Connect with us

Business Marketing

Why Dunbar 150 is dead- long live BIG social media networks



“Relations are starting to matter more than relationships.” ~ Adam Singer. Don’t freak out.  This doesn’t mean that conventionally defined relationships are DOA. Cultivating and nurturing our core relationships is more important than ever, and always will be.  But today, the revolutionary nature of Social Media allows us to expand our connections beyond conventionally defined relationships.

Social Media divas, gurus, zen masters, etc. generally agree, “when it comes to the size your Social Media network, bigger isn’t better.”  They talk about the Dunbar 150 Number, and how it’s impossible to maintain real-meaningful-relationships with hundreds, let alone thousands.  150, that’s it, “If you have hundred’s of Facebook Friends, and or, Twitter Followers you’re not being “real”, or worse, you’re a poser, maybe even a spammer.

I’m not sipping their Kool-Aid. I call Monkey’s-Uncle.

Why we should NOT limit our connections

Let me explain why we should not limit the number of our Friends, or Followers, to a feeble, 150 conventional relationships.

Like Adam illuminates in his blog post, in addition, to our conventional/traditional relationships, there’s another important category of connection –the Relations category.  When we use Social Media to engage, and share with our friends, their friends can observe our interactions.  Adam calls these friends of our friends, the audience of our audience.

In addition to friends of friends, I believe Adam’s Relations category can be expanded to include Friends and Followers we are psychographically compatible with.  Because we share similar values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles, we have a natural connection.  Even though we don’t know each other well, because of our psychographic compatibility, we get each other.  We don’t have a conventionally defined Relationship, we are Social Media Relations.

Why is this new category of connection important?

Because, the larger the number of people who know us, like us and trust us, and, know us as a choice-worthy, real estate agent, the more opportunities we will attract.  Growing an expanded sphere-of-influence/network of Relations isn’t difficult, the key is to attract, Friend, Follow, share, and connect with the right people.  The key to connecting with the right people, is choosing compatible psychographic tribes and people.

Growing our networks to include both conventional Relationships, and Relations, allows us to influence, share and serve, more people.  Which means more business, and success.  If we limit our sharing, and engagement, to only people we know personally, or we stop at Dunbar 150,  we’ll soon be overshadowed by savvy Social Media competitors who have expanded their networks of influence, and amplified their Top Of Mind Awareness to include Relations, and Relationships.

This is why we can, and should have hundreds, and yes, even thousands of friends and followers.

Now how big do you think your network should be?

That’s what I’m thinking. What do you think?  How big should your network be?  Should you limit your friends or followers to conventionally defined Relationships, or expand to include Relations?

“Content and context define the future of successful marketing.”  ~Adam Singer

We’ve been taught, and we intuitively know, keen content is supremely important.  This applies online, and IRL.  Ego or me-centered content is a nasty form of Selfish Selling, and is shunned by all.  In general, sharing keen content is noticed and appreciated.  If you want we want to sweeten the impact of our excellent content, we must share it in context.

con·text – noun

1. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.

Sharing keen content in context, will transform what we’re sharing, into something hyper-relevant, and therefore more valuable.  This, tattoos us, into their subconscious Top Of Mind Awareness, which makes us familiar, trusted, choosable, and referable.

How do we share in context?  By sharing and engaging with compatible psychographic tribes.  Tribes of people that have common hobbies, interests, activities and opinons.  If we do this we’re sharing in a common language of context, familiarity, and interest.  Sharing with strangers, or psychographically incompatible people, is the definition of out-of-context, irrelevant, and annoying.

So, what do you think so far?  I hope I’m explaining it the way I feel it. Forgive me if I lost you, let me sum it up.

In Conclusion

  • Conventional Relationships will always be supremely important.
  • Our conversations, and what we share with our friends, is being evaluated, and appreciated, or not, by friends of our friends, what Adam calls, the audience of our audience.  I believe Adam’s Relations category can be expanded to include Friends and Followers we are psychographically compatible with.  Because we share similar values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles, we have a natural connection.  Even though we don’t know each other well, because of our psychographic compatibility, we get each other.  Social Media allows us to cultivate expanded opportunities, by growing our networks to include conventionally defined Relationships, and Social Media Relations.
  • Keen content is King, context is Queen.  Amplify your context, and grow your influential kingdom, by sharing with the right people.  The right people, are people who are psychographically compatible.
  • Dunbar 150 isn’t really dead.  But today, Social Media is redefining the number of people we can effectively influence, engage, and serve.  If we limit the number of people we touch to only conventionally defined Relationships, we severely limit our opportunities.  We have to think bigger than before.
  • Grow your networks, and spheres of influence beyond conventional and traditionally defined Relationships, include only psychographically compatible people, and tribes.

