Do we put a limit on our close social networks?

New UK study into the behaviour of individuals across various social practices shows we each have our own social signature

For leaders in the marketing industry, there’s no such thing as having too many friends in your social network. But a new study has shown that people inadvertently limit the number of close social contacts.

The persistence of social signatures in human communication study by researchers from a range of universities including the University of Oxford, University of Chester, UK and Aalto University, Finland found people often take a ‘one in, one out’ approach when forming a group of friends they consider to be in close contact with. Each individual's 'social signature' - the pattern of their interactions with different friends and family - varies but remains persistent despite the number of new friends they make.

“Although social communication is now easier than ever, it seems that our capacity for maintaining emotionally close relationships is finite,” said Felix Reed-Tsochas, James Martin Lecturer in Complex Systems at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. “While this number varies from person to person, what holds true in all cases is that at any point individuals are able to keep up close relationships with only a small number of people, so that new friendships come at the expense of ‘relegating’ existing friends.”

The study looked at patterns of communications between participants and their close friends/not so close friends. It found even the efficiencies of digital communication such as mobile phones didn’t alter an individual's ability to expand their close social network.

“This study used a novel combination of questionnaires and mobile phone data to show that people have a distinctive pattern of communicating with their family and friends, and that this pattern persists even people make new friends as they go to university or work,” said Dr Roberts, from the University of Chester’s Psychology Department.

“Our results are likely to reflect limitations in the ability of humans to maintain many emotionally close relationships, both because of limited time and because the emotional capital individuals can allocate between family members and friends is finite.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, or join us on Facebook:

Signup to CMO’s new email newsletter to receive your weekly dose of targeted content for the modern marketing chief.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

What happens when the 'market' becomes a 'customer'?

One of the insightful things that has been said to me recently came from an independent consultant working at a major FMCG client. He said: “The problem here is that we have some people who are world-class at marketing to the masses, but they haven’t got a clue about how to speak to a customer.”

3 Metrics to measure B2B content marketing ROI

Content marketing has become a key pillar for marketing departments of all sizes across the world. But how do you measure – and ultimately prove – the effectiveness of the time, money and energy spent on content marketing?

How global brands can connect on a local level

The dot-com boom allowed brands to easily access the global market. Thanks to this increased exposure and worldwide awareness, brands can no longer exist in a local bubble.

Dan Ratner

managing director, Uberbrand

Informative comments , I loved the info , Does anyone know if my assistant could get ahold of a blank 2011 IRS 8804 - Schedule A document...


Telstra unveils fresh digital content media services

Read more

So, the one thing I would say is .. the customer already has a voice, whether you wanted them to have one or not .. and they have a platf...

Paul Gilbert

Why digital strategy equals customer experience

Read more

Appliances online are doing a good job online, but they're still not giving customers a truly powerful online experience in my view. Wher...

Graham Howlett

Navigating the future of omni-channel retailing

Read more

For both businesses and marketers alike who want a digital marketing platform that supports data visualization, integrated analytics and ...


Adobe to bolster analytics capabilities of Marketing Cloud with Digital Analytix acquisition

Read more

Good Content is a crucial part in Marketing ROI. No doubt metrics like sharing & engagement, consumption, & lead generation &...


3 Metrics to measure B2B content marketing ROI - B2B marketing - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in