With Facebook's recent acquisition of photo effects and sharing mobile app, Instagram, it is easy to see how one could say that simplicity wins the day in social networking software. Twitter's meteoric rise and the success of employee collaboration tool, Yammer, are also examples of the power of simple, easy-to-learn social applications with easy-to-use social networks.
Social business professionals have even written about the importance of simplicity in enterprise online community platforms. However, the reality is slightly more nuanced that that. Simple social networks have a dark side when companies and membership organizations try to engage their online communities to improve specific facets of their performance "“ productivity, sales, member retention, customer satisfaction, etc. Let's examine both sides of the coin.
When people generalize about requirement that social business software must be simple, they are only telling half the story. They are most likely referring to the end user experience. It is true that the processes and features of your private online community should be simple and easy for customers, employees, and members to participate in.
Here are some things that should be simple, straightforward, and take little to no instruction:
As Chelsi Nakano, wrote in the above referenced article, "At the end of the day, the power is in the people, not the software."If your online community's user experience is not easy-to-learn and easy-to-use, the next part is irrelevant.
In order to be able to successfully analyze, grow, and manage a private online community, not all aspects should be basic. Back end systems can and should be more complex to keep people engaged, ensure that the community offers up enough value to your target audiences, and provide actionable business intelligence to multiple departments in the organization.
Here are some examples of community building functions that need to be more robust:
Unfortunately, it is often the case that organizations implement a member or customer community for its simple interface and intuitive features, then realize that the breadth and depth of the platform limits their ability to provide their customers with the value they demand. These organizations then need to incur the financial costs and embarrassment of switching online community software platforms, or live with a basic system that only provides limited results when compared with their initial vision and business plan.
When adding a private online community to the center of your member or customer engagement strategy, be sure to keep in mind that simplicity is paramount in customer-facing features, while community management tools need to be intricate enough to see your community well into the future.