Thanks for reading.

PS.  The headline quote is from Adam Singer’s blog post titled:  How To Cultivate The Socialization Of Your Business.   To shine few watts on your future, check it out.

Ken Brand - Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors. I’ve proudly worn a Realtor tattoo for over 10,957+ days, practicing our craft in San Diego, Austin, Aspen and now, The Woodlands, TX. As a life long learner, I’ve studied, read, written, taught, observed and participated in spectacular face plant failures and giddy inducing triumphs. I invite you to read my blog posts here at Agent Genius and On the lighter side, you can follow my folly on Twitter and Facebook. Of course, you’re always to welcome to take the shortcut and call: 832-797-1779.

Continue Reading


  1. Janie Coffey

    August 2, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Ken, you really are my super hero! I love this post and it makes me rethink a few things about my approach to SM. REACH, @ProfessionalOne was just speaking about that this AM and it’s something I have been ignoring…. hmmmm, now I need to retool my follow back practices methinks

    • Ken Brand

      August 2, 2010 at 9:55 am

      Thanks Janie. I feel you, I forgot who said it, but it went something like this, “The problem is getting new ideas into our head, the challenge is to get the OLD ideas out.”

      In this case, I think we all associate the word “Friend” as our buddy and pal, which is true in real life, but on-line, it’s can much more, and less.

      Cheers, and thanks for sharing.

  2. Ken Brand

    August 2, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Left off a key word, “Not”. DOH. “The problem is NOT getting new ideas into our head, the challenge is to get the OLD ideas out.”

  3. Todd Barnard

    August 2, 2010 at 11:24 am

    “Sharing keen content in context, will transform what we’re sharing, into something hyper-relevant, and therefore more valuable…Keen content is King, context is Queen.”

    Absolutely false statements(s) and utterly backwards in every way.

    • Benn Rosales

      August 3, 2010 at 12:17 pm

      I really wish you would elaborate more deeply into your thoughts on this.

  4. Ken Brand

    August 2, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Enlighten me Todd, how would you straighten this out? I’d love to learn all I can. Let it rip.

  5. An Bui, DocuSign Social Media

    August 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Ken – thanks for the summary at the end. I read them first before I read your article and it helped me remember your key takeways.

    Regarding content and context, I think information sharing also helps with proper attribution – while I trust my friends and family, I also trust them more when they also share the source and the source’s authority.

    In a way, social media is the next evolution of search – instead of search engines depending on links to web pages, social content depends on links to online individuals.

    Thanks again. 🙂

    • Ken Brand

      August 4, 2010 at 12:17 pm

      I agree. In our, don’t sell me, bore me, or bullshit me society, attribution, or show me, instead of tell me, is more important than ever.

      Thanks for sharing.


  6. Benn Rosales

    August 3, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Well, putting this into context was much simpler when the space was smaller. Looking at a ‘relationship’s followers’ was once upon a time a visual aid into the the possibility for direct and indirect referral. If a follower had 50 followers, you could identify easily their friends/relationships and meet them.

    We broke out the dry erase board yesterday and drew out what you’re describing and realized that it isn’t new in theory (had a phone discussion with Rob Hahn 2 years ago on the metrics of this reality, and presented in 2006 on this effect), what is new are the labels we’re trying to attach to sets of targets. Beyond your relationships is pull marketing, hence where the concept of being spam comes from – utilizing content to pull potential followers.

    In context, marketing is king for conversion unless your goal is simply to become buddies. Beyond the Dunbar benchmark, you’re (indirectly and directly) prospecting and no longer utilizing social media as a consumer, you’re using it as a sales tool. But it seems that’s the way of it lately whether we like it or not. The rules are out the window simply because of the overwhelming emergence of more sales people from all walks of life diving into relationship sales (social networks).

