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Tuesday, 10 February 2015 18:51

Social Marketing for Animals vs. Social Media Marketing for Animals: Is There a Difference?

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When many people hear the term “social marketing” they imagine Facebook, Twitter, and the ever-growing world of social networks, which are increasingly used for targeted and effective marketing. However, “social media marketing” and “social marketing” are actually two different things. While “social marketing” might include social media as an outreach tool, social marketing can also utilize traditional communications channels. So, what is social marketing exactly and how does it apply to animals?

cow“For our purposes, we can define social marketing as the use of commercial marketing approaches to influence people to voluntarily adopt a behavior that helps animals.” Caryn Ginsberg, Animal Impact

Virtually everyone is familiar with traditional marketing campaigns employed by companies and large corporations. Many of these campaigns turn everyday people into customers who buy the company’s products or services. The idea behind social marketing is that the same marketing principles may be employed to successfully convince everyday people to adopt new ideas, attitudes or behaviors.

Social marketing is used in a wide range of health and social justice-related fields, but can be enormously useful in advocating for animals as well. As advocates, the vast majority of the work we do involves behavioral change of some kind, from encouraging people to to spay or neuter, change their eating habits, or simply to treat animals with compassion. Implementing social marketing into your advocacy strategy can help you use your resources more effectively while at the same time improving the success of your campaigns.

Four major components of social marketing for the benefit of animals include:

  • Choosing a specific behavior that is responsible for animal welfare problems.
  • Clearly identifying and understanding your target audience and which of their behaviors you are interested in changing.
  • Understanding what costs and barriers exist for your target audience in changing their behavior, and determining how you can create benefits that offset these costs and barriers.
  • Measuring the success of your campaign, and modifying it so that you keep the elements that are working and discard the ones that are not.

A company selling a product would use this model by choosing who they want to buy its product, understanding why this audience does not buy the product, and then working to make buying its product more appealing than not buying the product. Similarly, by using these principles, your organization will be able to understand the problems that prevent your audience from adopting your desired behavior, and will be placed in the position to alleviate or solve that problem and make your desired behavior more appealing than alternatives.

The concept of social marketing holds great potential for reducing negative behaviors which contribute to animal suffering. In upcoming blogs, we will explore different aspects of social marketing and highlight resources that may be of interest to organizations looking to implement social marketing strategies into their own work, so be sure to check back soon!

Has your organization had success using a social marketing strategy? If so, we would love to hear about it, and might even highlight your strategy on the blog! Let us know in the comments below or by emailing us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photo credit: "Cow Number 5577" by Tim Sackton. Used under CC-BY SA 2.0

Jessica Bridgers

Jessica is the Executive Director at World Animal Net. Having received a B.S. in biology with minors in chemistry and anthropology from the University of New Mexico, she combines a scientific background with a passion for animal protection. She completed her M.S. in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts University and internships with Humane Society International, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society before arriving at World Animal Net. In her free time, she volunteers with horse and wildlife rescues. 


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