Introducing The Conversation Prism

Last year, Robert Scoble and Darren Barefoot debuted the Social Media Starfish to visualize and document the rapidly evolving landscape for social tools, services, and networks.

If you work in marketing, public relations, advertising, customer service, product development, or any discipline that’s motivated, shaped, and directed by customers, peers, stakeholders and influencers, monitoring and in some cases, participating in online conversations is critical in competing for the future.

Over the last month, I worked with Jesse Thomas of JESS3, to create a new graphic that helps chart online conversations between the people that populate communities as well as the networks that connect the Social Web. The Conversation Prism is free to use and share. It’s our contribution to a new era of media education and literacy.

The Conversation Prism

The conversation map is a living, breathing representation of Social Media and will evolve as services and conversation channels emerge, fuse, and dissipate.

If a conversation takes place online and you’re not there to hear or see it, did it actually happen?

Indeed. Conversations are taking place with or without you and this map will help you visualize the potential extent and pervasiveness of the online conversations that can impact and influence your business and brand.

As a communications or service professional, you’ll find yourself at the center of the prism – whether you’re observing, listening or participating. This visual map is the ideal complement to The Essential Guide to Social Media and the Social Media Manifesto, which will help you better understand how to listen and in turn, participate transparently, sincerely, and effectively.

As conversations are increasingly distributed, everything begins with listening and observing. Doing so, will help you identify exactly where relevant discussions are taking place, as well as their scale and frequency. This dialog can be charted into a targeted social map that’s unique to your brand. In the example below, I created a Social Map using MindJet to represent the communities where I either need to or currently contribute based on my initial research.

Perhaps most importantly, the process of listening and observing will reveal the cultures of the very communities you may wish to engage.

Remember, participating in Social Media is more meaningful when you have a deeper understanding of anthropology and sociology and not just the social tools that facilitate interaction. This is about creating and cultivating relationships with people, online and in the real world, and these relationships are defined by mutual value and benefits.

In the social economy, relationships are the new currency.

Enjoy the Conversation Prism and please let me know how you’d like to see it evolve.

Please also see The Social Media Ecosystem by Deb Schultz, which debuted in November 2007.

For more on the subject, please also read:

- Comcast, Dell and The Socialization of Service
- New Communication Theory and the New Roles for the New World of Marketing
- The Social Revolution is Our Industrial Revolution
- The Art of Conversation – It’s About Listening Not Marketing
- Will The Real Social Media Expert Please Stand Up?
- Cultural Voyeurism and Social Media
- Free ebook: Customer Service, The Art of Listening and Engagement Through Social Media
- Distributed Conversations and Fragmented Attention

Connect with me on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, Plurk or Facebook.

  • S.M.Beebe

    The “Microblogs” section listed in the 1st graphic needs two additional popular micro-blogging applications: and Plurk.

    These graphics are terrific! I love reading your stuff Brian, excellent work, as always!!

    Susan Beebe

  • Yoo

    amazing graphs and your analysis of the world we now live in is great.

    “In the social economy, relationships are the new currency.” – awesome.

  • Speed Duchess

    Brian, great breakdown of the Conversation. Amazing how much it’s grown in complexity and sheer amount since last year. How do you think this may look like in a year, given the rise of the Semantic Web?


  • fuzzy


    The broad-ranging visual representations are greatly appreciated. Very relevant to projects in which I’m currently involved.

    With this list
    it becomes easier for me to identify the technologies that are not only:

    a) popular

    but also, most importantly:

    b) well-suited to interaction/integration — without proliferation!

    Popularity as a criterion/measurement is thought-provoking. Focusing for a moment on two very popular technologies, in recent weeks:

    * MediaWiki (which I use occasionally, but never wish to administer) is excellent in some respects, but its lack of ability to serve RSS that’s presentable within a content management system was a disappointment to me

    * Skype (which I avoid using whenever possible) proved inferior to XMPP/Jabber in terms of integration with the same CMS.

    (Neither discovery came as a surprise.)

    Such things highlight, for me, the importance of not leaping carelessly on to bandwagons simply because the wagon is popular!

    In closing, two words:


    Best regards

  • Johan

    I would like create a mobile version inspired of this. If I make it, a post a comment here for sure!

  • Sonal Jhuj

    wow! thank you for creating this. it’s very useful and makes me feel like i’ll never be able to keep up with social media :)

  • Monica Surfaro Spigelman

    Am I correct to want to see a petal for plain ‘ol face-to-face in the graphic? Shouldn’t that always be a component even if this is just a visualization of the technology tools? Well, we’ll certainly have alot to discuss in May.

  • ms danielle

    this is fantastic, just twittered it! may i suggest which is an anonymous blog site. you’ll find some VERY interesting conversations going on there.

  • Timothy

    Brian, if you don’t mind, I would like to update your Conversation Prism with additional websites in each category. Particularly the ones that have already been suggested via Flickr. Would you be willing to send me the original artwork in EPS or AI format? I look forward to your reply.

  • Brian Solis

    Timothy, contact me at brian [at] future-works [dot] com. V2 is on the way, but I have another project for you… :)

  • Lee Klau

    Great work. But, we will hit a bubble in the whole Social Media space. Off all of these companies, how many will survive? 20%? 5% Which ones? Which companies are really companies and which ones are simply features that will get swallowed by bigger social fish?

  • gregalchin

    Hi Brian,
    I am seriously impressed by your work on this. You are to be congratulated. It is brilliant. I introduced it in a professional development session with teachers yesterday. It crystallized things for them and was the basis for some indepth discussion.

  • 章麽麽

    Hi brain, thanks for your sharing wisdom with us! I’m from China and working at a Chinese PR firm now. Your blog broadens my mind. It just likes a window which makes me know new thing about PR.

  • Bryan Fikes

    Brian with I,
    Hey I am Bryan with a Y.

    Love the Conversation Prism. I will be using in my discussion with business owners in the Modesto – Stockton – Merced area.

    Thank you for your contribution to this space.

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Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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