Chapter 3

Social Media Is a Complex System

Complex systems are comprised of many distinctly autonomous yet interdependent parts, all of which interact in often unplanned and unpredictable ways. By that measure, just about every social, cultural, political, and economic institution is complex, as are the organizations within them. What is more, the larger a system gets, the more complicated it becomes. Perhaps it is nowhere more evident these days than in the realm of social media.

As an octopus, social media touches a variety of different business practices. As a complex system, it also pulls them together into myriad combinations so that individuals or entire divisions that once worked separately must now learn how to work together (Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1 The Brand Network


Largely driving this change is the consumer. Most consumers really don't care where information comes from, whether from marketing, public relations, or customer service. Nor does it matter if it is paid for, owned, or earned. What they are looking for is content that has real value in their lives and is available when and where they need it, in a form that is easy to access, understand, and use.

There is a general rule in technology that the easier a system is to use, the more intricate it is at the back end. Few people, for example, know how their TVs or telephones actually work. Even fewer need or want ...

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