National Social Marketing Centre

What is social marketing?

Social marketing is an approach used to develop activities aimed at changing or maintaining people’s behaviour for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole. 

Combining ideas from commercial marketing and the social sciences, social marketing is a proven tool for influencing behaviour in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

It helps you to decide:

  • Which people to work with
  • What behaviour to influence
  • How to go about it
  • How to measure it

Social marketing is not the same as social media marketing. Find out more.

Approach

Social marketing is a systematic and planned process. It follows six steps

Six stages: Getting started, scope, develop, implement, evaluate, follow-up

Behaviour 

The goal of social marketing is always to change or maintain how people behave – not what they think or how aware they are about an issue. If your goal is only to increase awareness or knowledge, or change attitudes, you are not doing social marketing.

Benefits people and society 

This is the value – perceived or actual – as it is defined by the people who are targeted by a social marketing intervention. It is not what is assumed to benefit them by the organisation that is trying to encourage the behaviour change. 

THE PERSON people communities citizens customers consumers clients patients professionals politicians THE BEHAVIOUR (what people actually do) looking at what people do examining why they do it influences and influencers incentives and barriers

A social marketing approach

Even if you don’t take social marketing any further, just considering these four questions will add value to your projects and policies.

  1. Do I really understand my target audience and see things from their perspective? 
  2. Am I clear about what I would like my target audience to do? 
  3. For my target audience, do the benefits of doing what I would like them to do outweigh the costs or barriers to doing it? 
  4. Am I using a combination of activities in order to encourage people to achieve the desired action? 

How social marketing helps 

Strategic: policy, strategy, implementation - operational

Policy: social marketing helps to ensure policy is based on an understanding of people’s lives, making policy goals realistic and achievable. Policy example: water rationing in Jordan

Strategy: social marketing enables you to target your resources cost-effectively, and select interventions that have the best impact over time. Strategy example:  lung disease strategy in England

Implementation and delivery: social marketing enables you to develop products, services and communications that fit people’s needs and motivations. Delivery example: child car seats in Texas

Find out more

Read about the key features of successful behaviour change projects

Visit our Social Marketing Planning Guide

Social marketing vs social media marketing

 
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  • Want more?

    Download The NSMC's introductory Big pocket guide to social marketing

     
  • Inspiring training...

    The Social Marketing Summer School provided very thorough training in the basics of social marketing and was just what I needed to get acquainted with the methodology. It was professionally organised and very inspiring.

    Julie Huibregtsen - Municipal Health Service, Rotterdam

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  • Training

    The NSMC has trained over 10,000 people in social marketing. Find out about our world-class social marketing training and e-learning.

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Latest News & Events

30 March 2016

The NSMC Level 4 Social Marketing Award Course

We are currently planning the date of our next Level 4 Social Marketing Award. Keep on eye on our website for details of this course, or alternatively contact us directly and we will then let you know when the date has been organised.

The course is the only introduction to social marketing course accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and has been created from The NSMC's nine years' experience of delivering social marketing training courses with input from the accreditation unit at the CIM.

Read more

12 April 2015

NSMC is commissioned by SNV Netherlands to evaluate a water and sanitation programme in Cambodia

The NSMC has just won a major contract with the Netherlands Development Organisation SNV to evaluate one of their major water and sanitation programmes in southern Cambodia.  The WASH programme is aiming to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases through a combination of institutional capacity building and behaviour change interventions.  The evaluation project will begin in late April and will be conducting both qualitative and quantitative research in the southern part of the country to evaluate the impact of the WASH programme on rural communities.

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23 February 2015

NSMC wins new project in Kent to develop a social marketing plan to reduce the number of expectant mothers who smoke

The NSMC has just been awarded a new project helping Kent County Council to develop a social marketing plan to reduce smoking rates in pregnant women.  We will be working over the next months to co-develop a behaviour change intervention that resonates with our target audience and helps them to quit smoking for good.  We will keep you informed of how this exciting project is developing throughout March and April. 

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18 March 2014

Guest blog - Best practice for research programmes by Rachel Cope of MRUK

With a trend towards social marketing increasingly being used to inform policy and development of strategy, the need for actionable research has never been more important.  Here, I outline best practice to ensure that your research programmes can be put into action.

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21 February 2014

The Chartered Institute of Marketing New Social Marketing Award

 

What do young people crossing railways safely, stopping smoking for October, voting for a country to join FIFA, not using accident and emergency services and enrolling more students on a course have in common?

 

Read more

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