After almost two-and-half years, it is with great pleasure that I officially unveil the fourth edition of The Conversation Prism. Viewed and downloaded millions of times over, The Conversation Prism in its various stages has captures snapshot of important moments in the history and evolution of Social Media.
For those unfamiliar with The Conversation Prism, it is an evolving infographic that captures the state of social media, organized by how important social networks are used by professional and everyday consumers. It was created to serve as a visual tool for brands to consider unforeseen opportunities through a holistic lens. Over the years, it has served as a business tool as well as art decorating the walls and screens of offices, conference halls, and also homes.
With research beginning in 2007, the original Conversation Prism debuted in 2008 as a visual map of the social media landscape. Years and four iterations later, it remains an ongoing study in digital ethnography that tracks dominant and promising social networks and organizes them by how they’re used in everyday life.
It is provided as a free download in many sizes and shapes here including a wall-sized poster!
Why is The Conversation Prism More Than a Pretty Infographic?
The Conversation Prism is important because it is the ONLY research-driven map that explores the evolution of the social web dating back to the rise of social media.
It is a combination of research and digital ethnography. It groups networks by how people use them. It includes both leading and promising networks. It’s not intended to show every network, but instead how the shape of the social web is changing and who the front runners are pushing social media in new directions.
The Conversation Prism was designed to help strategists see the bigger picture in the evolution of social media beyond the most popular and trendy sites. It is intended to help in a number of ways…
1. As a form of validation to show executives that social media is not a fad and that it’s bigger than Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest.
2. To motivate teams to find new ways to think about social media and explore new ways to improve experiences and relationships.
3. Provide a top-level view to help strategists study the landscape as they plan their next social media strategy.
History: When were the previous versions released?
1.0 = August 2008 (pictured above)
2.0 = March 2009
3.0 = October 2010
4.0 = July 2013
What’s new with Version 4.0?
Version 4.0 is the latest update in the two-and-half years since 3.0 (pictured above) was introduced in 2010. It also features an entirely new design.
Version 4.0 brings about some of the most significant changes since the beginning. In this round, we moved away from the flower-like motif to simplify and focus the landscape.
With all of the changes in social media, it would have been easier to expand the lens. Instead, we narrowed the view to focus on those that are on a path to mainstream understanding or acceptance.
The result was the removal of 122 services while only adding 113. This introduces an opportunity for a series of industry or vertical-specific Prisms to be introduced.
Overview of Categories Added:
1. Social Marketplace
2. Enterprise Social Networks (shortened to “Enterprise” for formatting, companies included here were previously grouped under “Nicheworking”, which we redefined.)
4. Quantified Self
5. Service Networking
1. Virtual Worlds
4. Attention/Communication Dashboards
5. DIY + Custom Social Networks
Why is it Called a Conversation “Prism?”
I get this question all the time. And in light of activity related to the NSA, Prism takes on an entirely new meaning. Additionally, the Conversation Prism is often referred to as a color wheel, but to do so, takes away from it’s the beauty of its design and purpose.
Using a “prism” metaphor was intended figuratively and literally…
Using the traditional definition, a prism separates white light into a spectrum of colors. The “white light” in this case, is the focused stream of conversations that are often grouped, but not separated by voice, context, source, or outcome. We take this beam of dialog and blast it into a spectrum of discernible light, let’s call it enlightenment, to see, hear, learn and adapt. We quite literally bring conversations to light. Used figuratively, it references the clarification or distortion afforded by a particular viewpoint…for example, “We view conversations across the networks through the prism of our social dashboard.”
Each shade of color represents an entirely unique reflection of light, meaning separating context and intention by network.
Original designs refracted the light of conversations vertically, like so many traditional prism images you see. But, as the social web grew, we shaped the refracted light into a circle to help everyday people understand that the days of one audience, one voice, one story were over. We now had to envision, organize, and understand that conversations take place in communities that we don’t yet realize…obviously far beyond Facebook and Twitter.
The Age of Context: Context is King!
The social landscape is evolving with increasing acceleration. As you can see throughout every iteration of the Prism, the number of networks that vanish and emerge is staggering. But more importantly, the nature and focus of how networks are used is also dramatic in its changes. In some cases we see the move to smaller or more concentrated networks and at the same time the visual “social” web is becoming more pervasive. We are moving into an era of context where what we share, how we interact and how we form relationships is moving away from a general social graph to a distributed yet organized network defined by shared interests.
The Conversation Prism is available as a poster for $20 or as a free digital download in a variety of resolutions and sizes. 4.0 is available exclusively at www.conversationprism.com
For more, please visit:
The Next Web
This is a great update of the Prism. Social Media has changed so much. It is exciting to see the continued evolution of Social Media. Thanks for the post.
You are welcome!
Like the first one, this will also be printed and hanged from a special place on a wall on our Social Media Agency! As always Brian, thank you so much for the great info and insights!
Thank you Pablo…
I still relish the first Prism as well. This is a work of “smart” art Brian. Thank You for sharing part of your true gift
Thank you so much David!
These sorts of graphics make great presentation title pages, but I am not sure they help people understand social media – it just confuses them. Social media is not about tools, it is about process. It is not about channel and message, it is about behaviour identification and response. And it starts with listening, yet you don’t have listening tools in your prism – why not? How can you have a conversation without first listening?
More here: http://richardstacy.com/2013/07/09/brian-solis-and-his-new-conversation-prism-useful-or-just-confusing/
Richard, your points are well taken and anyone who follows my work already knows that social media isn’t about tools, it’s about learning, behavior, relevance and value…among many other things.