    I think this is why it’s so important to draw the distinction between social networking and using social media as a consumer. If no one is left to consume, which is where we’re heading, then as a mass, it becomes just a giant speaker system for every voice at one time. I foresee in the very near future more and more people trimming and cleaning their ‘relations’ (going private) to only realistically be their Dunbar. The same as we now forward through commercials using DVR and TIVO, until we ‘see something’ that catches our eye- context will again be king, but conversion potentially smaller if your reach is still small.

    Thanks for making us drag out the crayons!

    • Ken Brand

      August 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm

      I agree, as mass social media marketing begins to distract, annoy and confuse, we all look for ways to stop it. Which is why, I remind myself, how important the context, and content portion is. Like everything else in society, if it’s good, people will want it. If I can share more good, than boring, and I have a larger audience, then I’m going to personally benefit, presumably, if my stuff (our stuff, her stuff, etc.) is good, people will want it, and will benefit as well. Or they will hit the delete/ignore/block button.

      I think I agree with your third paragraph, “you’re using social media as a tool.”. I agree because as a salesman/service provider, I use everything as a tool; conversation, inperson socializing, cell phone, mail, eMail, etc. Everything is a tool. The trick, for me anyway, is to use the tools, without being a tool. Hopefully, sharing some combination of relevant, interesting, informative, entertaining, and memorable stuff.

      I definitely agree with your thoughts on terms. I think we limit our opportunities by attempting to wrap our heads around new concepts/tools/etc., using by-gone-days definitions. Definitions like, what’s a “friend?”

      While it’s all get’s sorted out by the masses, I’m gonna grow the size of my friends/audience/prospects/sphere/network/psychographic/tribe. If people don’t like, thats what the block/ignore/unfollow button is for.

      I like with this too, “I think this is why it’s so important to draw the distinction between social networking and using social media as a consumer”. The beauty for me is, by using lists I can focus on the important-people-to-me, for social networking, and as a consumer, I do like to observe, query and benefit from my entire, mostly psychographically compatible, network.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Benn. It’s a beautiful chaotic world, thankfully.


      • Benn Rosales

        August 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm

        Well, coca-cola is always in context for me, regardless of content. I love coca-cola, but I still forward through their ad spots whenever possible. 🙂

        The same rings true for a professional. If all you are is in context content, then it’s only relevant to me when I’m buying a house. I may choose to add you to a list I consider soft spam, but as a possibility for later. I suppose that’s the best you could hope for?

        OR you could worry less about the in context content, and focus in on the relationship as in this frame of reference- you remain top of mind, in the influence of the target, and become a potential referral source for him/her, as the most overlooked component of media marketing is the desire for even the target to influence his/her peers (back to the Dunbar 150).

        Love this stuff.

        • Ken Brand

          August 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

          Ahh, but Coke is Coke, it never changes.

          As a professional, and a human, my context can range from funny Facebook Fails, to how set to Facebook Security Settings, to Average Price Per Square Foot, to where you should go to dinner. My context is personal, and professional. But yes, soft spam for sure. Unless we’re talking to our real buddies direct, soft spam makes sense, but it’s tolerable, as long at it doesn’t turn to hard spam, then I we all hit “ignore”. But if I strike it right, I’m semi-relevant, and I’m sharing with friends of friends. And I agree, “a possibility for later”, which is where I’m headed, positioning for Top Of Mind Awareness, when there’s a specific need. All the other times, I’m trying to be helpful, interesting, entertaining – anything by annoying.

          A fine art.

  7. Loren Sanders

    August 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    RT @MIrealestate: RT @AgentGenius: #agnow I agree. In our, don't sell me, bore me, or b.s me, society, attribution..

  8. Ken Brand

    August 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Suppose your BIG or small Brokerage, or your local MLS incorporated this new service, outlined by 1000Watt { }, would you opt for a small manageable network, or go big?

    Start growing, or you’ll disappear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Business Marketing

The use of offline marketing can still be advantageous in a digital world

(BUSINESS) Offline marketing is usually skipped over nowadays for the sparkly, shining ‘digital’ marketing strategies, but don’t forget the roots.



offline marketing billboard

Everywhere you look, people want to talk about digital marketing. In fact, if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy in today’s business world, you’re not going to last long. But just because digital marketing is popular, don’t assume that offline marketing no longer yields value.

When used together, these strategies can produce significant returns.

