Why I Steer Clear of (Most) Social Media Diagrams

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My day-to-day work and social media are knitted together, but even I’m surprised to find that a Google image search for social media diagram churns up 164,000 results. Together, they form a bewildering array of bubbles, boxes, circles, words, arrows, connections, colours, logos and spider charts, all criss-crossed together. The “social media mess” (above), Tom Cunniff’s mash-up of a few of these diagrams, sums this up pretty well.

As he explains:

I’m not putting down anybody for trying to make sense of social media. On the contrary, it’s important work…What I really AM saying is that when media fragments into this many teeny pieces, it’s confusing as hell.

I’d go further. I’m sure that all of these diagrams were conceived with the very best of intentions; on a practical level, however, I find many of them to be of little or limited use. Web 2.0 may be leaping onwards and upwards but right now, when I meet with clients or prospective clients to discuss social media strategies, it be the first time that they have seriously considered shifting their marketing budgets in this direction. They are busy people; brevity, keyword-rich coherence and compelling arguments are prized qualities. Many of these diagrams – especially the larger, more tangled ones – are just plain daunting, and would require a lot of explanation. If I stuck one of them up and attempted to talk around it, you would be able to feel the hearts in the room sinking, fast.

Of course, not all these diagrams are intended for “social media beginners”. However, there is one that I do draw upon. It is featured in the mash-up above, and I like it a lot.

This is the Conversation Prism, free to use and share, which was created by American PR thought leader Brian Solis some time ago. There is a newer version available, but I actually prefer this one, because of its simplicity. True, it doesn’t visualise the layers, relationships and “connectedness”  that loom large within social media, but I’ve found to be a great starting point for those who are new to social media’s possiblities. It’s clear (i.e. jargon-free), it’s concise, it’s eyecatching and it requires relatively few oodles of explanation. In short, it’s accessible.

Sometimes, the oldies are the goodies.

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  1. shona nutter said on September 15th, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I’ve always thought most social media diagrams were more about appearance over substance. They could pass for modern art in some cases. But I really like the Conversation Prism, it’s nicely straightforward and sums everything up for those who, like me, are just getting started in this world. (plus it still looks quite nice too)
    Thanks Karyn!

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Hello! We are Karyn Fleeting and Joel Turner . We are both directors at Tinderbox Media: a digital PR agency specialising in business blogs, which is based in North Yorkshire, UK. On Corporate Blogger we write about our observations, experiences and ideas drawn from working with our corporate clients on various web-based projects.


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