Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mapping the social media landscape - a guide for understanding

It can be very daunting for communications professionals to build an understanding of the social media landscape, grasping its scope and diversity and use this knowledge to select the right tools to meet their communications needs.

On occasion I've spoken to other marketers and PR professionals who have said that the sheer diversity and complexity of the social media landscape makes it easier to simply avoid the area, rather than spend the time necessary to make good decisions.

Increasingly organisations will need to take their first steps into this area - social media is in widespread use by internet users and they are talking about you.

The first step to understanding any landscape is to map it - fortunately there have been a few efforts in this regard already.

Possibly the first consolidated attempt was by Robert Scoble, who published the Social Media Starfish last year.

Pictured below, the Starfish provides one way to visualise the different categories of interactions and capabilities of the different social media tools.

A video explanation of the Starfish is also available as below.

A second approach, released more recently, is the Conversation Prism, pictured below.

This was released by Brian Solis, principal of Future Works and author of PR 2.0.

In a report in ZDNet, Brian describes the Conversation Prism as a tool that "helps chart online conversations between the people that populate communities as well as the networks that connect the Social Web." The article, ‘Conversation Prism’ helps corporations visualize social media strategies, provides a good overview of how the tool works.

Of course these maps are only a start. The social media environment is evolving as technology improves and smart people come up with new ways to facilitate human interactions via digital channels.

However now that we do have these maps, we can begin to understand the social media landscape in more detail, and apply the right tools for our communications needs.

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