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Social Media: Does it cause post-purchase dissonance? – Dr. S Shyam Prasad

20th Sept, 2021.


Social media is a common noun for the collection of websites and applications that focus on communication in different forms. Investopedia defines social media as a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities (Dollarhide, 2021). Since social media, by design, is internet-based, it is as ubiquitous as the internet itself. It is estimated that 3.8 billion people out of 7.9 billion (world population at the time of writing this article – source: World Population Clock) use social media (We Are Social, 2021.) i.e. about 48% of the population. Practically speaking, everyone, such as individuals, corporates, politicians and governments are inclined to use social media to engage with their respondents. Hence, it takes many forms such as blogging, photosharing, social networks, business networks, video sharing, reviews to name a few. People use social media to share their thoughts, feelings, insights, and emotions. The average daily use of social media is 145 minutes (Statista, 2021). Social media has its share of ill effects too such as stress, and jealousy. It also has been found to cause depression (Lin, et al., 2016). A recent study by William Brady and others of Yale University, which analysed 12.7 million comments from 7,333l users, using machine learning software, shows that online networks encourage people to express more moral outrage over time (Brady, McLoughlin, Doan, & Crockett, 2021). These are few strong reasons to believe that social media may also cause or induce doubts in the minds of the consumers about a product that they have already purchased. Will it then cause, what is known as, in marketing parlance post-purchase dissonance?  

Post-purchase dissonance

Simply put, post-purchase dissonance (PPD), also called post-purchase cognitive dissonance (PPCD), is when a customer, after making a purchase feels mentally uneasy about the purchase. It is a phenomenon that happens after a customer has made a purchase. This is not a new phenomenon but has come to the fore due to increased online buying behaviour. In the US alone, 82% of adults who made online shopping said they regretted the purchases (Boyarsky, 2021), studying PPD with respect to online buying behaviour becomes necessary and interesting.

PPD can be triggered by many factors such as observing certain annoying features in the product purchased or hearing a favourable thing or things about other brands. A cognitive process happens after every purchase by a customer; either the customer is satisfied or dissatisfied. This sets in motion the post-purchase behaviour of the customers and everyone who feels it feels it for their own emotional or economic reasons. What then, are the causes of PPD? Some of the many causative factors are as follows:

  1. The product itself may not meet his expectations.
  2. The customer may feel that he/she has overpaid for the product.
  3. The customer may have purchased on an impulse and maybe regretting his/her action.
  4. The customer may realize that a competitor’s product is better than the brand he/she has purchased.
  5. The customer may hear, read positive reviews about a competitor’s product.
  6. The customer may hear, read negative reviews about the brand purchased.
  7. The customer’s sudden change in taste and preferences.

The above factors of PPD can apply to any offerings made by the marketers.


In the services marketing domain, an innovative idea that has recently attracted attention is the zone-of-tolerance (ZOT). Several studies have been conducted to understand the link between customer satisfaction and service quality. A great number of studies have focused on disconfirmation theory, according to which satisfaction or dissatisfaction is dependent upon the degree of the confirmation or disconfirmation of the customers’ initial expectations of service (Churchill & Surprenant, 1982). Parasuraman et al (1985) also deem that initial customers’ expectations of the service quality govern the customers’ satisfaction (Parasuraman, Valarie A. Zeithaml, & Berry, 1985). Both theories emphasize the role of initial expectations in customer satisfaction. Social media is one of the tools that possess the potential to shape both the initial expectations and the post-purchase perceptions of a product or service. Hence, to discuss the role of SM in PPD this article has been written. An elaborate empirical study has been planned to understand the role of SM in PPD.

ZOT implies that there is a certain range in which the products’ or services’ quality is tolerated and beyond that threshold PPD sets in. The range is depicted in Figure 1.

In the range depicted in figure 1, when the product’s performance or quality falls below a customer’s expectation and is still within the adequate level, the customer is undecided whether he/she is satisfied or dissatisfied. However, when it falls below the perceived adequate level, the customer feels dissatisfied and regrets the purchase. This is when PPD happens.