“Some people will argue that traditional marketing is dead, but there are several benefits to including offline advertising in your overall marketing campaign,” sales expert Larry Myler admits. “Combining both offline and online campaigns can help boost your brand’s visibility, and help it stand out amongst competitors who may be busy flooding the digital space.”

How do you use offline marketing in a manner that’s both cost-effective and high in exposure? While your business will dictate how you should proceed, here are a few offline marketing methods that still return considerable value in today’s marketplace.

1. Yard signs

When most people think about yard signs, their minds immediately go to political signs that you see posted everywhere during campaign season. However, yard signs have a lot more utility and value beyond campaigning. They’re actually an extremely cost-effective form of offline advertising.

The great thing about yard signs is that you can print your own custom designs for just dollars and, when properly stored, they last for years. They’re also free to place, assuming you have access to property where it’s legal to advertise. This makes them a practical addition to a low-budget marketing campaign.

2. Billboards

The fact that you notice billboards when driving down an interstate or highway is a testament to the reality that other people are also being exposed to these valuable advertisements. If you’ve never considered implementing billboards into your marketing strategy, now’s a good time to think about it.

With billboard advertising, you have to be really careful with design, structure, and execution. “Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in. Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard,” copywriter Paul Suggett explains. “So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.”

3. Promotional giveaways

It’s the tangible nature of physical marketing that makes it so valuable. Yard signs and billboards are great, but make sure you’re also taking advantage of promotional giveaways as a way of getting something into the hands of your customers.

Promotional giveaways, no matter how simple, generally produce a healthy return on investment. They increase brand awareness and recall, while giving customers positive associations with your brand. (Who doesn’t love getting something for free?)

4. Local event sponsorships

One aspect of offline marketing businesses frequently forget about is local event sponsorships. These sponsorships are usually cost-effective and tend to offer great returns in terms of audience engagement.

Local event sponsorships can usually be found simply by checking the calendar of events in your city. Any time there’s a public event, farmer’s market, parade, sporting event, concert, or fundraiser, there’s an opportunity for you to get your name out there. Look for events where you feel like your target audience is most likely to attend.

Offline marketing is anything but dead.

If your goal is to stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are investing heavily in social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and blogging, then it’s certainly worth supplementing your existing digital strategy with traditional offline marketing methods that reach your audience at multiple touchpoints.

Continue Reading

Business Marketing

What you can learn from Ulta Beauty’s marketing mix up with Kate Spade

(MARKETING) Ulta Beauty’s insensitive marketing email surrounding the Kate Spade brand can be a lesson: Be cautious and respond to crisis appropriately.



Woman typing on computer representing the Ulta Beauty and Kate Spade email scandal

Last week in an email sent to subscribers, Ulta Beauty made light of designer Kate Spade’s suicide. Ulta said the lighthearted connection to Spade’s death was unintentional. The email sparked anger across social media and some national news outlets picked up the story. In an emailed response to the New York Post, Ulta apologized to their customers, their Kate Spade corporate partners, and Kate Spade’s family. They ended by saying they will strive to do better.

Words matter. Messaging matters. Hopefully, we can all learn a lesson from this painful mistake.

Check your tone. It’s one of the early things we teach writing students. The tone should match the content. If the icon you’re using to sell a product ended their own life, perhaps light and fun isn’t the tone you should embrace. Ever. But most businesses won’t be dealing with well-known people whose stories have been shared with millions. It’s up to business owners and those who write their copy to ensure the tone matches the message.

Always have a second pair of eyes look over words going out to the public. Or even a third and fourth. Often those in the creative room are brainstorming messages, reworking copy, and looking for the perfect pitch. And they get it. It sounds good, looks good, is easy to say and share, and, best of all, it will lead to sales. Having a multi-person system in place to check the copy and someone separate to give final approval can help catch the oh-my-God-no great words, but absolutely not pieces of sales copy.

Listen to your customer base and have a system in place to listen quickly. All businesses need systems for immediate customer response in play. Ulta caught their so-called oversight quickly.  But they’re a huge brand and Kate Spade was a beloved fashion icon. The negative response went viral and they had a giant mess to clean up. Companies make messes with their words often, messes that don’t immediately go viral but lead to real pain for consumers. When customers ask you to stop a message, listen to them and act.

Apologies don’t make excuses. If you’re caught in a messaging mess of your own making, I’m sorry goes a long way. If needed, follow that apology up with a plan to show you’re serious about “doing better” and making sure this never happens again.

