If you’ve ever felt like a fish out of water when it comes to Social Media, it’s probably with good reason, as this method of networking and community interaction has been touted as not only the fastest growing, but also the fastest moving segment in the industry.

With more and more companies attempting to increase their value by incorporating a social network component into their traditional products, understanding how these relate to each other, and their dependencies, isn’t a simple task.

So, if you’ve been waiting on the sidelines until now to get your feet wet in the social media scene, Jeremiah Owyang’s recent storyboard, “Social Reef: An Industry Persepctive,” may just be the arm rings necessary to help you understand this complex eco—or shall we say, techno—system.

Move over Seaworld

Positioning himself as a marine biologist, studying changes in this fragile environment and the behavior patterns of its inhabitants, Jeremiah likens Social Media to an underwater reef, in which the users are fish and the fishermen are all manner of merchants vying for attention with varying morsels of bait.

But, what’s important here isn’t just the bait being offered—this is no traditional pond.

In his analogy, Jeremiah points to a unique aspect of Social Media in which the environment itself changes the behavior of its dwellers, allowing them to interact in new ways that are harder to predict.

The result is an entertaining and quite accurate metaphor for this segment of the World Wide Web.

Sink or Swim

The ever-changing fluidity of the sea aptly represents the state of Social Media today. Some things stick and grow (Twitter, Facebook), while others are simply washed away by constant movement or are forced to move into more fertile waters.

Take Friendster (yeah, remember Friendster?). Despite pre-dating both MySpace and Facebook, this forerunner in social networking tools has shifted almost all of its attention on the Asian market.

While the ebb and flow of Social Media sites continues to play out, one thing is certain: like the sea, it’s here to stay and like a reef, its future depends on us.

Meanwhile, take a look at the Social Reef that Jeremiah describes -- you’ll no doubt recognize some of the species and come up with a few more metaphors of your own.