The interest of this study is, when a customer is in the undecided phase, due to hearing or reading negative reviews about the brand purchased on social media, is he/she swayed toward PPD? Studies have established that chronic characteristics (i.e., trait anxiety and generalized self-confidence) and temporary feelings toward a purchase situation (i.e., state anxiety and specific self-confidence) impact the post-purchase dissonance (Keng & Liao, 2013). Further, it has also been established that chronic characteristics of customers’ are more consistent than their temporary feelings toward a buying situation (Oshikawa, 1972). Though the personality traits of a consumer are difficult to change, Keng & Liao (2013) demonstrated that marketers can alter temporary feelings which mediate the chronic characteristics to reduce the consumers’ PPD. A point to remember here is that the success of a firm doesn’t lie in removing PPD but in delighting the customer. This is where social media marketing steps in.

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

SMM is a powerful way of doing business by connecting with the target prospects and customers on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to build a firm’s brand, increase sales, and drive website traffic. One of the important parts of SMM is listening and engagement. As SMM picks up, discussions about the firms’ brands will also grow. People will comment, opine and write reviews about a brand with or without tagging the organisation. If they are positive and good they are welcome. Otherwise, the firm needs to nip the harmful and negative comments in the bud before they go out of hand. Hence, it is imperative that they keep an eye on all the notifications across all the social media platforms. Some organisations do this manually and better-placed ones use social media listening and engagement tools to look at all social media contents, including those that didn’t tag the organisation.


The above observations and discussions lead to a straightforward perception that social media, in unsuspecting or neutral feeling customers may cause PPD. Also, by carefully managing the temporary feeling towards buying, a firm can, to a large extent, sway customers away from PPD. To test these hypotheses, an empirical study has been planned and a questionnaire developed from the extant literature. The data will be collected through the internet, which in the opinion of many scholars, the present pandemic period, is considered to be an option. The analysis of the data and the results will throw light on the reality.  

In my personal opinion, PPD, in the first place, can be avoided by the marketers by setting the initial expectations correctly without exaggerating the truth because, truth, honesty and credibility are crucial to love and loyalty. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know” (Keats in Ode to a Grecian Urn). As we all know, “Eshwar Satya hai, Satya he Shiv hai, Shiv he Sundar hai!”

Works Cited

  1. Boyarsky, K. (2021, May 6). What is Post Purchase Dissonance? (+ Examples). Retrieved September 11, 2021, from A wonderment website:
  2. Brady, W. J., McLoughlin, K., Doan, T. N., & Crockett, M. J. (2021, August 13). How social learning amplifies moral outrage expression in online social networks. Science Advances, 7(33), eabe5641.
  3. Churchill, G. A., & Surprenant, C. (1982, Nov). An Investigation into the Determinants of Customer Satisfaction. Journal of Marketing Research, 19(4), 491-504.
  4. Dollarhide, M. (2021, August 31). Social Media. Retrieved from Investopedia:
  5. Keng, C.-J., & Liao, T.-H. (2013). Self-confidence, anxiety, and post-purchase dissonance:a panel study. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43, 1636-1647.
  6. Lin, L. Y., Miller, E., Colditz, J. B., Hoffman, B. L., Giles, L. M., & Primack, B. A. (2016). ASSOCIATION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND DEPRESSION AMONG U.S. YOUNG ADULTS. Depression and anxiety, 33(4), 323–331.
  7. Oshikawa, S. (1972). The measurement of cognitive dissonance: Some experimental findings. Journal of Marketing, 36, 64-67.
  8. Parasuraman, A., Valarie A. Zeithaml, & Berry, L. L. (1985). A Conceptual Model of Service Quality and Implications for Future Research. Journal of Marketing, 49(Fall), 41-50.
  9. Statista. (2021, March 14). Daily time spent on social networking by internet users worldwide from 2012 to 2020. Retrieved from Statista:
  10. We Are Social. (2021., March 8). Retrieved from We Are Social. “DIGITAL 2020: 3.8 BILLION PEOPLE USE SOCIAL MEDIA:
  11. World Population Clock: 7.9 Billion People (2021) – Worldometer. (2021, September). Retrieved from World Population Clock: 7.9 Billion People (2021) – Worldometer:

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