Becoming the Leader of Your Tribe

What is a tribe and how can your business benefit from one?

Put simply, a tribe is a social community built around an idea, a vision, a goal, a common interest, a common problem, or a unique product/ service, and is facilitated by the sharing of experiences, education, support and encouragement.

A lot of business literature in the past has focused on building your business brand, on creating raving “fans” of your business and on how to build customer loyalty.  But the reality is that no matter how much money you spend on attracting people to your business, the simple fact remains that people don’t really follow businesses. 

People follow people. They follow ideas. They follow movements. 

A movement consists of a story, a connection between the tribe and the leader, and something that needs to be done. 

It is part of human nature to want to belong to something, to have someone to follow. In life, people create tribes – with or without our businesses.  Given that, adopting a “tribe management” approach in business (instead of “brand management”) may prove to be one of the winning strategies of the future. 

This means stepping up to become the leader of your own tribe.  It means understanding that people want to connect with each other not companies – so instead of using your business as a platform to sell something, use it as a hub for bringing together a tribe of likeminded people. 

In creating a tribe, your job as the leader is transform a shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change – or in other words, to start a movement. You then need to create momentum and provide a way for members of your tribe to connect with each other. As a business-savvy leader, you can then turn your attention to delivering the products and services that your tribe wants, instead of the more traditional focus on finding more customers for existing products.

Most people are followers by nature. They are ready and waiting for a leader to step up and create a movement and tribe that they want to belong to.  If you are a business owner who wants to create a more people-centric way of doing business, then that leader could be you.  When transitioning from business owner to business leader, personal branding – that is, building your own profile as well as that of your business – is incredibly important.  By positioning yourself as the leader, you’re giving people the green light to start following YOU. 

The Tribe Life-cycle:

  • ♣ Find & build your tribe – Articulate your vision, determine your niche, and then spread the word about your tribe, online and in the real world.
  • ♣ Establish & maintain leadership of your tribe – Without telling your tribe what to do, work on creating and maintaining an influential presence by building trust and providing direction.
  • ♣ Gather your tribe — Put your social web strategy in place and create a virtual meeting place (eg. a social website) and/or real-life hub where your tribe can communicate.
  • ♣ Feed your tribe — Offer free advice, research, ideas. Allow members to share with each other, to feel engaged, and to communicate with you directly.
  • ♣ Trade with your tribe — Sell your services or products to tribe, exchange information, and adopt any ideas or directions that are better than yours!

Top Tribe-Building Tips:

  • ♣ Create a “hub” – such as a website or Ning community
  • ♣ Have business cards and email signatures with links to your tribal “hubs”
  • ♣ Use social media strategies – Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Myspace
  • ♣ Start networking – online and off
  • ♣ Try to create “buzz” through viral marketing and word-of-mouth exposure
  • ♣ Create online marketing tools such as Ezines and Ebooks  
  • ♣ Write books, articles, reports, newsletters and even manifestos
  • ♣ Give public talks/seminars/workshops or online “events”
  • ♣ Use PR and PR 2.0 strategies to build your authority, credibility and visibility as the leader of your tribe and gain exposure for your tribe

In the meantime, if you want to read up on the concept of tribal management and the power of community engagement, here are a few books to get you started:

Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us; Mark Earls, Herd: How to Change mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature; Jeff Howe, Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business; Chris Brogan & Julien Smith, Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.