If you can dream of it, there’s a box subscription service for it. The box subscription market holds footings in various niche industries. There are over 600 different box services featuring dental products, alcohol, geek memorabilia, etc. Venture capitalists have bottled the notable market growth with investments from $1M to $109M. Despite being a nascent market, there have already been business model pivots. Box subscription services now include discovery commerce and convenience commerce factors.

The two business models and two psychological principles drive box subscription popularity. What can social media marketers learn from them?

Reinforcement Schedules

Reinforcement schedules are a psychological concept based on operant conditioning. This type of conditioning is behavioral training to elicit specific behavioral responses. Positive and negative reinforcements shape strengthened desired response patterns. A high response strength means increased future probability for re-occurrence. Reinforcement frequency and time impacts a “user’s” response rate and strength.

For example, if your professor gave you extra credit every time you went to class, then you’d go to class more often.. The probability increases that you attend future classes. The reinforcement frequency is ‘every time’ and time is ‘whenever you go to class.’ Your response rate is ‘how often you go to class now’ and strength is ‘how likely you are to go to class in the future.’

This is a continuous reinforcement schedule. The professor has an attendance goal and doles out positive reinforcement. Frequent and consistent extra credit rewards change student behavior to match the professor’s goal.

Random reinforcement schedules involve erratic reinforcement frequencies and times. “Users” proceed to increase their response frequency and strength for higher reinforcement prospects. This is why gambling is so popular. Getting money is random so people gamble often and are likely to come back.

Random reinforcement schedules coupled with discovery commerce is why box subscription services thrive. Discovery commerce involves shoppers discovering products they enjoy and find interesting. This discovery takes place in a laid back yet luxurious fashioned environment.

The “user’s” response rate and strength are the subscription plan length and continuation likelihood. Box subscription services aim for customers paying bigger amounts for longer plans. “Users” discover enticing products they may love in a manner comparable to unboxing presents. Random positive reinforcement occurs whenever they receive a holy grail product. The subscription plan is continuous, although the reinforcement is variable. “Users” continue their plan with optimism about receiving another box of great products.

How to apply it to social media marketing?

Random reinforcement schedules are crucial to why social media websites are so popular. People click on social media notifications even with the low probability of good content. People check sites in case there’s a great new post.

This constant refreshing is FOMO, “the fear of missing out.” Random reinforcement schedules explain FOMO. People refresh social media sites with anticipation. Maybe this click will lead to awesome content. Social media can become addictive. “Users” increase their response rates and strengths for variable positive reinforcements.

Social media marketers should be aware of this psychology tool. Mixing poor content with quality content is not the proper way to use it. Poor content will not create a high strong response rate if “users” are not hooked to begin with. You want genuine “users” who come back because of your content.

Keep a consistent and high-quality posting schedule using a social media editorial calendar. Like box subscription services, people will follow niches they enjoy. Tailor your social media content to be high quality to those who enjoy your niche. This become positive random reinforcement. More people will follow and continue to do so because they discovered a random reward in your content.

Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue is the plummeting ability to make good decisions. This happens after a long period of decision-making. It explains the post-exam zombie period of junk food eating and Netflix binging.

Grocery and meal planning box subscription services cut out decision fatigue through convenience commerce. This business model short-circuits decision fatigue and helps customers make better choices through convenience. Healthy groceries and meals become an automatic, regular decision already made for customers. No more “what should I buy? What should I eat?” questions.

How to apply it to social media marketing?

Social media pages with curated and handpicked vibes lure in a lot of followers. Marketers should aim to make related content as accessible as possible. Having a tailored social media page eliminates decision fatigue.

People won’t need to go to several different websites to find themed and relevant posts to them. You provide them with a cohesive page. It becomes an automatic daily click for followers. The automated frequent checks let a random reinforcement schedule to kick in.


Above all, keep consistent branding and have your social media icons accessible.  This allows for all four factors. There’s a discovery element. Branding connects social pages but each link adds a different dimension of content. There’s no more decision fatigue and it’s convenient for people who like your content. They want to click on your other links because they know what to expect. People start checking all your social media pages and many random reinforcement cycles start.

4 Takeaways

  1. Know your niche audience and what would be relevant for them
  2. Have high quality and themed posts to allow for a random reinforcement hook
  3. Keep a regular posting schedule so potential and actual followers stay reinforced
  4. Consistent branding and accessible social media icons to hit all four factors