Tag Archives: Marketing and Advertising

Social Media and Social Cognitive Theory

Image as seen at PeopleINT blog

Human beings are social animals. We do not float through existence in bubbles composed only of our own experiences. We are constantly interacting with others and drawing on these relationships to co-construct our reality.

According to Social Cognitive Theory, people acquire much of their knowledge by observing others , often through media influences, such as social media.

Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely
solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human
behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea
of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a
guide for action (Bandura, 1977)

This knowledge forms a person’s understanding of the world around them and how to act within it. The more a person derives their understanding of reality based on what they observe through media sources, the greater the impact of those media sources.

Bandura identifies two “communication pathways” used in mass communication:

  1. The “direct pathway” (the traditional mass media approach): Communications directly promote certain information or encourage people to take specific action.
  2. The socially mediated pathway (the social media approach): Communications connect people to social networks that provide a tailored experience, with “personalized guidance, as well as natural incentives and social support”

Bandura asserts the superiority of using the socially mediated pathway, saying “the absence of individualized guidance limits the power of one-way mass communications….tailored communications are viewed as more relevant and credible, are better remembered, and are more effective in influencing behavior than general messages” (Bandura, 2001).

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Don’t focus on the new “it” tools to understand what social media is all about

The list of social media tools is long and constantly growing longer. New “it” are being released every few months and older tools reaching maturity very quickly. Given this mercurial environment, it doesn’t seem productive to focus on the tools when trying to understand social media.

The Conversation Prism, by Brian Solis and JESS3, as seen at http://www.theconversationprism.com/

In his book, Social Media ROI, Oliver Blanchard offers a wonderful metaphor that I have used many times when explaining social media to others:

The term social media describes the pipes; social communication and social interaction describe what people do with them.

Instead it is best to focus on understanding the sorts of interactions people have when using these tools and how that knowledge might be used to create better communication experiences and facilitate improved access to information

Focus on building relationships and connecting with people,  then choose the best tool for the job.

The difference between using these social media tools in addition to or in place of more traditional communication tools, will be in your message’s velocity and reach.

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Measuring the Effectiveness of Social Media in Health Care – A Brief Rant

To measure the effectiveness of social media communication efforts in health care, it is important to look at social media as one more tool in a health communicator’s tool box. The success of these efforts must be measured in relation to the business objectives they support and the degree to which those objectives are met.

While some communicators try to use return-on-investment to evaluate social media efforts, this technique is often not very useful, except in those rare instances when a clear causal relationship can be drawn between a specific communication effort and a specific outcome.

For health care organizations, social media is about more than profit and loss; it is about fostering relationships that promote the health of patients and the health of the organization. 

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