The Ultimate Social Media Diagram?

14 08 2008

UPDATE 8/16/2008: Some people have been asking for a bigger version of this illustration. I don’t have it in a vector format because I hacked it together out of JPEGs in Photoshop. But here’s the biggest, cleanest version I have. Feel free to use and share however you’d like, but please link people back here. Thanks!

Download BIG version of “social media mess”

Hmm. Could the chart below be the most insightful social media diagram ever?


Not just because, like all good illustrations, it steals liberally from the best thinking in the business.

Or because it has more circles and charts and connections than any I’ve ever seen.

Or even because it contains popular words, concepts and logos.

I like it is because I think it’s pretty accurate.

  • It’s an unholy, incomprehensible mess.
  • It’s anxiety-provoking
  • The more earnest you are about trying to understand it, the more your head will hurt.
  • It’s more fun to look at than a diagram about broadcast TV.
  • Despite all of the above, it still looks oddly important.
  • And no matter how hard you look, you can’t really see any money in there.

I’m not putting down anybody for trying to make sense of social media. On the contrary, it’s important work.

And, a lot of the component charts actually do go a long way to clarifying what social media actually means. To see a great collection of these, go visit Marc Meyer’s well-done blog here.

What I really AM saying is that when media fragments into this many teeny pieces, it’s confusing as hell. It’s The Humpty-Dumpty Problem.

Which pieces matter? Which can we ignore? How can we re-aggregate the important pieces into a marketplace that’s large enough to be meaningful and profitable for a mass advertiser?

And, on a very practical basis, how many individual conversations can we afford to support? How many can we hope to conduct without making each one so shallow that it’s hugely unsatisfying for everyone?

I don’t have the answers, yet.

If I did, I’d put up a simpler diagram.

P.S. I just came across an appropriate quote by Edgar Degas: “”What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it’s charming.”  Apparently even in 1870s Paris, there were social media consultants 🙂



11 responses

14 08 2008

Good job Tom! Though it does look more like a painting by Jackson Pollock.


14 08 2008
Jon Burg's Future Visions

clean vs comprehensive data = action vs nuance?…

We’ve all got that MASSIVE excel file sitting somewhere on our computers. We meant to do great things with it. The numbers could have spoken volumes, adding new dimensions to our presentations, to our proposed business plans, to our perspectives and…

15 08 2008

I found Waldo in there. He was the first social media guy wasn’t he?

15 08 2008

Thanks for the comments. Waldo actually isn’t in there: he was the first social media guy who got funding on Sand Hill Road. He cashed out 4 years ago and is now at an Ashram in southern India as their entrepreneur-in-residence.

16 08 2008

Too bad there’s no high-res version to make a wallpaper form, or vector version for printing a poster $-)

16 08 2008

9000, I don’t have a truly hi-res version, but I’ve posted a link to the biggest, cleanest version I have at the top of this post.

26 08 2008
La rappresentazione dell’incubo: parlando di social media : Catepol 3.0

[…] quando cerchiamo di spiegare loro il Web 2.0 e il social network. Un gran casino! Un lavoro di  Mr Cunniff. […]

15 06 2009
Two graphics that help organize the elements of social media…and a bonus one that doesn’t! | ViralHousingFix

[…] how Tom Cuniff describes it: I like it is because I think it’s pretty […]

17 08 2009

what a mess! its perfect!!

4 05 2011
God Bless This Mess? | sociallights

[…] it is a mess.  It can give me a headache just thinking about it. Tom Cuniff developed this illustration which I think paints a pretty accurate picture of what is going on in […]

31 01 2012
social media diagrams | social medium

[…] We saw this and just had to post it up. It’s true, everything can be legitimised with a graph or chart. EVERYTHING….. so be warned! Also the flashier the diagram the bigger the impact! KERBLAMMO! But just an FYI… Social Media probably looks like this. […]

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