Bon Jovi-Singing, Facebook-Using Grandmas: Rethinking Social Media Schemas

flickr: ReneS

My family gathered at my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. My sister is seven years older than I am, and the first of the sisters to become a grandmother. Her granddaughter is nearly 2 years old (and adorable!), and watching them together expanded my schema of what a grandmother is.

The term schema in cognitive learning theory was introduced by Jean Piaget and refers to our preconceived ideas about a topic or subject. When we learn new things, our schema expands.

For example, as a child, we may have thought water was only a liquid to drink. But if someone melted an ice cube in front of us and we saw it turn to water, we would gain a new understanding about water–it can take on a different physical property (it can freeze). Through that experience, our knowledge (schema) about water expanded.

What schema do our decision-makers hold of our patients’ use of social media?

When developing a social media strategy for our hospitals or clinics, we must ask ourselves what schema do we hold of our patients and their use of social media? And, just as important, what schema do the decision-makers that give budget approval for new initiatives have of our patients and social media?

If their schema of social media users is Facebook-obsessed teens, then they are not going to see the value in a social media initiative for your hospital since health-care decision-makers are not teens, nor are teens the primary market most hospitals serve. If they see grandmas and grandpas as the primary market for services, yet don’t recognize that population’s use of social media, then they will not value a social media initiative.

If they saw my sister dancing with her 2-year-old granddaughter to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, sharing family news she’s gleaned from Facebook updates, and discussing her post-retirement career goals after she retires in 10 years from her current career… their schema about who their market is and their need for social media initiatives might change.

We can expand the schema of decision-makers

Developing effective social media initiatives requires introducing information that helps expand the schema of decision-makers. It means keeping abreast and sharing social media research, like findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Social Media Research Foundation,  the New Media Institute, and Society for New Communications Research.

It means not being afraid to address decision-makers’ outmoded ideas of who uses social media and for what purposes. It means being honest about well-known critics, like Seth Godin, who deem hospitals “pre-digital” as a criticism for not embracing technology.

Developing social media initiatives means expanding the schema of decision-makers and ourselves … because we live in a day when grandmas dance to Bon Jovi with their grandchildren, keep up-to-date with relatives via Facebook and plan post-retirement careers.


How we help

Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

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