Old vs. New: The Evolution of the Term Social Marketing

Old vs. New: The Evolution of the Term Social Marketing marquee

As many of you know, Marketo just released our brand new Definitive Guide to Social Marketing, which touches on everything a modern marketer needs to know about creating a comprehensive social strategy. Back in 2010, we released the Definitive Guide to B2B Social Media. As trends in the social media space change so rapidly, when we sat down to create the new version, we decided to re-name it The Definitive Guide to Social Marketing, as the term “social marketing” fit with the holistic strategy that we discuss in the guide. Social media just seemed like too narrow of a term, more of a channel or a tactic, and social media needs to be viewed as much broader than just posting on Facebook or Twitter.

Since publishing, there have been inquiries about the actual definition of the term “social marketing”, and I thought I would take a minute to open the discussion and explain how we believe social marketing is applicable to the increasingly social world that we marketers find ourselves in.

Kotler’s Definition of Social Marketing
The original definition of social marketing was coined in the 1970s by Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman to describe a marketing technique seeking “to influence social behaviors not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit society”. An example of this might be an anti-tobacco campaign or health services. This definition of social marketing was originally actualized before the term “social” applied to marketing in a technological sense, and it is still used today by many to describe this particular facet of marketing.

The Evolution of the Term Social Marketing
Over time, as social channels have become paramount to every marketer’s toolkit, the term social marketing has taken on a new meaning that has been widely adopted and accepted within the modern marketing world. At Marketo, we define social marketing as the strategy of including social channels in every aspect of your marketing. In our guide we state “social is more than just a channel or a tactic, it is a strategy that has to be present in every aspect of your marketing”. In this case, social marketing refers to the the practice of infusing your entire marketing strategy with social elements. We believe that the term social media marketing just isn’t accurate to how marketers should be using social channels in their marketing. To define what a social strategy strictly in the terms of social media is quite limiting.

So, who else is using social marketing in this way? Mashable uses it in a recent article titled How to Choose the Right Social Marketing Platform, Awareness Inc put out a recent study called 2012 Social Marketing & New Media Predictions featuring insights on social from 34 business and b2b marketing leaders, and when you search for social marketing in Amazon you will find a mix of content that focuses social media in addition to the traditional definition of the term. Also, there are a slew of applications popping up that call themselves Social Marketing Platforms, such as Extole, Vitrue, and Wildfire. And this is only to name a few examples. Clearly, the new definition of social marketing has taken hold.

It seems that many companies and marketers have taken the traditional term of social marketing and have begun evolving it to fit a concept that far surpasses the idea of social media marketing. But, can the two definitions of social marketing exist simultaneously? I believe that they can. It is clear that the Kotler definition of social marketing for the inducing social change still is widely used in the sphere of marketing health communities. However, as the definition of marketing itself has changed over the years, the definition of social marketing has also begun to shift. And this new definition has become widely accepted as part of the marketing tech revolution that we all find ourselves in.

Do you think that the definition of social marketing will continue to evolve over time? We would love to hear your thoughts!