Social Media and the Monkey Sphere

150On social media, if you’re not in their bubble, you might as well go home.

Thorin McGee just called us all monkeys. And he’s right.

McGee is talking about the Dunbar Number, that theoretical limit beyond which relationships cease to be personal and just become…monkeys.

“Robin Dunbar was an anthropologist who studied primates. He found that social group size corresponded to the species’ brain size,” McGee explains in Target Marketing. “Each species could only handle so many social connections. Beyond that number, the rest of the primates ceased to be seen as discrete individuals. Everyone who didn’t fit inside that limited social sphere was just a monkey.”

“Using the same ratios, Dunbar figured that the average human’s personal social sphere — the people who you know by name, know how they connect with the other people in your sphere, and that you have ongoing social relationship with — is limited to about 150 people,” he continues.

Beyond that number, everyone else is just a monkey. Brands, McGee posits, are monkeys too, with the exception of those brands that somehow develop a personal relationship with a user.

“The problem with being just a monkey today is when people build their online communities and media bubbles; the monkeys don’t get in. And you can’t buy your way in with more ads,” McGee notes. “The only way to be more than a monkey is to create experiences that make personal connections with the people in your audience.”

The key, McGee asserts, is to figure out how to make those personal connections and apply it at scale. Figure that out, and your brand is now more than a monkey; it’s a trusted insider. And that’s the sweet spot on the banana.

It’s an interesting approach and makes sense that in the time of rampant ad blocking and digital noise it’s the only way past the barricades.

Small wonder, then, that recent studies show that magazine media is the sweet spot for brands when it comes to brand growth and awareness. Magazines connect and engage on a real, tangible and intellectual level that fosters those personal relationships brands are seeking.

Monkey sphere or one of the tribe? Maybe print’s the way inside.