I sat in yesterday on a great webchat, hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, with Nedra Kline Weinreich. The beginning of the chat featured a commenter misusing a term which gets thrown around carelessly, leading to much confusion about what’s what. So, let me start off by reminding knowledge translators about three crucial distinctions:
Social marketing is… the use of traditional, analytical marketing tools (audience analysis, surveys, focus groups, product positioning) to achieve a change for social good (stop smoking, exercise more, etc.).
Social media is… Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FourSquare, YouTube, Orkut. “Poking.” “Liking.” Sharing photographs, videos, and family stories. Re-connecting with high school classmates you haven’t talked with in 30 years, and re-discovering exactly why it is that you haven’t talked with them in 30 years.
Social media marketing is… the use of social media venues in ways both subtle and obvious to sell soda, candy, automobiles, fashion, etc., OR to bolster the effects of a social marketing campaign (“Click Like” if you think Cigarettes Suck).
Back to the webchat. Nedra made some great points about market analysis that are directly applicable to knowledge translation. Whether you’re a traditional marketer or a social marketer, your first step is to get to know your audience intimately. What do they read, watch, and listen to? What’s important to them? What kinds of stories move them emotionally?
So, when you’re ready to move your research beyond the academic journal and do real knowledge translation, you have to be prepared to answer these questions: Who exactly do I want to reach? What do I want them to do? What kind of story can I tell that will be important to them? What resources are available to me for knowledge translation (not only funding, but also people and talent)?
Social marketing, which is generally viewed by people in academia as “that promotional stuff that people at the CDC do,” has much to teach us about our knowledge translation efforts at the research end. I’ll discuss this more in upcoming blog entries.