Social Marketing – Understanding its strategies and how it works

By 4 months agoLessons
social marketing concept

Social marketing, unlike the traditional or commercial marketing, is engineered to impact the social values of the public. This concept is different from other forms of marketing in that it is not primarily aimed at deriving financial returns.

Nevertheless, the social marketing concept is getting confused with other types of marketing, which are primarily established for financial interests. So this article is published to cover the ground for you. Here, you will have a better understanding of what social marketing actually encompasses, how it works, as well as its strategies and scope.

What should Social Marketing not be confused with?

Social marketing is the systematic approach that applies the theory, techniques, and skills from commercial marketing to drive positive social changes. The social marketing drive may include discouraging public smoking habit and social vices, keeping the safest speed limits, encouraging the members of the community to use seat belts, discouraging girl-child marriage, and much more.

However, social marketing should not be confused with other concepts, such as commercial marketing, social media marketing, and green marketing, which are primarily aimed at making financial profits. In order to have a good grasp of the scope of social marketing, we shall discuss the key elements of social marketing that distinguish it from the commercial marketing.

Key Elements of Social Marketing

The Primary Goal

It has the primary goal of achieving the common good or commonwealth, which entails the sharing of essential info and products that are beneficial for most or all the members of the target community.

Not Primarily Profit Oriented

As mentioned earlier, social marketing is unlike social media marketing, social marketing is not primarily designed for making financial profits.

Social Value Impact

This concept is designed to impact social values in terms of morals on individuals in the community. Such positive social effects include raising awareness that would improve the general community health and induce positive behavioral changes with the overall goal of driving social changes to the benefit of all.

Long-term customer engagement

Though social marketing may use the above-mentioned benefits to ensure a long-term customer engagement, yet the primary focus is on the social good but not on the secondary outcome (profit). In order to achieve this, the social marketer strives as much as possible to maintain a positive image in the community by keeping up with the required social responsibilities.

Mode of Realizing Organizational Goal

The organizational goal is realized from social benefits and consumer satisfaction. Hence, the emphasis is placed on voluntary and better exchange of goods and services between marketers and consumers.

Research Analysis

Formative audience research analysis is carried out to proffer better products, services, and message designs with effective and acceptable segmentation, communication, and distribution strategies. Hence, the messages are not always delivered to the general audience but to the target audience.

One-Voice Platform

It is the platform for connecting and guiding a community of like-minded people, who will, with one voice, enact positive social changes in the community; this is the power of the “Majority Rule.”

How does Social Marketing work

The basic way in which social marketing works is by influencing and establishing positive social behaviour. Social marketers employ a wide range of communication channels to disseminate their messages and reach the target audience with the ultimate goal of convincing them to adopt new attitudes and behaviours. Moreover, they have a set of general strategies that are skillfully designed for achieving positive behavioural changes in the community.

Key Social Marketing Strategies

Clear Understanding of the Behavioural Goal

In order to influence people’s actual behavior, there must be a deep knowledge and a clear understanding of their attitudes and beliefs as well as their emotional engagements. These will go a long way in setting specific behavioral goals and establishing research baselines and prime indicators that will get rid of information gaps. In order to make this effective, factors under an individual control, such as lifestyle, inclinations, and choices and the factors outside an individual control, such as environment, employment opportunities, and housing are considered.

Customer Orientation

Having known the behavioural pattern to be addressed, researches and local intelligence information are used to fully understand their lifestyles, attitudes, and beliefs. This is better achieved by employing a mix of research methods and data sources. For credible results, ethnographic techniques with qualitative and quantitative data analyses are deployed. Moreover, the people are not treated as research subjects but they will actively be involved in the research.

Harnessing Behavioural Theories

Once the vivid orientation of the target audience has been established, appropriate behavioural theories are identified as part of the pre-testing of the potential intervention approach. The theories will give a broader view of the target audience and the factors that greatly influence their behaviours.

