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Staying On the Consumer’s Friends List

Many of us strive to be No. 1, but when it comes to social circles, the first task is to make it into the 150.

That is the maximum number of relationships the average human brain can manage, according to Robin Dunbar, a professor of Oxford University. Almost 20 years has passed since Dunbar’s Number was introduced, and technology has vastly changed our lives, but recent research shows the human capacity for relationships has not changed.

For instance, one recent study out of Indiana University investigated the number of users with whom the average Twitter member interacts. The researchers examined millions of tweets to discover that Twitter members on average interact with, you got it, 150 others.

The difference today, as evidenced by the Twitter results, is that consumers have a wider pool of potential content with which to interact. So we can be more choosey – elevating the relevance requirement. There was a time when vicinity was a major factor in determining our relationships, but now a lawyer in Vermont can interact daily with an artist in Portugal – or with a skincare supplier in California.

It’s still 150 people, but the group is much more tailored – more defined to specific values and preferences.

It is a lesson marketers need to live by. Your store or service is not only competing with the rival down the street, it is vying for loyalty against online merchants from across the country and around the globe. So how do you get on the consumer’s top 150?

* Be selective about which channels you use, relative to your budget. If you invest all in one channel, even if it is proven, you could be missing lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Likewise, don’t invest in every channel just to have a presence – be sure it is delivering a sustainable return on investment.

* Find your voice. Social media has transformed dialogues between brands and consumers into trialogues among consumers, brands and other users. Be sure to create true brand advocacy, and ensure the authenticity of your brand’s promise – otherwise the court of public opinion will shout you out of the conversation.

* Build one-to-one experiences. Considering the data segmentation and algorithm capabilities emerging, our ability to build one-to-one experiences is still in its infancy. But while many organizations have embraced these technologies, plenty do not take advantage of the data to benefit not just themselves, but also the consumer.

In a lot of ways, business is a popularity contest. You can gimmick your way into the top 150 with a flashy brand redesign or two-for-one offer, but it won’t be long lasting. To stick in the minds of consumers, know them and deliver on a promise that matters to them for the long haul.

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