Chatting with Chris Baggott is always enlightening. He not only co-founded Exact Target, one of the leading email marketing solution providers on the market, but then moved on to start Compendium Blogware, an enterprise-level blogging solution I’ve grown to know well as a consultant for them. Point being, Chris is really smart and brings an analytical and logical perspective to the table the social media purists hate because A) His perspective is founded in driving business, not holding hands and celebrating our engagementdom and B) He’s right and they know it.

Friday, Chris and I were in a room full of Compendium folks doing what we do when we get together and a couple of his little analytical nuggets surfaced that caught my attention. He said from his experience in email marketing there emerged a threshold of how many corporate e-newsletters a person would subscribe to and read or interact with regularly. He said that number was about 11. It’s more for some, less for others, but the average was around 11.

Photo by Senai Aksoy on Shutterstock.comI currently (and intentionally) subscribe to about 12 that I will open and browse through, so that number rings true for me. I don’t read every one with baited breath, but I make sure to scan them for good nuggets. I’m sure another two or three dozen are sent to me that I didn’t opt-in to receive. Those I ignore or take the time to opt out of.

The email threshold made me wonder if we have a similar threshold for brands we have affinities for. And I don’t just mean how many we would “like” on Facebook. (I currently “like” 121 things there, I think.) I mean how many brands or companies can one person be so loyal to and passionate about that they proactively recommend, promote and follow/engage with that brand regularly?

(Proactive is intentionally said. It’s different that reactive advocacy. For example, if you ask me about Graco kids products, I’d swear by them, confirm I own strollers, high chairs, play pens and more, but wouldn’t actively think to recommend them to someone.)

Certainly, this is a question better suited for a market research team, but it’s an interesting discussion to have. I actively recommend and promote Maker’s Mark and Elijah Craig bourbons. (And I no longer work with Maker’s Mark, so it’s not a client thing.) I will proactively tell people about my Volkswagen Jetta TDI Diesel, the Sony products in my house and my variety of Apple products. Beyond that, you’d have to ask me what I think about a specific product for me to opine.

Is there a threshold for a person’s affinity?

I’d venture to guess there is, but that it probably varies by person. Sports fans normally have a passion for one primary team. Sure, they’re fans of others, but one team in one sport is normally their weakness. With only anecdotal evidence to back up my thoughts, I’d bet the real passionistas for brands have a threshold of one. Yeah, they like others, but they’re passionate about one. Still others, like me, may love three or four brands like they love their alma maters or employers. Then there are brand freaks who get off on recommending products or being the go-to resource for their friends on all things shopping. Those of them who aren’t working for QVC or ad agencies are probably big on 10-15 companies or products.

In my estimation, if anyone is a passionate, brand advocate about more than that, they’re nuts. Or at least annoying to be around.

But that’s just my guess. What do you think? Do we have a limit on how many companies, brands or products we can love? And what, if anything, does that tell marketers about their focus?

As always, the comments are yours.

IMAGE: Senai Aksoy on Shutterstock.com

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/blogging-best-practices chrisbaggott

    I knew we had a lot in common, but was really pleased to find that we both drive Diesels. (I still don't understand why I can drive a Taurus Diesel in the UK but not here?)

    Anyway, Thanks for the kind words. You can feel the world turning towards data driven marketing more every day. The whole social marketing landscape is so new, that people are still figuring it out. Your recent posts on the reality of Twitter use helps a lot….as does the Dunbar Circle article in the Economist. I'm becoming more and more of the concept of empowering your customers to “broadcast themselves” as I discussed in this post last week: http://bit.ly/9GkrWQ

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    Good insight. I find that I'm only going to open what catches my eye repeatedly and adds value to my focus at this time. This can be anything from a ezine from a product company to even an internet marketer.

    Every so often, however, I do spend some time just reading through everything I've gotten – to make sure I'm not missing some golden nugget buried within. Occasionally I find something – but that is not the norm. Then, even if I do find something, I am so overwhelmed with incoming information that I'm lucky to remember anything – let alone recommending a brand to someone when the time surfaces.

  • http://jaskeller.wordpress.com Jason Keller

    Jason what newsletters do you actually take time to look at? I am searching for some relevant reads. And what about the distinction between advocating products and brands? It seems like companies can segment the two when identifying advocates. For example I own a HP tablet pc and would recommend them in that product category, but I have advocated Apple products to people who were not tech savvy and on the hunt for a computer. Just a thought.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Which ones do I read? Ahhh … great idea for a subsequent blog post! Coming
      soon.

  • http://jaskeller.wordpress.com Jason Keller

    Jason what newsletters do you actually take time to look at? I am searching for some relevant reads. And what about the distinction between advocating products and brands? It seems like companies can segment the two when identifying advocates. For example I own a HP tablet pc and would recommend them in that product category, but I have advocated Apple products to people who were not tech savvy and on the hunt for a computer. Just a thought.

  • http://twitter.com/danabacon danabacon

    I'm curious about the notion of advocacy saturation for grassroots/political work, being an organizer by trade. How do you think these principles apply to political outreach?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great question. I've always wondered how one person can have multiple
      political passions or affiliations. I'd say the threshold probably parallels
      the brand passions simply because I know someone who's constantly throwing
      political topics at me is almost as annoying as someone continually
      recommending brands or products. I'm sure there's a Dunbars number for the
      political passions, too. What it is, I guess we'll have to leave it up to
      the researchers.

  • http://twitter.com/patrickboegel Patrick

    Interesting stuff. Not to get too deep into behavioral psychology, but I suspect that individuals ability to advocate is also tempered by their real life social ties (which includes family and friend obligations as well). I don't think I am sharing deep sociological insight by saying that when one starts to have a family, their bond and time spent with friends can be tempered. Logically ones passion for sports, hobbies, brands etal would seem to follow the same suit. I think with each important role you have in your life (partner, parent, employee, employer) the connection and level of connection to certain things tends to go from advocate, to enthusiast, to “fan/like”. The latter being a pretty low level engagement, that you won't likely get on the soap box for necessarily. It is only natural because your hardcore advocacy is pulled into other directions. Those are my initial ramblings anyhow, good topic.

  • http://www.simonmainwaring.com/ Simon Mainwaring

    Totally agree, Jason.

    Being a brand advocate doesn't mean losing sight of a healthy sense of self. Like most communications on the web we need to be open, honest and balanced. Thanks, Simon

  • greecetour

    I am totally agree with you . Good Thought Jason .

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