Nedra Weinreich, Spare Change Blog
Nedra Weinreich was one of the first nonprofit tagged blogs that I discovered while browsing the blogher blogroll a few months back. She works with nonprofits and government agencies to bring about health and social change using social marketing. She is the founder and president of Weinreich Communications, and wrote a book called "Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide."
She writes the Spare Change Blog which I think is one of the best out there that focuses on social marketing. Her articles are informative, well written, and provide good context. Take for example her write up on Games for Change. As you'll note from that article, Nedra has also been exploring Second Life and we bumped into each other at the TechSoup space there where we completed our interview.
1. In addition to your consulting practice and the book, can you tell me a little more about yourself.
My background is in public health, with an interest in using the mass media to help bring about healthy behavior change. I’ve been teaching a course on social marketing at the UCLA School of Public Health, which has been a fun experience for me. And I have my blog, Spare Change, which I just started in January. (I also discovered during our interview that Nedra plays the cello!)
2. Why did you start blogging?
A year or so ago, I did not think that blogging would ever be something I would want to do, but I kind of fell into it and now I’m hooked! My social marketing colleague Craig Lefebvre, who has a blog (On Social Marketing and Social Change), asked me to expand some comments I had made on the Social Marketing Listserve as a guest blogger. After that, I found myself reading things and thinking “This would make a great blog post!” So I decided to start my own blog to help people see how social marketing concepts can be applied to their own health and social issues, as well as to have credibility when I tell my clients to consider using blogging and social media. A wonderful side benefit is all of the new friends and colleagues I have met as a result of writing the blog and commenting on other blogs.
3. What is your (simple) definition of social marketing? What makes a successful social marketer?
Unfortunately, the term “social marketing,” which has been used since the early 1970s to refer to a specific marketing discipline, is being hijacked to mean something else entirely with the rise of things like social network marketing. Social marketing is actually the use of commercial marketing techniques to promote behaviors that will bring about positive health or social change — the same tools that companies like Apple or Nike would use.
A successful social marketer is someone who really gets to know their audience — what are they thinking, feeling and doing in relation to the health or social issue you are promoting? What are their core values that you can tap into to motivate them to adopt healthy or pro-social behaviors? I think to be successful, you also need to follow a systematic process for developing your social marketing strategy. For example, rather than starting by saying “We need to establish a presence for our organization in Second Life,” begin with an assessment of who exactly you are trying to reach and where they can be found. Perhaps most of your target audience members are not technologically savvy and don’t spend much time online beyond checking their e-mail. Some sort of research — whether formal, like focus groups and surveys, or informal is imperative in order to create an effective strategy.
When nonprofits and government agencies want to create change on a large scale, they’ve traditionally relied on education as their main method — giving people all the facts and showing them why taking a particular action is in their best interest or is good for society in general. Sometimes this approach works, but more often it falls flat and is ineffective. People generally know what it is that they SHOULD be doing, but what they ACTUALLY do is often related to things beyond the rational side of their brain. Successful social marketers tap into people’s emotions, highlighting the real or intangible benefits that are most important to them. So, for example, while a rational reason for breastfeeding might be that it provides beneficial nutrients and antibodies, a campaign to promote the practice might be more effective if it builds on a woman’s desire to be a good mother and provide the best for her baby, or if it highlights the bonding between mother and baby that its physical closeness promotes.
4. How can blogs and other social media be used to support social marketing strategies?
I think blogs are a great way to draw people in to an issue by connecting with a real person who writes about their day-to-day experience. If the blogger is someone similar to members of your target audience, and is a good role model in terms of adopting the behavior you are promoting (or even showing their struggle and difficulties with doing something, such as quitting smoking, assuming they eventually are successful), that can be very powerful.
And giving people a forum to create their own blogs, creating a community around an issue, can be empowering and life-changing for people who have not previously connected with others going through the same things as themselves. I think everyone wants to be heard and have their experience validated, and we can provide a platform for this to happen, connected with a broader social marketing program. Of course, we can also have an “official” blog created by the social marketing program itself, talking about issues related to the campaign, but I think it is so much more powerful to let the audience talk to each other.
Outside of blogs, I think that anything that facilitates word of mouth can be very effective. When your friend or family member sends you information and invites you to become part of the campaign, you are much more likely to want to be involved than if a stranger contacts you. The key is in figuring out what would be the big draw that people would want to share with their circle of friends, whether it’s new information that’s relevant to their lives, an interesting or funny video clip, an event or social movement that they want to make a difference in...
5. I see that you’ve been exploring Second Life and avatar marketing – do you see any possibilities for nonprofits and social causes?
Sheva Weeks (Nedra Weinreich in RL)
I am fascinated by Second Life and the unlimited possibilities it offers for social marketing. I think the technology needs to improve before it becomes more widespread, but when it does I think it may well become the “third place” that people hang out in that’s not home or work. The key difference between using SL and other online channels for marketing is that SL is so experiential. You can create or simulate an experience that can evoke an emotional response from a visitor, as they have done with Camp Darfur. I’ve also been interested in watching what the American Cancer Society has done with its virtual walk-a-thon in Second Life. Other in-world possibilities include things like virtual one-on-one counseling, conferences, protests, benefit concerts, education centers, contests — you name it and I bet it will eventually be done.
6. Aside from your blog, what do you think are the best blogs out there on this topic?
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of other bloggers writing specifically about social marketing. Here are the best of what I am aware of out there, including some nonprofit marketers that often have relevant posts:
- On Social Marketing and Social Change by Craig Lefebvre
- Katya Andresen, author of Robin Hood Marketing and VP at Network for Good, has a blog on Amazon at
- npMarketing blog by Marc Sirkin
- Selfish Giving
- Also see Nedra's post Five Resources for Social Marketing