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.



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. More so, he humanizes technology’s causal effect to help people see people differently and understand what to do about it. He is an award-winning author and avid keynote speaker who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation and innovation.

Brian has authored several best-selling books including What’s the Future of Business (WTF), Engage! and The End of Business as Usual. His blog,, is ranked as a leading resource for insights into the future of business, new technology and marketing.

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