JESS3_BrianSolis_ConversationPrism4_WEB_1280x1024Brian Solis has just published a new version of his conversation prism.  You have probably used one of the previous versions as the title graphic for your presentation on social media – it has almost become the default here.  I used to use it as such, but then I stopped.  I did this after someone attending a workshop said “whoa – stop right there.  That’s the problem.”  I asked what she meant and she explained that this picture simply illustrated why she was intimidated by social media – multiple segments, hundreds of bright shiny tools you need to be familiar with.

I think she was right.  Diagrams such as this perpetuate a way of thinking which, increasingly, I try and lead people away from, which is the idea that social media is both complicated and defined by a dazzling array of tools.  This imagined complexity stems from the desire to understand social media in the way which we understood traditional media – i.e. as a channel and message challenge.  If you look at it this way you see lots of channels (tools) and a vast array of potential messages (conversations).  But social media is not a channel and message challenge (as I have pointed out in a previous response to an Altimeter Group initiative) it is a behaviour identification and response challenge and there are only four of these (in effect digital spaces) you need to respond to:

  • People saying nice things about your business
  • People complaining about your business
  • People asking questions for which your business provides an answer
  • People indicating a willingness to help you make your business better

Unfortunately this doesn’t make for such a pretty graphic, but understanding this does actually help businesses understand both how social media works and also how they need to address this space.  And, in-so-far as tools are important here, the most important ones are listening tools and, astonishingly enough, none of those feature in Brian’s prism. How can you have a conversation without first listening?