We amateur cartographers have been trying to map the changing landscape of social media. While lots of smart people have put together some visually interesting taxonomies (including this nebula-like graphic just about Twitter, created by Brian Solis as shared by Beth Kanter), I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around how to classify and organize these things in my head. When there are 19 Twitter clients, and counting, it can be daunting (maybe even impossible) to try to keep up with every new entrant in this rapidly changing arena. Any list or directory that you create is out of date in about a day.
I’ve been using this Powerpoint chart (handily available on SlideShare) as a means of charting the territory that communications professionals really need to understand. We need to know how people are communicating with one another, finding people with like interests, and sharing interesting content. We also need management tools. We need convenient ways of scanning social media, finding people of interest, listing ourselves in directories, organizing our stuff and so on. And, of course, we need ways of monitoring communications and measuring the impact of campaigns. Understanding the range of social media tools and tactics can help us do a better job of efficiently and effectively implementing strategy.
My taxonomy is an attempt to think about social media and tools in terms of how they function and what we do with them. As the web – and particularly mobile – technologies evolve, there will be new functions. So many of the buckets on this Powerpoint chart arose in response to problems people encountered in their social media experience. For example, at one point I said something like, “Ack! I’m overwhelmed with the blogs I’m reading through my email! What do I do?” I started using an RSS reader. As soon as you hear someone complaining about something, like more SPAM coming through Twitter, you can bet someone’s developing a new tool that solves that problem. Maybe someday there will be something that doesn’t feel soldered on.
Any PR agency or corporate communications department should have someone who is familiar with and actively using at least one channel or tool in every single bucket depicted on this taxonomy. There’s simply no excuse to be unfamiliar with these capabilities. They’re too important.