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Social Media Architecture Series: Visualizing your Social Media Footprint

Submitted by on October 12, 2011 – 10:19 amNo Comment

This post is part of an ongoing series taken from my eBook on Social Media Architecture; a Field Guide to Unifying your Social Media Presence.   You can download the entire book here.


Most organizations have no clear means of communicating what their social media presence actually looks like.  Excel sheets with lists of dozens (or hundreds) of sites cannot convey a clear sense of the issue. This is where a simple visualization can be enormously powerful. If there is a single step I would urge you to take, it is to create a visualization of your footprint in social media.  In my experience it is the most important tool in building the corporate will to recognize the problem and begin organizing for change.   The minimum data set you will need for this exercise:

  • Site URL
  • Community audience (who is this site serving?  Give your community the most recognizable name.  If it is focused on a product name it by the product name and so on)
  • Platform (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook etc.)
  • Size (followers, subscribers, fans etc.)
  • Brand engagement (i.e. when was the last time the community manager was actively engaged with the community through posting of new content or facilitating a dialogue, etc.) This last piece of data is critical to understand if the community is still being served by an active moderator.

The goal here is not completeness of data, but collecting enough data to portray an accurate-enough picture of where you stand. Gathering this data can be achieved via a survey (as long as you can get good response rates), persistent phone calls, some investigatory research or an assignment to the agencies that service your social media needs (or some combination of all four of course!).  If you find this task daunting, consider this question: how are you ever going to define an effective structure for social media if you can’t accurately define your current state?

Option One:  visualize your footprint by platform:

The Footprint Visualization above allow you to take your data and place it in a powerful context for communicating the current state of your social media presence.

The figure above represents a sample visualization of an organization’s Facebook presence.  This same visualization will work for each platform (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) that you would like to analyze. Note that you can adjust this visualization in a number of ways to make it the most effective for your purposes.

Here is how to read this particular visualization: each band of concentric circles represents a set range of community members.  In this case the outer band represents 1 to 1,000 members, followed by 1,001 to 10,000 and finally, at the center, 10,001 and up. The dot size represents how large the community is relative to the range of the band it resides within. Thus, the largest dot in the outer band expresses the maximum of its band range, 1,000. Yet this largest dot in the outer band (1,000), is still smaller than the smallest dot in the next interior band since that band range begins at 1,001.   Below each dot is the name of the audience it is serving. The color of the dots relate to the recency of brand engagement:  green means the site has had moderator activity within the past 30 days, orange means no activity in past 60 days, and red means no activity in more than90 days – a dead site.  In simplest terms then, a big green dot in the center is good – a large community with active brand engagement.  A red dot anywhere signifies no recent moderator activity – customers that have been abandoned by the community manager. At first glance any spread of red dots lets you know that you have a problem with brand engagement or with having sites that have long been abandoned.  The names of audiences can be lined up to quickly see where it is that you are fragmenting the same audience into multiple communities.

This exercise can have a powerful impact in bringing people toward a shared point of view on the issues your organization faces.  Any spread of red dots creates a conversation:  are we abandoning our customers with on/off campaigns?   Are we fragmenting the same communities across multiple resource-intensive efforts? Are there big green dots in the center that can represent best-practice or serve as great places for valuable content from other parts of the organization? Are there any patterns to the successful sites?  And so on.

Once you have developed a clear visualization, the problems are usually quite apparent. The next step then, is to clarify what constitutes a unique community.  That will be in the next post.

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