Digital Marketing in Social Enterprises


Author and Contributor

Choi Sim So

In this Information Age, realizing the power of the Internet, some companies, irrespective of the sizes, locations or products, try to engage digital marketing in their strategies to promote their products/services and enhance their brand. Marketing strategies have undergone big changes since the past decade – from mostly offline to more and more online. However, this may not be the case for a specific group of companies – social enterprises.

According to Defourny & Nyssens (2010), the notion of social enterprise started to appear in 1990s in Europe and the United States. After about 20 years, now it is getting more attention in regions like Eastern Asia and Latin America. Social enterprises do not adopt e-marketing as much as normal companies owing to the limited resources and the targeted customers or service users who are generally those who need different kinds of help from the society. They may not be frequent users of the Internet via mobile phones, tablets and computers.

Despite the constraints, it is suggested the social companies employ entrepreneurial marketing which can be seen as in a more ad hoc and informal way if they are determined to address social problems (Shaw, 2004). One of the means in digital marketing may be considered a kind of entrepreneurial marketing in this sense. There seems to be a trend that social enterprises begin selling their products online. According to a survey done by Chan et al. (2011), 54% of the responded social enterprises in Taiwan and 25% in Hong Kong said that they used Internet sales on a specific website as one of their marketing channels. This channel was the most popular in Taiwan because of the popularization of Internet. In Hong Kong, the mostly used distribution channel is sales at sheltered workshops or shops (61.4%), followed by word of mouth and sales by internal work units within the NPO (both 38.6%). They used several other traditional ways of selling which includes sales assisted by the government, cooperation with other organizations to sell products and services, sales through general retail shops, and charity sales at fund-raising events. This study shows that in these 2 Asian cities still focus on using conventional distribution chancel. Apart from direct sales on a website, they did not experience other e-marketing strategies to sell their products.

Marketing does not only involve selling products and services. However, this is the most direct and most important step. If they do not use many channels related to the Internet to sell their products, it is very unlikely that they will employ digital marketing strategies for promotion and brand/service recognition.

Using e-marketing strategies in the context of social enterprises is believed to be a relatively new concept and idea. If these organizations can take the advantages from the electronic devices, their services/products will be able to reach more people with an ultimate aim to help more in need.


Chan, K. T., Kuan, Y. Y. & Wang, S. T., 2011. Similarities and Divergences: Comparison of Social Enterprises in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Social Enterprise Journal, 7(1), pp. 33-49.

Defourny, J. & Nyssens, M., 2010. Conceptions of Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurship in Europe and the. Journal of Social EntrepreneurshipConceptions of Social Enterprise and United States: Convergences and Divergences, 1(1), pp. 32-53.

Shaw, E., 2004. Marketing in the Social Enterprise Context: Is It Entrepreneurial?. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 7(3), pp. 194-205.

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