I’ve had all I can stands and I can’t stands no more. – Popeye
Social marketing. It’s brand-new, word-of-mouth, viral, social networking, blogging, buzzing, consumer-generated media, right?
Looking at Technorati results, you would think that “social marketing” is all about the use of new media, social networking and Web 2.0 applications. Because bloggers have these things on their minds, not surprisingly, they write about them. But increasingly they are using the term “social marketing” as a catch-all phrase to describe what I would call “social network marketing.”
Google the term. You’ll see that the phrase “social marketing” already has a very specific meaning. I would define it as the use of marketing techniques to bring about positive behavior change related to health and social issues. You have to go through five pages of search results that follow that definition before you come across a link to Forrester Research, which offers a “Social Marketing Boot Camp” on “new technologies like blogs, social networking, and RSS.”
Even people who should know better, like Chris Perry (Sr. VP at PR company Weber Shandwick), who says “he has followed the social marketing movement through the Going Social blog since 2002,” are using the term incorrectly. CMO Magazine (“the resource for marketing executives”) ran a story called “Social Marketing in Four Flavors,” which talks solely about word of mouth, blogs, RSS and podcasting. And the Association of Internet Marketing and Sales is offering an event called “Social Marketing: Tapping Into The Power Of Connected Customers” that is clearly not about bringing about social change, but bigger profits. I have found many other examples as well.
Keeping these two marketing subdisciplines distinct and clearly defined is in everyone’s best interest. Imagine the confusion that someone searching for information on blogging or word of mouth marketing would have if they googled “social marketing.” There is not a useful link for miles around in Google distance. Likewise, I am constantly frustrated as I search for others writing on my kind of social marketing in the blogosphere. Everyone is better off if the term keeps the meaning it has had for a quarter century, rather than having the new definition propagate until nobody knows what anyone else is talking about.
This is not to say that social marketing does not or should not use the many useful tools offered by social network marketing. But they are not one and the same.
So, new “social marketers,” please continue the great work you are doing. But let’s come up with a new term to use – whether it’s “social network marketing,” “consumer-generated media,” “social media,” “word of mouth marketing” or anything else you prefer.
But leave us our one small piece of semantic real estate.