Hundreds of different social media platforms and applications make it practically impossible to understand how they relate to each other.
Experts have tried to map the social media ecosystem.
Scoble’s famous “starfish” diagram of social media shows the main groups but does not give any idea of functional relationships.
Another diagram, by Brian Solis, shows the different platforms as a flower-like “conversation prism.” But again, although attractive, this depiction does not show the functionality of various social media platforms.
Most maps show the platform (how it functions: e.g., blog, social network, etc.) with the app (the site that supports the function, usually a branded site such as Facebook). Such maps do not show utility: how people can use these tools. (For a comprehensive review, see this presentation on social media maps.)
To show how platforms and apps relate to how people can use them, I created a social media wiring diagram. In the diagram, I define seven platforms including:
- Blogs (including microblogs)
- Social networks
- Forums (including discussion boards)
- Shopping (e-commerce)
- Social bookmarking
I categorized social media interaction for each of these platforms into five separate functions. These are based on the “ladder” of social media users developed by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. (Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators)
The diagram above shows how these functions and platforms inter-connect.
So does this depiction have any value? Is any more useful than other social media maps?
It does show clearly how users interact with a particular platform.
For example, we can see at a glance that shopping platforms allow comments and rating, and also views. They do not offer user generated content or social profiles. Likewise, social bookmarking offers views and ratings, but does not allow upload of UGC, or social profiles.
I am not suggesting any absolutes here. This diagram is more for heuristic purposes than to dictate a single model. I welcome any feedback or input, and suggestions on how to improve the model or ways to use it.