The difference between social marketing, social media marketing, and cause marketing.

I was about to do a blog series on social marketing. But then I realized a lot of people online are confusing it with social media. Social marketing is marketing that builds awareness about a social issue and works to change people’s behaviors or attitudes for the public good. Like wear a condom, don’t smoke, get a mammogram, recycle and save the endangered bats.

With the advent of social media, a lot of people are misusing a phrase that has been around for decades. Social media is conversation between people and consumers and brands through blogs, social networks like Facebook and Twitter etc. Social media marketing uses these interactive social platforms to build their brands and consumer fan base.

While Cause Marketing, is where for-profit corporations team up with non-profit corporations and create a win-win for both to build business and raise money and awareness.

So while social marketing can use social media as a tactic, social media and social marketing refer to two very different things. And while social marketing and cause marketing are similar and both raise awareness, the former is about changing behaviors, the latter is about partnering to raise money for the cause and the corporate partner.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, I can start my series on my top 20 social marketing creative campaigns. To be continued…

Comments 12 Add yours below

Great explanation Laurie! I posted this on my facebook for others to read!

Thank you for spreading the word on this! Too many people don't know the difference.

Totally awesome - having too many arguments about social marketing and social media marketing, two great ways to work but so not the same thing. Social media is just one possible part of the social marketing mix. Looking forward to the next 20 installments!


Thanks Nancy and Tim for the support. I am still compiling my list of great social marketing campaigns--any suggestions, send on!
I found also a great blog on the big idea vs. social media, you may be interested in.

Laurie, Great clarification. One particular clever social marketing campaign came to mind. A U.K. campaign on tanning beds and skin cancer. The campaign used a fake TV commercial that promoted computer-tanning software that would allow one to tan in front of their computer screen, only to lead eager potential customers to a Web site about the adverse effects of UV exposure. Thanks!

Great to see a social media community leader such as yourself mention the difference. I'm seeing way too many "social media marketing" courses, workshops and certificates being offered that mistakenly use the term "social marketing". That being said, traditional social marketers could use a lesson or two from "social media" community engagement. Maybe that way this niche field could establish itself in mainstream online discussion before being completely trampled over by "social media" entrepreneurs. I find myself in a unique position as a hybrid (i.e. both a social marketer and social media strategist). Interesting times ahead...

Thanks for the comment, Mike. It is surprising that few in the social media marketing world knew social marketing already owned the phrase! Oh well, people are slowing calling swine flu H1N1 so maybe there is hope!

Short, sweet and too the point! Thanks!

Thank you very much for this explanation. I thought I had the correct differentiation of the two and I was correct.

Cool. Thanks for clearing the concept. I was also confused about this 2 terms. Thanks again for this type of informative article. Best of Luck!

Hi Laurie,
Great article explaining the key differences between social marketing and social media marketing. I see that many people, and even many marketers, use both terms as if they meant the same, but that is not the case. Thanks for sharing it, because your explanation goes straight to the point.

Hi Laurie,

Excellent explanation! This post is worth sharing so that anyone can learn to differentiate between these 3 terms. I must admit that I didn’t know what Cause marketing was, but now I do. In addition to these, Internet marketing has also become widely popular nowadays, and that’s exactly what we are writing about on our blog Prospected ( Feel free to check it out.


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