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Conversation Prism by Brian Solis (graphic by Jesse Thomas)

Back in August 2008, public relations professional, author of the book Putting Public Back In Public Relations and creator of the term “PR 2.0″, Brian Solis released what is called the Conversation Prism. But what exactly is this Conversation Prism? According to Solis, it’s to help “provide a visual representation of the true expansiveness of the Social Web and the conversations that define it”. There has been a lot of new tools and applications that have appeared over the past few years and this has become a pretty crucial means of keeping track of how people engage in conversations online.

So what does it all mean? It looks pretty convoluted so here’s an explanation to help make it pretty clear:

Conversation PrismThe core of the conversation is the brand. It’s the main reason why you’re going to have a conversation. From there, your goal is to become the observer, listener, internalizer and router. This is where you look to find the communities you should participate in and to gain the research on how to improve your relationships with your customers.

After listening and researching how you can enter the conversation, you need to create an environment inside your company and brand that will respond to the conversation being had. So what type of infrastructure will you have to handle crisis communication, product & sales,  marketing & public relations, and even community? It’s in this phase of the conversation that you’ll need to help determine who will be managing each component. Is it a community manager? Do you have a committee who will determine the next course of action but with a single leader?

According to Brian Solis, the next cycle after establishing your brand, listening, and determining the authority on managing the conversation will complete the “image of the conversational workflow”, but not the cycle. It should be noted that this is where you begin to participate. You, as the community manager, will begin to shape the dialogue through active participation, building online relationships (which will help build brand visibility and strengthen its value), engaging in researching for ongoing feedback and insight, and finally recognizing that conversations extend beyond the online realm – it’s also about meeting people in real life.

Okay, now you know the steps to creating the conversation, where do you talk the talk?

This is the outer part of the Conversation Prism. You seek out where your customers/community are and then engage them there. One step to begin would be to create what’s called a social map. Take your customers information and research and find out where on the social networks are they having a dialogue. As Solis points out, doing so will help you identify exactly where relevant discussions are taking place, as well as their scale and frequency. The outer realms of the Conversation Prism are categories of social networks and examples of specific sites within each category. So if you’re finding that your customers are active on photo social networks, you might look into seeing what conversations are being had on Flickr, Photobucket, SmugMug, Picasa, or others.

Solis recommends that anyone serious about conversations should conduct an audit and gauge where customers are and track the results. He also suggests measuring the rate of occurrence, whether each instance required a response, and if so, by whom, and also the potential reach of each dialog by quantifying the network of friends and friends of friends in order to establish priority, authority, response strategies, and urgency. You can read more about the idea of the Conversation Prism here.

The idea behind diagramming how conversations can take place online is a pretty great one and Brian Solis has done a great job putting something conceptually together. Combined with a great aesthetically pleasing diagram by Jesse Thomas, the Conversation Prism is a glowing representation on the ever-expanding universe of the social web. Regardless of the type of conversations being had on social networks, the point is that they should. Learn to focus on the brand, the infrastructure, its management and the effort in participation and you’ll have plenty of discussions for years to come.

Image credit: Brian Solis/Jesse Thomas (ConversationPrism.com)

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