The Molecule As a Social Media Metaphor

October 7, 2009

chemName a social media app and you’ll likely find it on Brian Solis’ Conversation Prism. There are nearly 200 social media icons on Version 2.0 of the colorful conceptual map, intended to assist organizations in applying social media to their brands.

Every industry needs an encyclopedia. Daily newspapers have the Editor & Publisher International Yearbook. Such exhaustive resources can be invaluable — in the case of the E&P Yearbook, locating potential employers is how I used it — but are too cumbersome for everyday use.

To fully make out the Conversation Prism’s icons requires a large monitor. Or, for $20, you can buy a 22″ by 28″ poster from theconversationprism.com.

With some study, advanced users can make sense of it. They recognize most of the icons and have used enough of the tools to know how they relate to each other. But the average business person will be overwhelmed: “Yeah, it looks pretty, but what do I do with it?”

A second shortcoming is that the Conversation Prism does a poor job of illustrating the crossover between different tools. For example, I’ve embedded a YouTube video on this blog. WordPress and YouTube are at opposite ends of the prism, however, suggesting they don’t interact.

An alternative metaphor that addresses these deficiencies is a chemical molecule. Think of the models from chemistry class (pictured above). Social media advisers would only need to present to managers the tools they’re most likely to use, and the relationship between them would be clearer.

Say a rock band wants to use Twitter to promote its music, videos and fan-produced photos. The “molecule” for such a campaign would have a Twitter atom at its core and music, video and pictures atoms branching off of it. Electrons within each atom would comprise the individual tools. Pandora, Seeqpod and Last.fm for music, for example.

The hands-on assembly of the molecules would engage the manager on a level staring at a chart just can’t. Plus, social media chemistry models would make for fantastic conversation pieces. Sit them on an executive’s desk or trade show table and you’re bound to get people talking. Conversation. What you’ve been going for all along.

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