If you find yourself in a place where a public apology is necessary, consider hiring a crisis manager to help with that plan as well.

Part of business today is constant communication with consumers. Try to have systems in place so you don’t find yourself in a “learning to do better” moment like Ulta. Words aren’t just about sales. They have power. Remember that.

Continue Reading

Business Marketing

Experience Design & Marketing: Where do they intersect, where do they diverge?

(MARKETING) The field of marketing has been around the sun and back, whereas experience design is a newer, but growing field. Where do they overlap?



marketing trends and experience design

Identify, understand, educate, promise, and fulfill. Is that marketing or experience design? Is it both? The closer we get to marketing in the digital spaces* being truly organic and less about carpeting mobile sites with pop-ups and interruptions, the more marketing and experience design (XD)** start to intersect.

Software experiences used to be only about getting jobs done and the learning curve it took to operate that software was accepted as unavoidable. There was no expectation for ease of use and the competitive landscape was far smaller. The same can be said of marketing; when the pool of offers and services were drastically smaller, you won with volume or referral. Now there are deep expectations for human-computer interactions, expectations of low friction when dealing with a system or entity, and more choices than there are biting Tweets. Volume rarely wins anymore unless the traffic spend is massive or the niche is narrow. Both of these are the result of crowded, loud marketplaces and way more noise than signal. So what did marketing do? What did XD do? They turn to delivering more curated, personal interactions and messages. Those are now driven not by gross demographics and forty pieces of car dealership push cards in my mailbox, but by extrapolated wants and needs taken from human voices and applied to custom outreach.

  1. XD uses ceremonies and activities to discover and define our version of market evaluation and segmentation.
  2. XD prototypes and iterates based on focus groups, unmoderated testing, business requirements validation, and the things they expose. That’s our audience testing.
  3. XD seeks to remove the uninteresting, unused, or unnecessary parts of a decision tree (journey if we must lingo) based on response and introduce a version sans those things to drive closer to the intent and outcome. This is our nurture.
  4. XD uses continuous feedback to improve, refine, and in some cases recommend next steps, products, adjustments, or augmentations. That is our remarketing/retargeting, it’s how we adjust the “campaign”.

And those are only the most obvious fibers of the common thread the disciplines share. Others with a deeper knowledge of both topics can surely add to this list tenfold. The essence of this examination is to ask the question, should marketing and experience design work in tandem? Under one shingle? Can they coexist as a federated faction under the larger umbrella of CX?

They are both a part of a unified journey and the natural progression from first exposure to adoption to “damn I love this thing, I think I’ll TikTok about it” for products and services. That kind of melding could serve a common goal; seamless brand engagement.

The people that consume whatever is being offered don’t see us, the company, the thing, as a cluster of siloed pods vaguely marching in the same direction. They see us as a whole and our disciplines should support that impression.

Marketers and Experience folk– integrate! Learn each other’s wares and purposes, share things that work and definitely those that don’t. XD gang, I mean really combining to achieve specific goals. Don’t just send them a Jake Knapp YouTube, find common goals. And marketing kin, this means more than citing some Sprinklr data and the latest NPS around trending SEO. Wonder Twin into a test and prove machine, use HCD tactics to undercover new copy strategies, and test it with a group in a Pepsi/Coke standoff. I know you are A/B-ing your work, but you can narrow that lane before you traffic it. We can learn from each other, we can benefit from one another, greatly.

I’m betting we can forge something slightly fresher than passing people through our business cotton gin and expecting them to feel like we are one. What are the afterimages that last from the time I see a LinkedIn post, follow to the affiliate, subscribe/buy and actually get something good out of the product? Don’t tell me there isn’t a marketing/design love story in there.

I look forward to following up on this with an actionable plan and (hopefully) killer outputs.

Be well, feel good, and know peace.

*Experience Design as a proper name encompasses exactly what is in the eponymous name; the experience is every interaction, passive or active, through the entire cycle. From the first shred of awareness of a product or service to the lasting relationship made– that is experience in this context.

**I’m not going to call it Digital Marketing anymore, pretty sure we aren’t doing direct mail along with our IG ads

Continue Reading

Our Great Partners

American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.

Emerging Stories

Get The American Genius
neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to get business and tech updates, breaking stories, and more!