Part of the reason social media and software has taken off is its simplicity. Twitter was about the simplest conversation interface possible. People contact organizations on their blogs, Facebook Pages, and Twitter because the existing mechanisms are too complex and have been so over-engineered that they are no longer humane (i.e. 'dial 5 for account information'). This has led me to worry about social methods becoming too BPMized (business process management) - because if it does, it likely becomes no better than the broken process it replaced. I've often asked people to think about why @ComcastCares is so popular (I am a big fan BTW). It's because, in general, existing support channels at Comcast are so bad. If existing support procedures worked well for customers, they would not need to seek out support on Twitter. All of us working in the 'social' space need to guard against over-complication for this reason.
Given that thinking, a recent blog post by Clay Shirky The Collapse of Complex Business Models really hit me hard. We are driven to increasing complexity yet that is the very thing that gets in the way of the value over time. I've noticed this with both blogging and Twitter - they were both very, very simple when I started. Over time they have gotten very complex with plug-ins, application ecosystems, feeds, aggregation points, etc. They are far more intimidating to use for people starting out today then they were when I started. In the intervening time I've seen things like the large decline in teen blogging. Is it just that they have different tools like Facebook to use or has the complexity of blogging outstripped their interest and ability?
For those of us investigating the use of social technologies and techniques in a business context, it is worth giving a lot of thought to complexity. Simplicity is what is attractive and increases participation but our organizational cultures and structures often pull us toward complexity so that our efforts mesh better with existing processes. We often add complexity at our peril.