Listening tools used to be included in earlier iterations of the prism. This is meant to visualize the fragmentation and distribution of conversations to help brands learn where they should focus. Pay attention to the center of the graphic as it has a purpose…you’ll see listening there.
In fact, v1.0 inspired many of the listening tools that exist today. The original message of the series was to encourage organizations to use the search box within networks to learn more about what’s said or not said in each network. It was and is about learning, developing relevant engagement strategies and where and how to focus attention. Back then, listening tools didn’t really exist to the point they do today.
Another thing to consider is that each network represents its own culture in how they’re used, why and how people also behave within them. This map is an experiment in digital ethnography.
Keep up with the great work and message.
I guess I remain uncomfortable with the idea that you define conversations more by the network or channel they sit within rather than by the subject. I also think you can overstate the ‘networks have their own cultures’ claim. The basic rules of conversation apply no matter what. This feels to me like old fashioned channel and message thinking.
Brian, Thanks for taking the time and effort to put this together and then to share it with others. I’m sure if you kept this material proprietary the brands you work with would be willing to pay for it, yet you share it. Thank you.
I am downloading it and pasting the link into my weekly mailing. I especially like the crowd wisdom and Q&A sections. Small business owners can easily use those sites to get a feel for problems and issues they can help solve in their day to day business.
I’m curious as to whether your initial motives to provide an in-depth resource and analysis of social media and networking to be used freely for individuals and companies (aside from the $20 fee for an actual poster) is still the driving factor behind the prism for you. At this stage, would making your research unavailable without a price be a detrimental effect for getting the information into the world, or would companies be willing to invest in your research?
Steve, as you see, all digital versions are free for download and republishing. The only reason there’s a poster available is because of demand. I can’t give them away. At the same time, I’m not ready to provide this research to companies. This is an open project. I do this because it’s now a tradition and there’s an expectation for new versions. However, the time between versions 3 and 4 signify that it’s difficult to manage the research in between writing books. Hope that helps!
Great update, thanks. Interesting to see the lack of presence of the “elephants in the room” – where are Apple, Google, Microsoft in the social media landscape?
Good read Brian! As always, you succeed in pulling readers with your content.
Is it possible to re-use the conversation prism in my blog (It is mentioned as free to republish). Do I have to put some legal notice with it? or reference to you or your website?
I plan to create a post in my blog related to this tremendous work.
Hello, Simply credit (cc) Brian Solis, http://www.briansolis.com and JESS3
ok. I’ll do thanks !
It looks like there’s already a few things missing here:
– Instagram should also be listed in the Video area.
– When you look at how consumers use it, Twitter belongs in several areas: Q & A, Blogs/Microblogs, Social Networks, Pictures (it has its own photo hosting), and even Livecasting (through live-tweeting events).
– Facebook should also be listed in the Comments area.
– Echo also belongs in Comments and Discussion & Forums.
Why are the companies/products above not included in the categories for how consumers use them, and also considering the products/features offered by the various companies/products?
This is something I’ve struggled with over the years. I don’t disagree with the exception of Echo. They asked not to be listed there. Great comment!
Hi Brian! I’m Ana Asuero, Communications Manager at Zyncro, a flexible Social Business Platform.
I love this update! It’s interesting you decided to add the ‘Enterprise Social Network’ with some of our main competitors. Although we are not mentioned in this last version, we’d be glad to give you all the information needed to be included in the next one. Would it be possible?
Keep up the tremendous work!
Really great update. A few things missing here or there, but overall a really great post that shows the validity & influence of social media.
Please share your thoughts on what’s missing. I’m tracking everything here!
Nice update. I realize this reflects ‘the state of social’ from your vantage point. My reaction is to consider the context of eco vs ego (sustainability) and citizen vs consumer. Also, with the data exhaust created by social media I think about rising importance of filters for individuals such as the service that slim.io provides.
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I read your blog and i like the reliable option that you had mentioned.
I’d like to introduce you to Listly should you get around to V5
In the simplest terms we’re YouTube for Lists.
We let people collaborate to make lists of just about anything, these lists can then be embedded on any blog (just like slides and video). We build on man’s loves numbered list. Lists posts are always in the most popular posts. In your categories we span the following:
Social Curation, Crowd Widsom & Social Bookmarks
I also thought you are missing a category for collaborative sharing with tools like
Triberr, Gaggleamp, Dlvr.it & Buffer
And while I’m thinking there is an emerging automation/API category
IFTTT, Zapier, Hojoki & Cloudwork
I’m sure you get inundated with suggestions.
I am a student at USciences in Philadelphia working on my capstone project. Your prism would be a fantastic addition in my introduction. Would it be ok to use this image with proper citation?
Kudos Brian Solis for this infographic. I love all things visual and it reminds me of something Hillary Clinton shared in the recent Clinton Foundation forum. One of the things she is going to focus on moving forward is data! Sounds so boring right? Ah my friends, she is going to figure out a way – and of course she will do this brilliantly – to visualize data in such a way that its value has a real impact, breaks through the loud voices in our our virtually vocal society and really sinks into our brains, and helps us all become change makers and solution-aries.
I love this but it’s impossible to read the comments – please can you change your Disqus theme settings?
Yes, it’s broken and I’m working on it.
You said The last update to The Conversation Prism was in 2013. It’s been around 5 years now, what can be the image of this time?
Hello. The new image is at conversationprism.com