First, apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien and Bilbo Baggins for borrowing for the title of this post and the following wisdom: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
I haven't blogged in a long time, in part because it is hard for me to make the time to write a coherent blog, and in part because my work over the last year has taken me away from social marketing and more into social media. But my road is now turning my back towards social marketing! (Social media is important, and it has a huge role to play in "making a dent in the universe" for good. However, social marketing is still the mother science for me.)
My travels have provided me with many observations and opportunities to reflect on both social media and social marketing.
We spend too much time shooting informational spitballs at people and hoping they will stick.
We're not pursuing the engagement that is both the promise and the provenance of social media.
We think data and statistics are "King" when it comes to the content of our social media posts.
Everything we post is just so exciting! Every line contains at least one exclamation point!!!!
We jump to social media as a tactic. We seem genetically incapable of thinking strategically first. Just do something. We will figure out the audiences and the goals later.
Discussion of social marketing as a topic on listservs, Twitter, blogs and other channels seems dead. Even those channels and authors who were dedicated to social marketing are moribund. They seem to have turned more to discussions of digital technology.
In academia, there is GREAT interest among students for courses about social marketing, and the demand is growing. I consistently have requests to take my course from more students than I can accommodate
In the classes I teach, there are some excellent nascent social marketers! And their numbers seem to be growing. (The world will be in good hands!)
On the dark side academically, my students come in seemingly having been taught the same old, tired theories about behavior change that have been around since I was in graduate school. Students seem to have no knowledge of emerging areas of scholarship that affect the way we view behavior change, such as neuromarketing.
They all seem to come in having drank the public-health Kool-Aid (how I hate that phrase, but it's apprpriate here) of communication–only approaches. If we only give people enough information, if we keep throwing it at them more loudly, they will become AWARE--Aha!--and make decisions to do the healthy thing. Ah yes, humans as rational actors! And no, I have no strong feelings about that.
So wither social marketing?
Well, we shall see. I still believe in it. I still believe it is the most effective framework to create the conditions to make individual and society level changes and make this world a better place. And the USF 23rd Social Marketing Conference starts today! It will be instructive to see what it holds. (Plus, a great opportunity to feed my head, and to feed my soul by being with my tribe!) And wait! There's a session on the future of social marketing! Well, we've been gazing at that navel for as long as I've been in social marketing. So downstairs and to breakfast...and here we go!