marketing".

Last month I wrote about the recent shifts in the local marketing industry here in Kelowna, BC, including the implicit and explicit shifts in positioning of two local agencies. Those in the business of social change are now well catered for. But what exactly is “Social Marketing”? It’s something to do with the recent surge of online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter – right?

Nope.

Well… not traditionally anyway. The terms are now commonly confused. So let’s play pick-a-word:

Social Marketing : a commonly used definition is that “Social Marketing is a process that applies marketing principles and techniques to create, communicate, and deliver value in order to influence target audience behaviours that benefit society (public health, safety, the environment and communities) as well as the target audience. (Philip Kotler, Nancy Lee and Michael Rothschild).

Social Media : a commonly used definition is that “Social Media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein).

Social Media Marketing : again, a commonly used definition (from Wikipedia) is that “Social media marketing is a term that describes the use of social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis or any other online collaborative media for marketing, sales, public relations and customer service. Common social media marketing tools include Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.”

So… using these definitions you could say “Social Marketing strategies can be implemented through the tactical use of Social Media”. But saying “We will increase your company’s profits though Social Marketing vehicles” would be wrong. There’s a great rundown of Social Media definitions in this article by Nedra Weinreich.

Easy huh! Well… no… it isn’t. It’s confusing. As this article by Matt Peters points out:

“In my experience types of marketing are named for methodology and medium, not for their goal. “Direct marketing” is marketing directly to individuals. “Email marketing” is marketing using email for distribution. “Television advertising” is advertising using television for distribution. Each of these examples shows the adjective preceding “marketing” to refer to the method or means.

This, then, leads me to wonder why the term “social marketing” was ever used to refer to marketing for the purpose of social good. It is in contrast to the overarching (though unofficial) naming conventions of marketing types. By this convention, “guerilla marketing” would be marketing to or for the benefit of small groups of combatants who like to ambush a lot.”

It’s an excellent point.

Also, consider the following:

  • Language evolves. New words come in to use. New definitions are born. Words die. Definitions die.
  • A large determinant of linguistic change is the “circle of life” – one definition is used by younger generations, one by older generations. One definition dies off as that older generation does.
  • While Social Media is now multi-generational it really began with Gen Y.
  • The majority of Gen Y understand the term Social Media. They also understand the term Marketing.
  • Only a small minority of Gen Y understand the traditional definition of the term Social Marketing. Most of Gen-Y would equate “Social Marketing” with Social Media Marketing.

As Gen Y, with their definition of Social Marketing become more important members of the marketing industry and the economy in general, and Baby-Boomers retire, along with their definition of Social Marketing, those that use the term in its traditional context are in for a very frustrating time.

In my opinion, to say either use of the term is incorrect is, well, incorrect.

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Do you work in Social Marketing or Social Media – or in Marketing or Media in general? Do you have any input or comments on this topic? Please feel free to comment below!

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Useful Resources:

Social Edge – by Social Entrepreneurs, for Social Entrepreneurs: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Social Marketing University by Weinreich Productions: Website | Twitter | Facebook

News and Views on Social Marketing and Social Change: Website

Mashable – The Social Media Guide : Website | Twitter | Facebook

Social Media Today : Website | Twitter | Facebook

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“Language is by its very nature a communal thing; that is, it expresses never the exact thing but a compromise – that which is common to you, me, and everybody.”
Thomas Earnest Hulme.

7 Responses to “How Gen Y is redefining "Social Marketing".”

  1. James Shaw February 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm // Reply

    I whole-heartedly agree. To to make it even worse, people in the marketing industry often shorten the entire phrase “Social Media Marketing” to just “Social”. In the increasingly digital world, I think this definition is destined to dominate. (wow, that was a lot of d’s!) Anyway, case in point: marketers use the phrase “share to social” to talk about one person sharing information with another using various of online tools.

    #

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