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Since about 1998, when we were named the agency of record for Mississippi’s youth tobacco prevention and cessation campaign, a large part of our agency’s business has been devoted to social marketing. Meaning, we create campaigns that are designed to have a social impact.

Sometimes that means encouraging people to not do things that are unhealthy, unsafe or have a detrimental effect on society (smoking, teen pregnancy, underage drinking). Other times, we’re trying to encourage positive behaviors (childhood immunization, healthy diets, higher education).

Then along came MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and all the others. People started referring to those websites as “social media.” And pretty soon marketers came on board and starting talking about “social media marketing.” Often that got shortened, by mistake, to “social marketing.” You can see how this has gotten a bit confusing. Our agency offers both types of marketing services to our clients. We use social media marketing platforms for social marketing campaigns. Ugh.

Apparently, the market research company, Jupiter Research, holds some of the blame in this big mess. In 2006, they launched their Social Marketing Research Service, despite the protests of social marketers. Forrester Research made a similar mistake but then later corrected it. Then in 2008, Forrester acquired Jupiter. But, by that point, it was already common to use the terms social media marketing and social marketing interchangeably.

At some point, hopefully, distinct names will evolve for each discipline. But, for now, get used to some level of confusion. Just this week, a twitter user that focuses on social media sent out a tweet about our social marketing TV reel that we had uploaded to YouTube. And, of course, that tweet got retweeted by several other social media fans.

Maybe some of them are interested in social marketing, too.