Portions, Servings and the SMUG Social Media Pyramid

I appreciate all the positive feedback and re-tweets for yesterday’s post on the SMUG Social Media Pyramid. We even have our first graphical representation (click image to enlarge), submitted by Jason Melancon from the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI).


One point that Jason mentioned in his email deserves further amplification. He said “I think the servings on social networks (in my own opinion) should be per week as opposed to per day.” And this leads me to the discussion of portion size and servings.

Have you ever noticed after drinking a 20 oz. bottle of Coke, when you turn it around and read the label, that you’ve just swallowed 2.5 servings? Or when you nuke a bag of microwave popcorn, do you always share it with two other people, as the label would indicate you should?

Welcome to the world of unrealistic portion sizes, at least in America. It likely helps to explain our obesity epidemic, but it also has application when we’re looking at our SMUG Social Media Pyramid and what a “serving” is.

On the SMUG Pyramid, essentially any activity qualifies as a “serving.” The tweet I will do about this post is a serving. A reply to those who re-tweet is a serving. And tweeting a link to another interesting article is, too. Relatively easy to get your 6-11 servings per day.

In the social networking sites, the reason I have 4-5 servings per day instead of per week is because posting a link is a serving. So is interacting with someone who writes on your wall, or uploading a photo, or creating an event, or uploading a video.

At the higher levels, Web Video and Blogs, the criterion for what constitutes a serving is a little higher. You can’t do half a video, and you either publish a new blog post or your don’t. But the interacting you do on YouTube, for instance, actually falls more within the social networking servings. So your 4-5 daily social networking “servings” may include comment activity both on Facebook and YouTube.

The other point to remember is that a pyramid like this is just a general guide, and your situation may call for different portions. I’m 6’6″ and weigh (…well, let’s not get into that!) My food portions are going to naturally be bigger than a 5’2″ female. At least it’s how I rationalize eating the whole bag of microwave popcorn. And despite that, I know I don’t always get the five servings per day of fruits and vegetables that USDA suggests.

The SMUG Social Media Pyramid is just a guide; a framework for thinking about social media involvement. Unlike the USDA, I can’t say it’s based on scientific research. I also have to confess that sometimes I get out of balance with it, both in my personal accounts and at work. Sometimes I overload on Twitter, for instance, and don’t get enough servings of the others.

But just as you’re not going to drop dead tomorrow for failing to eat enough fruits today, there’s flexibility with your social media diet too. You’re looking for balance over time for maximum health.

In a future post I’ll discuss the real key to portion estimation, which is serving with your servings.

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

12 thoughts on “Portions, Servings and the SMUG Social Media Pyramid”

  1. Would you consider those serving sizes a maintenance plan? I see many in other non-health industries for example, getting more than their 6-11 servings of micro blogging per day. Their continued higher volume use is helping them grow like a weight lifter might be. These numbers, IMO, appear to be a maintenance diet. What might these numbers look like if you want to be the next Mr./Mrs. Universe?

  2. Great point, Erik. High doses of Twitter definitely can be a performance-enhancing substance. My goal with SMUG is to help people not be overwhelmed, so I suggest more manageable expectations. But you are correct that while overloading on breads, pasta and rice in the USDA pyramid likely won’t help your physique, massive doses of Twitter can help your social media profile. That’s with the caveat that you are tweeting about something useful and interesting to others.

    So yes, these are probably a maintenance plan…or a “don’t get freaked out as you’re starting” plan.

  3. It’s a great way to think through frequency – I really like this analogy. A flip side of this line is thinking about overdosing – how much is too much? Or even malnurtirtion – how much is too little?

    I get ‘overfed’ from some of the friends/folks/brands that I follow, and then I unsubscribe/block/stop following. I think its good practice to think about the consequences in having too big of a portion, as well as too small. Interestingly, I think some of the risks of both are similar – alientating an audience, appearing disconnected etc.

  4. I love the idea but think your pyramid is bottom heavy. I think this encourages the useless Facebook and MySpace status updates as well as the “taking the dog for a walk” Tweets. I don’t think the average person is interesting enough that I need to know what they are doing every couple of hours. Even Aston and Demi have cut way back on their twitter assault.

  5. Thanks, John and Dana. I’m talking here mainly about people wanting to use social media professionally, to accomplish some business or organizational goals.

    I will get into this more in my “Serving with your servings” post, but inane status updates or tweets not only don’t count toward your servings, but actually should be subtracted from your total.’

    Kind of like lima beans. Technically, they would count as a serving of vegetables, but they taste so bad they could put you off vegetables altogether.

    Don’t do “Lima Bean” tweets.

  6. I just was pointed to this post by a dear friend of mine. It is spectacular. Quick question- where do you feel pinterest falls on the pyramid?

    1. Thanks, Kimmy. I think Pinterest is in the Facebook tier mainly because you can pin things without a huge amount of original creation. So in other words, you don’t need a video camera…you can just pin interesting articles or images to share. Slideshare.net, for instance, would be in the YouTube tier…because I call it YouTube for PowerPoints. You need to have presentation software like Keynote or PowerPoint to share at that level. Thanks for the question!

      1. Thank you for your reply. One more question (and sorry to pester)- I am just learning the art of social media for business but am an avid consumer of social media personally. Twitter irritates the hell out of me and I have trouble understanding it. However I am on facebook and pinterest all the time. Yet in an earlier comment (from years ago) you state “High doses of Twitter definitely can be a performance-enhancing substance.” Can you point me to some resources on how to use twitter effectively and what the benefits are? I so much appreciate your help!

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