Marketing Mailing Lists & The Mysteries of The Human Brain

While the internet is rife with studies regarding our daily habits, complexes, spending impulses, demographics, cultural dependencies and just about every other imaginable social and domestic factor that can be (somehow) tied to how we gravitate towards a certain brand/service/product over another, not much has been put to print about what our own bodies have to say about all this.

During the last decade, bulk email communications and social networking technology has had a profound influence on the scale of which people share information, and has vastly increased the ease with which we can connect. It’s not uncommon for Twitter and Facebook users to have thousands of fans/followers (and to be a fan/follower of thousands) just as it is for bulk mailing lists to contain heaps of addresses. Now Bruno Goncalves from the University of Indiana has studied the network of links created by three million Twitter users over four years. After counting tweets that are mutual and regular as signifying a significant social bond, he found that when people start tweeting, their number of friends increases to a saturation point until they become overwhelmed. Beyond that saturation point, the conversations with less important contacts start to become less frequent and the tweeters begin to concentrate on the people they have the strongest links with.


So what is the saturation point? Or, in other words, how many people can tweeters maintain contact with before they get overwhelmed? The answer is between 100 and 200.


The bottom line is that high frequency communications, such as social networks, bulk email and bulk SMS-ing allow us to vastly increase the number of individuals we can connect with, but can’t change our physically-defined communication capabilities. It doesn’t matter what we do, we cannot maintain close links with more than about 150 people, that is, until somebody finds a way to increase the human brain size.


Marketers are always looking to secure their brand in consumer top-of-mind nirvana. Having a big mailing list counts, as does the constant effort to inflate your subscriber numbers. But unless your brand poses real value to the individual, you’ll be shelved down with the shoes whenever he or she receives an email from you. As this research shows, it’s a biological fact.


This is all another reason why finding and nurturing quality contacts through your opt-in mailing list is vital to ensuring that your communications are making an actual impression. It doesn’t mean that you’ve hit a brick wall once there are 200 names in your pocket, it simply means that effective list building really comes down to how much the people you’re signing up care about what you have to say, which is always something you can improve with an appealing marketing message. Limitations are an unwelcome concept to digital age thinkers who are used to punting infinity, but the key is to refine identifying and targeting your core market. Then cultivate your mailing list out of this fertile land to avoid wasting time and send credits.


So the important thing to ask is: are you a part of the recipients’ inner inbox circle (or aiming to get there) or are you just another brand in the chain?

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