A number of attempts have been made to graphically depict the social media ecosystem with varying degrees of success. The biggest problem with trying to explain the social media ecosystem in a diagram is that the ecosystem is really multi-dimensional, so a simple 2-dimensional image has difficulty accurately reflecting both functionality and relationships.
What follows is my initial attempt to describe the social media ecosystem with the business or individual at the center of a sphere. Outside the “transparent” sphere is the web at large (the “cloud” if you will). Within the sphere are the myriad of tools and interfaces (not depicted) used to interact with the web and various social media channels. At the edge of the sphere are several smaller “spheres” each representing some category of social media channels (social networking, blogging, multi-media…).
At the top of the transparent sphere are the tools which disseminate the content we create out to the web (ex: ping.fm) while at the bottom are the tools which aggregate information coming to us from the web/social media channels (aggregators like an RSS reader).
Interaction is also direct to social media channels (going to twitter.com) as well as indirect via tools (FriendFeed, Tweetdeck, …).
Perhaps the most confusing part is the “curved” lines that come out of the center (via the top “dissemination”) and into the various social media channels representing content we create which are also exposed to the web. Lines starting from those channels coming back in through the bottom represent aggregation or content that comes to us. Again, there are also direct connections to the social media channels via that “transparent” sphere. (A lot of stuff goes on and inside that glass sphere!).
Note, lines connecting us directly to the various channels and the web are not depicted but are implied by the transparent sphere for the sake of keeping the diagram clean enough to look at.
The next question then is why is this important or useful? For me (and likely others for whom this stuff is a part of how we make our living) it’s important to understand not only how things function but how they relate to each other. As new services continually come on-line it can become a lot easier to figure out where to fit them in, if they need to be incorporated into a particular business, if we have a model to outline them. It can also make it a lot easier to set things up for clients in a way that makes sense and show it to them rather than just being a spaghetti bowl of TLA’s, 2.0 Names and Websites.
Hopefully this will also spur a little discussion.
One other quick point that needs to go with this diagram, some of the social media channels cross over categories and an improvement on this diagram might be something of a 3dimensional ven-diagram, unfortunately that get’s even more difficult to depict and tell the individual regions apart. Might be a good animation project though. (hint hint any animators out there).
Admittedly when I set out trying to create a more accurate depiction of the social media ecosystem which referenced both relationship and functionality it was a little more difficult than I expected. So if all of this seems a little muddy or unclear, ask away in the comments or offer your feedback, I’d love to improve this model.