Having the Clear Insight

An effective social marketing campaign is based on actionable insights. With accurate customer orientation, actionable insights that will lead to developing active interventions will be obtained. Developing insights should go beyond data. There should be the insight into the emotional and physical barriers; it is important that both barriers are simultaneously considered.


The benefits, as well as the cost of accepting and maintaining new behaviours, is considered so as to minimize the costs while maximizing the benefits. Hence, the perceived or actual benefits should be juxtaposed with the perceived or actual costs. Therefore, what is valuable to the target audience is determined, incentives and rewards are offered as an appreciation to the audience for accepting the offer. However, this is based on the findings obtained from the customer’s orientation and insight.

Competition for Attention

The next strategy is to examine and understand the factors that compete with the audience attention and inclinations to accepting the presented behaviour. This should encompass the internal competitions, such as enjoyment, pleasure, habit, and addiction, and the external competition, such as those promoting the negative behaviour as well as the positive influences that tend to gain the audience’s attention. Hence, strategies are developed to limit the potential influences that can compete with the exchange being offered.

Audience Segmentation

The one-size-fits-all approach does not work in social marketing. Segmentation is developed from the customer orientation and insight. Hence, the audience’s common characteristics are identified and the interventions are tailored appropriately. This also goes beyond the demographic, epidemiological and geographic targeting; psychographic and behavioural data are also employed.

Methods Mix

Single intervention approach is less effective than a multi-intervention approach. Therefore, a combination of intervention approaches is employed to bring about the behavioural change. One of these approaches is to incorporate all four Ps – designing an attractive “PRODUCT”; making the “PRICE” affordable; providing for its exchange in “PLACES” where it can reach the target audience; and “PROMOTE” the opportunity. Nevertheless, the central intervention approach, involving informing, educating and supporting the target audience by designing and controlling the exchange opportunity may be adopted.

Impact of Social Marketing – Category of people it reaches

Due to the primary goal of social marketing in impacting social good, all categories of people irrespective of their beliefs, age categories, demographics and geographic locations, are reached. These include:

  • Drivers: such as campaigns against drunk driving, seat belt laws, speed limit, and much more.
  • Teens: including social norming for teens, such as the ones that are driven against alcohol abuse and impaired driving.
  • Anti-smoking campaigns: for teens as well as adults.
  • Disease outbreak, prevention, and control awareness.
  • HIV/AIDS prevention: creating awareness and encouraging the use of condoms among casual partners.
  • Immunization coverage for infants.
  • Breastfeeding campaign among nursing mothers.
  • Family planning awareness and campaign.
  • The campaign against obesity, as well as health and fitness campaigns. And much more.

Business/Organizations that Use Social Marketing

All categories and sectors of businesses and organizations can employ social marketing to drive common social goals and also leverage it to their advantage. These organizations include:

  • The educational sectors at all levels
  • Health sectors
  • All government parastatals and agencies – law enforcement, immigration, intelligence, regulatory, agriculture, transport, health, security, and others.
  • Military
  • Forestry
  • Zoo – protecting endangered species
  • Natural resources and mining
  • Tourism
  • Road safety and maintenance
  • Environmental protection, etc.

How Social Marketing Increases Awareness about Humanity

The aim of social marketing is to call for awareness and bring about positive changes in the community. This is achieved in many ways, which include:

  • Dedicating local projects
  • Organizing local community discussions
  • Staging public campaigns
  • Distribution of handbills
  • Engaging stakeholders and collaborating with agencies
  • Staging peaceful protests
  • Placing adverts on radio, internet, and TV channels
  • Using social media posts, ads and campaigns
  • Face-to-face contact with the target audience
  • Educating volunteers from the target community to help reach the locals


Without a doubt, you will agree that social marketing is distinct from commercial marketing. Though it is not primarily profit-oriented, its strategies are effective at reaching the target consumers and achieving solid marketing leads with ease.

Rilind Elezaj

Rilind Elezaj

A digital marketing specialist with tons of knowledge in SEO.