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Complaining about free services

August 1, 2011

@evcon RT’s:

Complaining about Twitter ads? Check it: MT @dotBen: “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

Yep. And assuming that there could only ever be one micro-blogging service, then complaint is indeed fruitless. It’s their way or the highway.

But suppose another company could offer a competing service! Well that’s different then. If enough people get annoyed by the way Twitter works (for example), another company might have a decent shot at replacing them. After all it happened to MySpace.

It’s also true that Twitter needs to make a profit. And our politics often leads us to think in a zero-sum fashion. But in business it’s a dangerous game to annoy your customers on purpose. Instead of zero-sum, think Pareto efficient. That’s where you make improvements that make at least one party better off without making anyone worse off.

How to keep the advertisements while minimizing annoyance to your users? You might only need a little tweak here and there.  Any ideas?

Company brainstorming session? Absolutely. Website feedback page? You could get lucky. Hire a consultant to tell you what your users want? Let’s table that one for a moment.

Or you could search out those notorious complaints, on Twitter, on blogs, on Facebook. Odds are your users are already telling you what annoys them and maybe even how to fix it. Even if you ignore the ones who say; “No ads!” there will be plenty of constructive suggestions.

So go ahead and complain about that free service. Be as constructive as you can, and do remember they need some kind of a business model to keep offering you the service. If they’re smart they won’t take it personally, but they will listen. Or their competitors will.


  • *If you chafe at being the product sold, you’re not alone. But if we’re going to identify as consumers instead of as citizens, it’s inevitable. It’s also outside the scope of this post.
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Nance
    August 6, 2011 at 08:06 | #1

    I’m visiting on the strength of a recommendation from Paul Sunstone at Cafe Philos, and he nailed me well; I’m ridiculously pleased to learn of an economic concept I’d never heard of. I’ll be trying to make use of it five times in the next few days to get it lodged into long-term storage (a less efficient task than it once was, and so it goes). Thanks!

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