Just like prehistoric tribes were centered on survival, today’s online users gather together around an idea, except it can range from fans of kitten furniture to political groups.
Seth Godin, the famous marketer and internet thinker, talks about the idea of tribes. The internet's ability to connect everyone has not made us all homogenous. Instead, it's allowed people to segment off into groups. These groups, which Godin calls tribes, are all centered around some theme or idea.
The huge opportunity here is that leaders are in demand. There are tribes for almost every topic you can think of. But without a leader, many of them are little more than locker rooms for gossip.
So who should make up your tribe? Why should they follow you? What would you do with your own small online army?
There are four important steps that, if taken, will reward you with your very own tribe of fans.
1. If They're Your Customers, Lead Them
Your customers are a community, even if they've never spoken to each other. They are all united by the idea you offer. It's a brand's job to offer a platform for them to further this idea. Brands that champion an idea (and not just sell something) are the most successful.
Think of Apple's remarkable top-of-mind brand awareness when it comes to tablets and smartphones. They didn't achieve this industry leadership by increasing sales. They did it by advocating ideas important to their fan base, such as simplicity, ease of use, state-of-the-art technology, a fun user experience and making the best innovative products.
You don't need Apple's marketing budget to create the same excitement around your company's ideas. Provide a platform where your users can meet, such as a forum, blog or Facebook page. Then, get them excited about whatever it is you stand for. Chances are they want to stand for it too.
There are probably millions of posts on Twitter and Facebook about your company, so finding your customers is doable. However, in order to find them without spending thousands of hours searching, take advantage of tools that search for relevant conversations to your brand, whether they are positive or negative conversations.
2. The More Specific You Are, the More You Learn About Your Tribe
Make your community as specific as possible. This lets you dig deep inside your customers' heads.
Instead of having a community about "puppies", your community should be about "puppies with lyme disease put up for adoption." This is so you can learn why these owners adopt these specific dogs and what motivates them.
Being this specific rewards you with a deep psychological understanding of your tribe. Instead of answering questions like "Why do you like dogs?" you'll be able to answer more actionable questions like "In what stage of life do most dog owners adopt these diseased animals? Is it retirement, first home, marriage, first child?"
The second question can lead to some deep insight about your fans. It's more than likely that you'll understand them better than they understand themselves! And that's the point. As the leader, you should know what your tribe fears, what it aspires to and what it values most.
And once you know that, you'll offer them exactly what they need, when they need it. Isn't that a powerful way to get people to follow you?