Social Marketing: Testing, Dissemination, and Evaluation

Social Marketing: Testing, Dissemination, and Evaluation

Conducting and analyzing pre-implementation research and performing post-implementation evaluation are essential to social marketing campaign success.

This article is the third in a series of articles on social marketing. To begin at the beginning, click here to read the first article.

So you’ve researched your target audience and its attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors. You’ve segmented your audience and crafted relevant messages you’re sure will resonate. You’ve developed a robust plan to spread your message to your target audience by using multiple channels and media outlets. And you’ve created attention-grabbing, thought-provoking materials with a compelling call to action.

You’re ready to go, right?

Not quite.

Test Your Campaign

Before you rush to disseminate your campaign, you should test it on representatives of your target audience. Focus groups are a common way to test materials, but you can also ask individuals in the communities where your target audience lives and plays to get first-hand testimonial input.

Testing accomplishes the following:

  • Ensure the audience comprehends the messages: Written copy may be too wordy or the voice on the radio spot may be too masculine to appeal to your audience.
  • Detect other interpretations of your messages: Campaign slogans may be clever to some, yet offensive to others.
  • Identify details that subvert the message: The background music may be too loud, the background images too distracting, or the colors too garish.
  • Make the materials more appealing: Reactions to the look of your materials can help prompt you to brighten up or tone down colors, change a typeface, or remove an image.
  • Catch costly mistakes: Finding an error or misinterpreted phrase during the testing phase can help you avoid completely redoing unusable materials after production.

You may get lucky and find your audience loves everything you’ve created, but usually there are a least a few learnings that prompt changes. If you receive a number of suggestions, you may need to test your revised materials to ensure the adjustments achieved your objectives.

While you won’t be able to appeal to everyone in your target audience, you should make the changes that will give the campaign the greatest chance of success.


While the campaign dissemination phase of social marketing may feel like the time you can kick back and let everything work, this phase has some critical components to maximize effectiveness.

Radio ads need to be tracked to determine if they’re airing during the correct time slots to reach your audience. Posters, brochures, and other materials need to be counted, monitored, and tracked to ensure they are getting picked up and that distribution sites aren’t running out.

Channels and distribution locations should be evaluated during the campaign implementation phase to determine effectiveness. Many channels, such as radio stations, print publications, and billboard advertising, offer flexibility within a media buy, allowing you to change to a sister radio station, run ads in a different magazine, or use a billboard on another street.

Campaign dissemination is also the phase when you should implement a public relations plan to try and garner some attention on your social marketing campaign and earned media. The topics of behavior change and healthier behaviors are interesting to reporters and editors and your social marketing campaign’s unique approach may get your campaign media attention, which, in the social-media era, could give you a greater reach than you ever imagined.

Evaluate Your Campaign

The final step to a social marketing campaign is evaluation. Did you accomplish your goals and objectives?

To effectively assess a social marketing campaign, you should evaluate the outcomes, process, and impact:

  • Process evaluation helps you gain a greater understanding of what actually happened during the course of implementation and can help you improve implementation during the campaign and for future campaigns.
  • Outcome evaluation identifies the extent of attitude and behavior change in the target audience and correlates it with individual exposure to the campaign. If you administered surveys to your target audience during your formative research, administer the same surveys to your target audience and compare the results to determine attitude or behavior change.
  • Impact evaluation makes the leap from behavior change to health and social outcomes. This type of evaluation determines whether the people who adopt the behavior promoted by the social marketing program experience a subsequent reduction in morbidity or mortality (or improvement in quality of life) related to the overall goal of the program. Unfortunately, the actual impact of the campaign is often difficult to assess accurately and in a timely fashion, as some of the problems that are tackled in social marketing will not appear for many years (such as lung cancer or heart disease).

This is the third in a series on social marketing. Read our first article in the series on social marketing by clicking here. Our final article in this series is on how social marketing can be applied to B2B marketing. Want to get these articles as they come out? Sign up for our monthly news bites e-mails.

Photo courtesy of tiramisustudio/

Posted: Aug 12, 2015
Updated: Oct 09, 2019
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