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27 Ways to Build Your Tribe

Your tribe is your legion of fans who support you; buy your products; tell others about you and who you need if you are to succeed in this industry. It’s a symbiotic relationship: you help them, they’ll help you. In fact, you need to think of yourself as in the “tribe-building” business. Do that and everything else falls into place.

27 ways to grow your tribe from scratch

  1. Have something your tribe can believe in/rally around. Start by identifying a cause (a mission, a manifesto, a goal…) your tribe can believe in. It could be, “build a successful creative business”; “living the digital nomad lifestyle”; “discovering your purpose in life”. With Bright Humans it’s “learn to market and monetize your know-how so that you can build a freedom business”.
  2. Identify and serve your target market. Decide who your target market is and create a downloadable product, e.g. a workbook, an online course, a free ebook, that will solve a problem for them. Build a simple landing page website where visitors can download this product in exchange for their email. Drive traffic to your landing page with a Facebook ad. Congratulations, you now have the mechanism to start growing your tribe.
  3. Articulate the primary purpose/activity of your tribe. “Our tribe’s mission is to help each monetize our expertise”; “Our goal is to help our members build lifestyle businesses”; “We are a community of doers who hold each other to account”; “We expect our members to draw every day and post their creations on our Facebook page”. Clearly state what is expected from members of your tribe. Make it friendly, not dictatorial. If you tribe has a clearly defined purpose and your members know and follow it, you have the makings of a strong community.
  4. Give your tribe members an identity. Give your tribe members a collective nickname, e.g. Lady Gaga calls her fans “Little Monsters”, Justin Bieber has his “Beliebers”. For our purposes, a nickname reinforces a common objective, a shared interest in a particular goal. It’s an easy way to build a sense of community and belonging. Have your own jargon and in-jokes – it’s glue for your community. Can you picture your ideal tribe member? What qualities do you want in them? Friendly? Positive? Outgoing? Enthusiastic? Willing to do and try? Spend time thinking about the type of people you want to attract. You don’t want to build a tribe of cynics, complainers and whingers. (And where you have these people, eject them before they poison your group with their negativity). Remember, you will be spending a lot of time with these people so make sure they’re people you like, respect and want to help.
  5. Reach out. Follow people who share your interest; start and engage in conversations; create a Facebook fan page; start a blog; write a manifesto; attend live events; go to local meetups; participate in forums; find the blogs that interest your target market and see how you can help the site’s owner. Be visible.
  6. Be human. Your tribe is following you as much as your ideas. Be authentic, be approachable, be enthusiastic. Socialise with fans if you ever meet them in person. People follow people they like. You don’t have to be perfect – in fact, flaws make you believable. You don’t even have to be the expert; you can position yourself as someone who is trying to figure it out and who’s sharing your lessons with your members. Just be sincere in trying to fulfil your tribe’s mission.
  7. Give more than you take. Help others. Your motto is, “I Serve”. Give to your target audience generously and regularly. That’s how you convert non-members into members and eventually fans. Don’t worry that you’re giving away your “best stuff” – there’s more where that came from.
  8. “Throw rocks at the enemy”. We highly recommend you read One Sentence Persuasion by Blair Warren. It’s not about tribe-building per se but its highly applicable. In it there’s this gem: “People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies…”
  9. Help those above you. Is there an authority/influencer you want to reach out to? Try creating an infographic based on their work and share it with them. Or offer to design them a logo or design an ebook. Help them without asking for anything in return. You are building a relationship and that takes time.
  10. Be where your tribe hangs out. Identify the forums, events, conferences, meetups, blogs, subreddits where your tribe frequents. Go out and engage them where they are – offer content, solve problems. (Events are by far the most effective channel for meeting your audience).
  11. Thank your influencers. Every tribe has its key members – those who do more to support you; who recommend you to their followers; who support you loudest. Thank these members with bonus content; beta releases; small thank-you gifts; sneak previews; shout-outs on social media.
  12. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask your tribe for their help – and keep asking. If you’re doing your part (providing value, solving problems), your members will be happy to help you. But they’re not mind-readers. Ask for help when you need it.
  13. Make – and keep – it bigger than you. Remember, always refer back to the cause: the goal that unites your members, your tribe’s raison d’etre. Don’t make it about you – keep focused on the higher mission, the higher good. Be an active evangelist for what you’re all trying to achieve.
