The Paradox of Choice and Social Media


Paradox of choice in social media“The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less” is a well promoted book by Barry Schwartz. Barry argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers and improve their well being. Personally, I think that this is a very good example of questionable science as Barry and his fans conveniently use correlations to support their beliefs without intellectually honest attempts to test them. Yes, the inability to make rational, well informed choices can be very stressful. However elimination of choices is a much less desirable approach to reducing stress than application of a method to make better choices. 

As social media evolves into more and better ways to communicate, the more challenging it is to meet rising expectations of ease, timeliness and quality of these communications:

Customers who experience problems communicate them on their favorite social media platform and expect customer support to respond right away.

  • Marketers, who develop compelling content, publish on the platforms of their choice and are frustrated that it does not get to ride a viral wave.
  • Market researchers, who want to learn what the customers want and need, chase anybody who is willing to spend time completing the latest DIY survey trap.

New platforms and tools for communications come to the market every day, and someone chooses to use some of them. This cannot be ignored by organizations – you can’t happily count your Facebook “likes” while people are trashing your brand on At the same time nobody can be omnipresent. The inconvenient truth is that technology can bandage but not  resolve this problem by “listening”, monitoring or aggregating. There is no monitoring software that is capable to “hear” EVERY signal on ALL channels ALL the times. The context of communications, ambiguity of language(s), and a time delay between new channel appearance and the monitoring tool adopting it make that impossible. Hard choices have to be made. Make good ones.

The good choice is difficult to make without knowing who are your “best” customers. Awhile ago I posed this question to a VP of Sales, and her response was – “anybody who has enough money to buy my product/service.” It may be an excellent attitude from the perspective of making your monthly quota, but not from the perspective of growing your brand. Customer centricity starts with clear understanding of who are the customers that benefit the most from what your offer and how you deliver. It is much better for your brand reputation not to market your offerings to customers whose expectations you can never meet.

Efforts and investment to broadcast your marketing content on more social media platforms will not likely translate into more good customers and better brand reputation. Efforts and investment in monitoring more social media communication channels to provide customer support will not likely result in better customer experience.

The better approach is to learn which 3 – 5 channels a majority of your best customers prefer to congregate on and focus your investment and attention on those. In addition it is critically important to clearly communicate to the community what channels you decided to concentrate on, what are the hours customers should expect “live” communications available, and what response time they should expect. All of the above should also be set based on your understanding of who are your best customers and your ability to meet the expectations you are setting.

After a quarter or two the success of these actions would manifest in higher lead/prospect/customer conversion rates, lower volume of customer support requests, lower customer churn and higher social customer experience scores. If it does not, your model of who is your best customer has to be re-calibrated and your assumption of the best channels have to be re-assessed.


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2 Responses to The Paradox of Choice and Social Media

  1. Arvind Gourishankar says:

    Some the biggest opportunities I come across for business turnarounds are not broken businesses but ones which are unfocused in their marketing and customer focused efforts. I always amazed when my team digs deeper and finds an almost random walk of disconnected programs.

    Like you said in your post, the biggest problem is thinking your most valuable customers are just those that ‘have the money’ to buy your products. A lot of factors go into momentum and profitability, not the least of which is an efficient and coordinated post sale process for supporting customers and responding to their complaints. Social media complicates that effort because there are so many platforms that integrating them into a system becomes difficult and demands strong leadership decision making.

  2. Gregory says:


    While I agree that multitude of choices introduces additional complexity, I would like you to consider multitude of additional opportunities to learn more about your customers by communicating with them directly. Social media platforms also provide the second most agile approach to marketing, after literal Word of Mouth, but much more powerful. I do not find them difficult to integrate into business processes and systems, but as you said focus and strong leadership decision making becomes even more valuable.

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