Social networks may seem the ultimate way to humanize the Web. After all, they connect people across time, distance, and interests. But despite Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and all the rest, the Web is becoming more dehumanized than ever.

Perception and Expectations

Perhaps the Web, per se, isn't the issue. Maybe it's a matter of perception and expectations. Remember a decade ago, before YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, when everyone was still excited about websites? Delivering a great user experience wasn't much harder than avoiding broken links and 404 errors, and presenting options clearly on the navigation bar.

But users expect more now. They want to connect to whatever they want from wherever they want whenever they want, from any device running on whatever platform.

And it's not just the mobility of the experience that has changed. Not long ago we had only three real choices for TV. Now you can watch an almost limitless array of video programming on a wide variety of channels from multiple media outlets. And simply because you choose to watch last night's episode of The Daily Show on Hulu doesn't mean that you aren't simultaneously shopping on your tablet and texting your friends.

We have quickly evolved from multi-channel to omni-channel. And the expectation is that brands will be able to keep up with us as we leap from channel to channel, device to device.

Such an explosion of channels and experiences may sound at first like a good thing both for consumers and for brands. Consumers get to choose what to consume and where, when, and how to consume it. Brands have the opportunity to reach consumers 24/7, 365 days a year, across multiple channels.

But there is a downside. For consumers, it's the tyranny of choice. When we're confronted with too many choices, studies have repeatedly shown, we get overwhelmed and our ability to make rational choices declines. For brands, it's an almost impenetrable wall of noise that has to be broken through to get the message across.

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image of John Kottcamp
John Kottcamp is chief strategy and marketing officer of Tahzoo, a customer experience marketing firm.