  14. Keep your members in the loop. Tell them what you’re up to; share with them your achievements; what are you working on at the moment? What have you achieved? Share the goals you’re working on. Give your members a glimpse of your day-to-day business. Start conversations daily. By maintaining regular contact it’s easier to ask your tribe for help when you need them.
  15. Share your tribe’s successes. This is incredibly important and powerful. Be your members’ biggest fan. Ask them to share their progress; invite them to talk about their projects; be enthusiastic about their work. They will love you for it. Whenever a fan achieves something, share it on social media, compliment them, praise them and make them feel important. Invite your fans to a Skype interview to share their story.
  16. Be helpful. As far as you can, help your tribe members. Respond to emails and tweets. Ask them how you can help further their goals. Answer their questions. When your tribe is small and manageable, there is no reason not to engage with your members. As your tribe grows large, you can put mechanisms in place to stay engaged as much as possible. It’s not a waste of time; it’s an investment in your fanbase which is the most important investment you can make.
  17. Have a member of the month. Identify a tribe member who you can highlight for praise. Recognise their efforts and achievements. Interview them. Ask them how your product/service has helped them achieve their goals.
  18. Spread confidence. Your tribe members look to you for guidance and advice. They may lack the experience or know-how to do what you do. Without this knowledge they will naturally be nervous and doubt their ability to replicate your results. Your job is to bolster their confidence and to spread a “can-do” attitude. Repeatedly reassure your tribe that you’re all in it together, you’re there to hold their hand and help them through. You will succeed together, no one gets left behind.
  19. Be proud of your fans’ achievements. In his classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie advises to “praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement, be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise… Give the person a fine reputation to live up to”. Share your tribe’s achievements on social media and they will repay you with their loyalty.
  20. Walk the walk. Do what you tell others to do. You have to be a role model; a leader; an inspiration. (This is only possible if you’re doing something you believe in. It’s hard to fake enthusiasm so make sure you like what you do.) You must embody the mission of your tribe more than anyone else.
  21. Make your members feel involved. The next time you need a logo designed, run a competition for your tribe members. You can make the prize a day out with yours truly. If you need help with copywriting, ask if there are any copywriters in the audience. If you need photography done, outsource it to your tribe. Pay it back.
  22. Inspire your tribe to do more. We can all do more than we think and we are forever grateful to those who help bring that potential out of us. Push your members to do more and share their success stories with the world to validate your product/service further. This builds a virtuous circle: more members, more success, more members…
  23. The start is always hardest. Every guru out there with 100,000 fans started with zero. Growing your tribe is about building momentum. Get a handful of members and ask them to share the mission with their network. Don’t be shy about asking your fans to spread the word and help you enlist new members. If you can get 100 subscribers, you’re on your way. The more members who join, the easier it becomes: your tribe will grow exponentially.
  24. Facilitate connections between tribe members. Your role is similar to a party host. Introduce your guests to each other. Talk your guests up. If one of your tribe is a great photographer, let the others know; if someone needs a copywriter, tell them about Sophie who joined last month. Help your tribe achieve their goals. Give them the know-how and tools they need to succeed and let them know they can call on you.
  25. Quality, not quantity. It’s not about how many emails you collect. If that were the case, you may as well buy a spam list. A large list of unengaged emails is useless. You need to build a quality tribe – one where the members resonate with your mission; they listen to you; they’re inspired to take action; they encourage you and each other; they trust you and believe in the products and services you offer. Be an asset in the lives of your members. You bring them knowledge, support, advice, the feeling they are not alone. A tribe is not just an email list.
  26. You can’t please everyone. A third of people will dislike you, no matter what; a third will be indifferent; and a third will love what you do – concentrate on this third and forget the rest. Don’t waste time and effort trying to convert those who will never be fans; spend your energy in further serving those who love what you do.
  27. Tribe building never stops. You can get to the point where your tribe is self-sustaining but you must stay involved. Keep engaging. Keep having conversations with your members. Stay curious about what your fans are doing.

 Action steps

  1. Read Blair Warren’s One Sentence Persuasion.
  2. Read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s remarkable how much of his advice applies to building a tribe.
  3. Build your landing page – that’s where your tribe starts.

Photo credit: marfis75 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA




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