How to Use Social Marketing without Coming Across as Virtue Signaling

Does your company care deeply about societal issues? Do you want to make a difference in the lives of the communities you serve? It may be time to weave social marketing into your business practices. Social marketing is a marketing initiative or campaign that utilizes social issues to unite people. We call this approach Super-Aspirational because it makes us all want to be better as a society. But how do you accomplish this without coming across as virtue signaling — trying too hard to openly win praise or admiration?

What Is Social Marketing?

First, it is important to understand what social marketing is. Social marketing has a different motivating force behind it than product or service-centric marketing. Instead of focusing on encouraging people to buy only, you’re also trying to influence behavior change on a mass scale. By focusing on one or more societal issues, and taking a stance as a company, it helps people to identify with the values presented. This doesn’t stop at raising awareness, however. Social marketing involves implementing actual sustainable change that will make a difference not just now, but in the future.

Choosing Your Cause

However passionate your company may feel about global social issues, you cannot adopt every cause into social marketing campaign. Doing so would lead to overly ambitious messaging that would come across as either vague or convoluted. In order for your campaign to be truly effective, you must pinpoint the one cause your company feels most passionate about. Ask yourself these four questions:

  • Which cause speaks to the internal team?
  • Is there a personal connection to the founder that rings true?
  • Have you learned of something your audience is asking you to take a stance on (outwardly or implicitly)
  • Might there be a core feature of your product or service that solves for a human need that also has greater societal benefit?

The best advice here is to stay inside your lane and get involved with something you (as a company) actually care about. That way, your words will come across as authentic, as intended, without seeming like pandering. No matter which cause you choose, your company should have a direct correlation.

Let Your Actions Speak for Themselves

In order to get others to care about your company’s chosen social issue, you cannot just repeat the same mantra over and over again. Let your actions speak for themselves. Be a visible presence in the community. Sponsor livestreams with activists and thought leaders. Be vocal on social media with considered and articulate content. Doing so will show your customers that you are unwavering in your dedication — so much so that you are trying to influence change in the world, not just move more units than competitors.

At first, social marketing may seem like virtue signaling. But over time, with demonstrated commitment, you have the power to change people’s perceptions about themselves and their behavior. One post expressing sympathy or solidarity won’t do it. Your company can make a difference, but you have to step it up.

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